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Recently in Recordings

Les Funérailles Royales de Louis XIV recreated at Versailles

Les Funérailles Royales de Louis XIV, with Ensemble Pygmalion, conducted by Raphaël Pichon now on DVD/Blu -ray from Harmonia Mundi. This captures the historic performance at the Chapelle Royale de Versailles in November 2015, on the 300th anniversary of the King's death.

Tenebræ Responsories
recording by Stile Antico

Tomas Luis de Victoria’s Tenebrae Responsories are designed to occupy the final three days of Holy Week, and contemplate the themes of loss, betrayal and death that dominate the Easter week. As such, the Responsories demand a sense of darkness, reflection and depth that this new recording by Stile Antico - at least partially - captures.

Mahler Symphony no 9, Daniel Harding SRSO

Mahler Symphony no 9 in D major, with Daniel Harding conducting the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, new from Harmonia Mundi. A rewarding performance on many levels, not least because it's thoughtfully sculpted, connecting structure to meaning.

A Splendid Italian Spoken-Dialogue Opera: De Giosa’s Don Checco

Never heard of Nicola De Giosa (1819-85), a composer who was born in Bari (a town on the Adriatic, near the heel of Italy), but who spent most of his career in Naples? Me, neither!

Winterreise by Mark Padmore

Schubert's Winterreise is almost certainly the most performed Lieder cycle in the repertoire. Thousands of performances and hundreds of recordings ! But Mark Padmore and Kristian Bezuidenhout's recording for Harmonia Mundi is proof of concept that the better the music the more it lends itself to re-discovery and endless revelation.

The Epic of Gilgamesh - Bohuslav Martinů

New recording of the English version of Bohuslav Martinů's The Epic of Gilgamesh, from Supraphon, the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Manfred Honeck. This is the world premiere recording of the text in English, the original language in which it was written.

Maybe the Best L’heure espagnole Yet

The new recording, from Munich, has features in common with one from Stuttgart that I greatly enjoyed and reviewed here: the singers are all native French-speakers, the orchestra is associated with a German radio channel, we are hearing an actual performance (or in this case an edited version from several performances, in April 2016), and the recording is released by the orchestra itself or its institutional parent.

Stéphanie d’Oustrac in Two Exotic Masterpieces by Maurice Ravel

The two works on this CD make an apt and welcome pair. First we have Ravel’s sumptuous three-song cycle about the mysteries of love and fantasies of exotic lands. Then we have his one-act opera that takes place in a land that, to French people at the time, was beckoningly exotic, and whose title might be freely translated “The Nutty and Delightful Things That Can Happen in Spain in Just One Hour”.

Stefano Secco: Crescendo

I had never heard of Stefano Secco before receiving this CD. But I see that, at age 34, he already has had a substantial career, singing major roles at important houses throughout Europe and, while I was not paying attention, occasionally in the US.

French orientalism : songs and arias, Sabine Devieilhe

Mirages : visions of the exotic East, a selection of French opera arias and songs from Sabine Devieilhe, with Alexandre Tharaud and Les Siècles conducted by François-Xavier Roth, new from Erato

Hans Werner Henze Choral Music

Hans Werner Henze works for mixed voice and chamber orchestra with SWR Vokalensemble and Ensemble Modern, conducted by Marcus Creed. Welcome new recordings of important pieces like Lieder von einer Insel (1964), Orpheus Behind the Wire (1984) plus Fünf Madrigale (1947).

Bettina Smith, Norwegian Mezzo, in Songs by Fauré and Debussy

Here are five complete song sets by two of the greatest masters of French song. The performers are highly competent. I should have known, given the rave reviews that their 2015 recording of modern Norwegian songs received.

Étienne-Nicolas Méhul: Uthal

The opera world barely knows how to handle works that have significant amounts of spoken dialogue. Conductors and stage directors will often trim the dialogue to a bare minimum (Magic Flute), have it rendered as sung recitative (Carmen), or have it spoken in the vernacular though the sung numbers may often be performed in the original language (Die Fledermaus).

A New Anna Moffo?: The Debut Disc of Aida Garifullina

Here is the latest CD from a major label promoting a major new soprano. Aida Garifullina is utterly remarkable: a lyric soprano who also can handle coloratura with ease. Her tone has a constant shimmer, with a touch of quick, narrow vibrato even on short notes.

Il sogno di Scipione: a new recording from Classical Opera

With this recording of Mozart’s 1771 opera, Il sogno di Scipione (Sicpio’s Dream), Classical Opera continue their progress through the adolescent composer’s precocious achievements and take another step towards the fulfilment of their complete Mozart opera series for Signum Classics.

Mozart’s Requiem: Pierre-Henri Dutron Edition

The stories surrounding Mozart’s Requiem are well-known. Dominated by the work in the final days of his life, Mozart claimed that he composed the Requiem for himself (Landon, 153), rather than for the wealthy Count Walsegg’s wife, the man who had commissioned it in July 1791.

Schumann and Mahler Lieder : Florian Boesch

Schumann and Mahler Lieder with Florian Boesch and Malcolm Martineau, now out from Linn Records, following their recent Schubert Winterreise on Hyperion. From Boesch and Martineau, excellence is the norm. But their Mahler Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen takes excellence to even greater levels

Hans Werner Henze : Kammermusik 1958

"....In lieblicher Bläue". Landmark new recordings of Hans Werner Henze Neue Volkslieder und Hirtengesänge and Kammermusik 1958 from the Scharoun Ensemble Berlin, with Andrew Staples, Markus Weidmann, Jürgen Ruck and Daniel Harding.

Elder conducts Lohengrin

There have been dozens of capable, and more than capable, recordings of Lohengrin. Among the most-often praised are the Sawallisch/Bayreuth (1962), Kempe (1963), Solti (1985), and Abbado (1991). Recording a major Wagner opera involves heavy costs that a record company may be unable to recoup.

Premiere Recording: Mayr’s Telemaco nell’isola di Calipso (1797)

No sooner had I drafted my review of Simon Mayr’s Medea in Corinto,



Decca 0440 074 3383 6 GH [DVD]
27 Oct 2011

Renée Fleming and Dmitri Hvorostovsky: A Musical Odyssey in St. Petersburg

Exactly what makes this entertaining, handsome video of Dmitri Hvorostovsky and Renée Fleming in concert an “odyssey”?

Renée Fleming and Dmitri Hvorostovsky: A Musical Odyssey in St. Petersburg

Renée Fleming, soprano. Dmitri Hvorostovsky, baritone. State Hermitage Orchestra. Conductor: Constantine Orbelian. Directed for video by Brian Large.

Decca 0440 074 3383 6 GH [DVD]

$27.99  Click to buy

Would it really have been unacceptable to call the program “A Musical Travelogue in St. Petersburg”? There are no adventures with sirens or one-eyed giants, nor is there any sense of homecoming and redemption. Instead, soprano Fleming (Hvorostovsky apparently otherwise engaged) walks through some of the more appealing tourist locations of the city, in three segments that take up about 20 minutes of the main program’s 90-minute running time. At least Decca provides an additional four musical selections for the DVD release.

Putting aside persnickety complaints about language, the DVD is very enjoyable. It gets off to a great start by skipping introductions and immediately joining Renée and Dmitri in front of the State Hermitage orchestra and conductor Constantine Orbelian. Credits roll as the singers launch into the fourth act duet of Il Trovatore’s Leonora and Di Luna. Other than Violetta and Desdemona, Verdi hasn’t played a big part in Ms. Fleming’s career, so it’s fairly surprising how well she does in this scene. Hvorostovsky has sung the Count many times, and in this smaller hall, he is able to bring all of his skill to the performance without having to push as he would in a larger venue. Next, after 10 minutes of Renée guiding us through the Winter Palace, we return to the concert and an extended scene from Simon Boccanegra. A briefer travelogue is followed by several Russian songs, with Olga Kern at the piano. This is Hvorostovsky’s home territory, of course, and he shines; Ms. Fleming looks and sounds ravishing.

Another travelogue section precedes the return of the orchestra for selections from three Tchaikovsky operas, listed in the booklet as Pique Dame, Oprichnik, and the reliable Eugene Onegin. Hvorostovsky sings Yeletzki’s aria handsomely as expected, and the rare opera’s aria for Renée is quite beautiful. Then the pair performs the final scene of Onegin with a potent mixture of elegance and dramatic force.

The bonus tracks are all worthy and undoubtedly only edited out of the main program only for reasons of timing (the main program was offered on PBS in the Great Performances series). Dmitri sings Hamlet’s drinking song from the Ambroise Thomas opera and a rare and very entertaining Anton Rubinstein number. Ms. Fleming gives us her creamy “Casta Diva” and Lisa’s first act aria from Pique Dame.

The Decca set has rudimentary packaging, but the performance itself is classy, and as the travelogue sections are separately tracked, they can easily be skipped on repeat viewings. If one doesn't expect the rollicking adventure of a true odyssey, this set should prove to be high-quality musical entertainment.

Chris Mullins

Click here for a track list.

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