Recently in Recordings
Two new recordings from highly acclaimed specialists Opera Rara -
Gounod La Colombe and Donizetti Le Duc d'Albe.
It is not often that a major work by a forgotten composer gets rediscovered
and makes an enormously favorable impression on today’s listeners. That has
happened, unexpectedly, with Herculanum, a four-act grand opera by
Félicien David, which in 2014 was recorded for the first time.
This recording, made in the Adrian Boult Hall at the Birmingham Conservatoire of Music in June 2014, is the fourth disc in SOMM’s series of recordings with Paul Spicer and the Birmingham Conservatoire Chamber Choir.
Félicien David’s intriguing Le désert, for vocal and orchestral forces plus narrator, was widely performed in its own day, then disappeared from the performing repertory for nearly a century.
This well-packed disc is a delight and a revelation. Until now, even the
most assiduous record collector had access to only a few of the nearly 100
songs published by Félicien David (1810-76), in recordings by such notable
artists as Huguette Tourangeau, Ursula Mayer-Reinach, Udo Reinemann, and Joan
Sutherland (the last-mentioned singing the duet “Les Hirondelles”
This new release of John Taverner’s virtuosic and florid Missa
Corona spinea (produced by Gimell Records) comes two years after The
Tallis Scholars’ critically esteemed recording of the composer’s
Missa Gloria tibi Trinitas, which topped the UK Specialist Classical
Album Chart for 6 weeks, and with which the ensemble celebrated their
40th anniversary. The recording also includes Taverner’s two
settings of Dum transisset Sabbatum.
Sounds swirl with an urgent emotionality and meandering virtuosity on Jonas Kaufmann’s new Puccini album—the “real one”, according
to Kaufmann, whose works were also released earlier this year on Decca records, allegedly without his approval.
Marion Cotillard and Marc Soustrot bring the drama to the sweeping score of Arthur Honegger’s Jeanne d’Arc au
bûcher, an adaptation of the Trial of Joan of Arc
Stephen Paulus provided the musical world, and particularly the choral world, with music both provocative and pleasing through a combination of lyricism and a modern-Romantic tonal palette.
Richard Taruskin entitled his 1988 polemical critique of the notion of ‘authenticity’ in the context of historically informed performance, ‘The Pastness of the Present and the Presence of the Past’.
As the editor of Opera magazine, John Allison, notes in his editorial in the June issue, Donizetti fans are currently spoilt for choice, enjoying a ‘Donizetti revival’ with productions of several of the composer’s lesser known works cropping up in houses around the world.
Philippe Jaroussky lends poetry and poise to the sounds of nineteenth- and
Carolyn Sampson has long avoided the harsh glare of stardom but become a favourite singer for “those in the know” — and if you are not one of those it is about time you were.
This Winterreise is the final instalment of Matthias Goerne’s series of Schubert lieder for Harmonia Mundi and it brings the Matthias Goerne Schubert Edition, begun in 2008, to a dark, harrowing close.
This elegant, smartly-paced film turns Gluck’s Orfeo into a Dostoevskian study of a guilt-wracked misanthrope, portrayed by American countertenor Bejun Mehta.
We see the characters first in two boxes at an opera house. The five singers share a box and stare at the stage. But Konstanze’s eye is caught by a man in a box opposite: Bassa Selim (actor Tobias Moretti), who stares steadily at her and broods in voiceover at having lost her, his inspiration.
Richard Strauss may be most closely associated with the soprano voice but
this recording of a selection of the composer’s lieder by baritone Thomas
Hampson is a welcome reminder that the rapt lyricism of Strauss’s settings
can be rendered with equal beauty and character by the low male voice.
Bernarda Fink’s recording of Gustav Mahler’s Lieder is an important new release that includes outstanding performances of the composer’s well-known songs, along with compelling readings of some less-familiar ones.
Das Rheingold launches what is perhaps the single most ambitious project in opera, Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen.
This live performance of Laurent Pelly’s Glyndebourne staging of
Humperdinck’s affectionately regarded fairy tale opera, was recorded at
Glyndebourne Opera House in July and August 2010, and the handsomely produced
disc set — the discs are presented in a hard-backed, glossy-leaved book and
supplemented by numerous production photographs and an informative article by
Julian Johnson — is certainly stylish and unquestionably recommendable.
19 Dec 2011
San Marco in Hamburg: Motets by Hieronymus Praetorius
In the first part of the seventeenth century, the north German city of Hamburg spawned an unusually rich organ culture, with Jacob Praetorius, the younger, and Heinrich Scheidemann both pupils of the famous Dutch organist, Jan Pieterzoon Sweelinck, as leading figures.
A subsequent generation would be led
by players such as Matthias Weckmann and Johann Adam Reinken, this latter a
figure to whom J. S. Bach would bend the knee in his well-chronicled trip to
Hamburg in 1720. At the earlier end of the spectrum stands the figure of
Hieronymus Praetorius (1560-29), father of Jacob, the younger, and himself
successor to his father, Jacob the elder, at the famed Jakobikirche.
This organ culture was bred by the prominence of the city’s churches,
of which the Petrikirche, Jakobikirche, Catharinenkirche, and Nikolaikirche
were especially significant. And in this environment some of the organists
provided not only organ music, but also notable liturgical music in the form of
motet and canticle. Such is the case with Hieronymus Praetorius, featured here
in the CD anthology “San Marco in Hamburg.” The reference to
“San Marco” acknowledges the strong influence of the Venetian
school of Giovanni Gabrieli. The path from Germany to Venice was reasonably
well worn, with the travels of composers like Heinrich Schütz and Hans Leo
Hassler often cited examples, but the rich sonorities of Venice captivated
other composers who had never heard the music of San Marco in situ.
This was the case with Hieronymus Praetorius (and also with the better known
Michael Praetorius—no family relation), but if learned from afar, it is a
musical style they assimilated with fluency.
In “San Marco in Hamburg” the ensemble Weser-Renaissance Bremen
under the direction of Manfred Cordes explores the Italian-influenced motets of
Hieronymus, and does so with a recording of distinction. Though some of the
pieces are large-scale, Cordes compellingly takes them on with only 15
musicians—six singers singing one-to-a-part and 9 instrumentalists
combining winds, strings, and continuo. The result is that in the sumptuous
12-voice “Jubilate Deo” that opens the recording, the sonic
richness is a subtler taste to savor rather than a full-belted blast of power
that overwhelms. And this holds true for the large number of 8-voice works, as
well. Performed in this way, the clarity of motive, the unflagging attention to
purity of intonation—such wonderful final chords in the sections of the
“Magnificat”!—and general buoyance of the sound can come to
the fore with very satisfying results.
The decorative passage work is well served by the one-to-a-part
configuration, and in motets like “Cantate Domino,” this ornamental
style sparkles as foil to the suave lilt of triple-meter tutti passages. Two of
the motets, “Ab oriente and Wie lang” are performed as solo motets,
with accompanying polyphonic voices played instrumentally. In “Ab
oriente,” this gives a welcome chance to relish the fine control of alto
Peter de Groot’s sensitive singing, and the plaintive ethereal sounds of
soprano Monika Mauch in “Wie lang” offer one of the highlights of