Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Recordings

Grands motets de Lalande

Majesté, a new recording by Le Poème Harmonique, led by Vincent Dumestre, of music by Michel-Richard de Lalande (1657-1726) new from Alpha Classics. Le Poème Harmonique are regular visitors to London, appreciated for the variety of their programes. On Friday this week, (11/5) they'll be at St John's Smith Square as part of the London Festival of Baroque, with a programme titled "At the World's Courts".

Perpetual Night - Early English Baroque, Ensemble Correspondances

New from Harmonia Mundi, Perpetual Night. a superb recording of ayres and songs from the 17th century, by Ensemble Correspondances with Sébastien Daucé and Lucile Richardot. Ensemble Correspondances are among the foremost exponents of the music of Versailles and the French royalty, so it's good to hear them turn to the music of the Stuart court.

Maria Callas: Tosca 1964: A film by Holger Preusse

When I reviewed Tosca at Covent Garden in January this year for Opera Today, Maria Callas’s 1964 Royal Opera House performance was still fresh in my mind. This is a recording I have grown up with and which, despite its flaws, is one of the greatest operatic statements - a glorious production which Zeffirelli finally agreed to staging, etched in gothic black and white film (albeit just Act II), with Maria Callas and Tito Gobbi, if not always as vocally commanding as they once were, acting out their roles like no one has before, or since.

Hubert Parry and the birth of English Song

British music would not be where it is today without the influence of Charles Hubert Parry. His large choral and orchestral works are well known, and his Jerusalem is almost the national anthem. But in the centenary of his death, we can re-appraise his role in the birth of modern British song.

Camille Saint-Saens: Mélodies avec orchestra

Saint-Saëns Mélodies avec orchestra with Yann Beuron and Tassis Christoyannis with the Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana conducted by Markus Poschner.

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.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

Wilhelm Friedemann Bach Cantatas
22 Dec 2011

Wilhelm Friedemann Bach Cantatas

In Wilhelm Weitsch’s well-known painting of Wilhelm Friedemann Bach, the eldest son of Johann Sebastian seems far distant from the cantorial world of his father.

Wilhelm Friedemann Bach Cantatas

Bachchor Mainz; L’arpa festante; Dorothee Mields, soprano; Gerhild Romberger, alto; Georg Poplutz, tenor; Klaus Mertens, bass; Ralf Otto, Director. Recorded live at the St. Augustine's Church, Mainz, 1 June 2010.

Accentus Music ACC-20103 [DVD]

$22.99  Click to buy

His hat and fur-lined coat suggest a degree of fashionability, his posture is relaxed and at ease, his eyes seem soft and his smile is warm—perhaps even inwardly amused. Little of this suggests the earnestness of his father’s Lutheran orthodoxy nor the serious striving of his father’s musical endeavors. Yet, if personalities differed—and scholars now acknowledge that later accounts of the son’s life are prone to exaggeration—there is much that nevertheless allows us to see the father in the son. Vocationally, Friedemann spent close to twenty years in the employ of Halle’s Liebfrauenkirche, and in that capacity produced a significant number of church cantatas, the genre that his father had brought to new expressive and formal heights. This brilliant DVD presents four of these cantatas—“Wohl dem, der den Herren fürchtet,” “O Wunder, wer kann dieses fassen,” “Ach, dass du den Himmel zerrissest,” and “Gott fähret auf mit Jauchzen”—in stunning performances by the Bachchor Mainz with the baroque orchestra, L’arpa festante, under the direction of Ralf Otto.

The tutti movements for choir and orchestra tend to reveal Friedemann’s musical formation at his father’s hand, with a substantial fugal component deftly on display. And these movements, such as the first chorus of “Wohl dem” or “Gott fähret,” are performed with highly effective choral articulation and sensitively shaped vocal phrasing. Other instances reveal an engaging programmatic touch, as in the first movement of “Ach, dass du den Himmel zerrissest,” where the rending of heaven is dramatic, heightened by the tension of choral unisons. (The movement is formally interesting, as well, fashioned as a composite movement with chorus, accompanied recitative, and arioso all in one fluid section.)

Of the soloists, Klaus Mertens, well-known for his Bach collaborations with Ton Koopman, is especially fine. He possesses the rare ability to sing with an easy lightness of tone that is nevertheless wonderfully resonant; this serves him well in both recitative and virtuosic arias, of which those with obbligato trumpets and horns are especially fine here. The wind playing of L’arpa festante—prominently paired flutes, paired horns, and paired trumpets—is highly accomplished and brings a richness of color and dynamism to the cantatas’ more affective moments. The recording also includes an instrumental Sinfonia in d minor that is partly an exercise in moody darkness and partly an exercise in spirited counterpoint. The affective vividness and the interplay of emotional contrasts are dramatically compelling, with the orchestra performing with notable elegance.

Filmed amid the decorative richness of the Augustinerkirche in Mainz, this concert of music by Wilhelm Friedemann Bach offers performances of high polish in a contemporaneous setting that beckons to the eye, much as the music beckons to the ear. Surely this is something else about which Friedemann might smile!

Steven Plank

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):