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.
08 Feb 2012
Gustav Mahler: Das Lied von der Erde
Recorded on 14 June 1964 at the Großer Saal of the Musikverein, Vienna, as part of the Wiener Festwochen, this legendary performance of Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde was released in 2011 on Deutsche Grammophon.
Wunderlich is not unknown with this piece, since the Mahler discography includes a masterful studio recording of Das Lied with Christa Ludwig, alto, and Ottol Klemperer, conductor (an EMI recording with the Philharmonia Orchestra). While that EMI release offers the customary version of Das Lied with tenor and also, the Krips recording presents the work in the other scoring Mahler sanctioned, the one for baritone and tenor. While convention tends to favor the tenor and alto pairing, the tenor and baritone version is also effective, especially when it involves such talented performers as Wunderlich and Fischer-Dieskau, who were particularly moving in this 1964 recording.
As the culmination of Das Lied, the final song, “Der Abschied,” requires attention to the details of line and orchestration in conveying the symphonic expression of orchestral song. In this recording Fischer-Dieskau offers a moving performance, which is sensitive to the poetic and musical line. Dynamic levels and timbre are impressive in this recording, which gives a sense of leave-taking, but not resignation. The final section of “Der Abschied” merits attention for the manner in which the baritone resolves the dramatic climax of the music line in the iterations of the work “ewig” (“forever”) with which the piece concludes. While Fischer-Dieskau’s later recordings of Das Lied with Murray Dicke (conducted by Paul Kletzki) and with James King (conducted by Leonard Bernstein) have been available for years, this performance by Krips preserves the Fischer-Dieskau at an earlier point in his career. The orchestral playing is laudable in an interpretation that suggests accompanied song, without the emphasis on symphonic elements which emerges in other performances.
In addition, the close miking in “Der Einsame im Herbst” gives a sense of the precision Fischer-Dieskau brought to the concert, with well-articulated consonants, extended vowels, where necessary, and elegant phrasing. While the recording contains some stage or audience sounds, they never detract from the overall impression of this moving performance. In “Von der Schönheit” Fischer-Dieskau evinces the delicacy the piece requires, especially when the scoring involves the lower timbre of a baritone. In this song, Krips offers nice contrast in the middle section, with the fast tempo never challenging Fischer-Dieskau’s ability to enunciate the text precisely, with the accompaniment valiantly matching the vocalizing.
In the tenor songs, Wunderlich is as impressive as he is on the studio recording. The opening song “Das Trinklied von Jammer der Erde” is a tour de force. The urgent tempo with which Krips starts the piece affords Wunderlich the chance to demonstrate his facility with the musical line and the exquisite diction in rendering the text. Based on a radio broadcast, the sound is clear, but sometimes dry and less textured than found in later, stereo recordings. It is nevertheless possible apprehend Krips’ command of the orchestra, and his persuasive interpretation of the score. In “Von der Jugend,” Wunderlich is also impressive, with his phrasing of the text fitting well into Mahler’s musical line. Here the timbre is evidence of Wunderlich’s command of this piece, as he meets the demands of the song consummately. The third of Wunderlich’s pieces, “Der Trunkene im Frühling” complements the other two performances, with the interpretation giving a sense of the song without some of the overstatement which some performers bring to the sense of inebriation implicit in the text.
This release makes a famous performance of Das Lied from 1964 available in a modern release. As part of the Wiener Festwochen, the recording is evidence of the presence of Mahler’s music around the time that the general public rediscovered Mahler’s music. The solid interpretation Krips brought to the score shows the conductor’s solid grasp of the score and his solid sense of Mahler’s style. Mahlerians should appreciate this release for the contribution it offers to the composer's discography.