Recently in Recordings
In May 2016, Opera Rara gave Bellini aficionados a treat when they gave a concert performance of Vincenzo Bellini’s first opera, Adelson e Salvini, at the Barbican Hall. The preceding week had been spent in the BBC’s Maida Vale Studios, and this recording, released last month, is a very welcome addition to Opera Rara’s bel canto catalogue.
Jonas Kaufmann Mahler Das Lied von der Erde is utterly unique but also works surprisingly well as a musical experience. This won't appeal to superficial listeners, but will reward those who take Mahler seriously enough to value the challenge of new perspectives.
A new recording, made late last year, Morfydd Owen : Portrait of a Lost Icon, from Tŷ Cerdd, specialists in Welsh music, reveals Owen as one of the more distinctive voices in British music of her era : a grand claim but not without foundation. To this day, Owen's tally of prizes awarded by the Royal Academy of Music remains unrivalled.
The Feast at Solhaug : Henrik Ibsen's play Gildet paa Solhaug (1856) inspired Wilhelm Stenhammer's opera Gillet på Solhaug. The world premiere recording is now available via Sterling CD, in a 3 disc set which includes full libretto and background history.
Honours yet again to Oehms Classics who understand the importance of excellence. A composer as good, and as individual, as Walter Braunfels deserves nothing less.
‘Can great music be inspired by the throw of the dice?’ asks Peter Phillips, director of The Tallis Scholars, in his liner notes to the ensemble’s new recording of Josquin’s Missa Di dadi (The Dice Mass). The fifteenth-century artist certainly had an abundant supply of devotional imagery. As one scholar has put it, during this age there was neither ‘an object nor an action, however trivial, that [was] not constantly correlated with Christ or salvation’.
Francesco Cavalli’s La Calisto was the composer’s ﬁfteenth opera, and the ninth to a libretto by Giovanni Faustini (1615-1651). First performed at the Teatro Sant’Apollinaire in Venice on 28th November 1651, the opera by might have been sub-titled ‘Gods Behaving Badly’, so debauched are the deities’ dalliances and deviations, so egotistical their deceptions.
New from Oehms Classics, Walter Braunfels Orchestral Songs Vol 1. Luxury singers - Valentina Farcas, Klaus Florian Vogt and Michael Volle, with the Staatskapelle Weimar, conducted by Hansjörg Albrecht.
Edouard Lalo (1823-92) is best known today for his instrumental works: the
Symphonie espagnole (which is, despite the title, a five-movement
violin concerto), the Symphony in G Minor, and perhaps some movements from his
ballet Namouna, a scintillating work that the young Debussy adored.
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.
12 Mar 2012
Netrebko and Garanča in Donizetti’s Anna Bolena
The cinema world has given us “star vehicle,” a term used to describe a movie that may not have the best script or direction but which suits a popular actor’s persona so well the film can fairly be called a successful entertainment.
Gaetano Donizetti’s first big success, Anna Bolena, serves as a
“star vehicle” in the 2011 production from the Vienna State Opera, with
Anna Netrebko in the title role and Elīna Garanča as Giovanna Seymour,
Bolena’s rival for the attention of King Enrico VIII. As one of the
composer’s longer operas, Anna Bolena tends to be something of a
drag. The title character is unhappy from start to finish, and while the tragic
conclusion has real power, too much of the rest of the score fails to rise
above the workmanlike.
The female leads easily overshadow the two male leads, both very capable
(Ildebrando D’Arcangelo as Enrico and Francesco Meli as Bolena’s supposed
partner in royal infidelity, Lord Percy). The male roles only help to set up
the opera’s other highlight, the confrontation between the doomed Queen and
Seymour. In that scene Netrebko and Garanča bring a production to fierce life
that, to that point, had been gliding along in somewhat perfunctory, if
glamorous, fashion. For Netrebko, the role requires some of the bel
canto dexterity that many critics find her lacking in. She shines in long
lines and soaring passion, where her large voice can dominate the orchestra.
Dramatically, she seems disengaged until the opera’s last scenes, however.
Garanča’s Seymour earns the audience’s sympathy with her initial
reluctance to accept the King’s favors, and the singer’s beauty helps as
well, of course. While her voice certainly has a darker tinge than that of a
soprano, Garanča is a careful, almost inhibited singer and not the sort of
mezzo voice exhibited by a Marilyn Horne or Dolora Zajick. Those who want a bit
more heat or even grit to the voice will be disappointed.
The production is either all meat, no potatoes, or vice versa,
depending on one’s gustatory disposition. For some reason it took two
designers (Jacques Gabel and Claire Sternberg) to come up with the stark and
simple sets. The visual attraction all comes from Luisa Spinatelli’s
luxurious period costumes. Eric Génovèse’s direction offers nothing new,
even ending with Netrebko’s preferred pose of lying on her back (with a
descending wall partition symbolizing the ax, one supposes).
Singer’s conductor Evelino Pidò maintains a strong pulse, and the female
chorus at the start of act two is particularly beautiful. The only bonus
features the set offers are brief spoken act summaries from Ms. Garanča. As a
“star vehicle” then, Anna Bolena is done fine service by this
Deutsche Grammophon DVD. Those who adjust their expectations will have a fine