Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Recordings

Richard Strauss: Notturno

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 Sings Mahler Lieder

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.

Gergiev’s Das Rheingold

Das Rheingold launches what is perhaps the single most ambitious project in opera, Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen

Hänsel und Gretel

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.

Magdalena Kožená: Love and Longing

Recorded at a live performance in 2012, this CD brings together an eclectic selection of turn-of-the-century orchestral songs and affirms the extraordinary versatility, musicianship and technical accomplishment of mezzo-soprano Magdalena Kožená.

Once I was: Songs by Ricky Ian Gordon

Once I was: Songs by Ricky Ian Gordon features an assortment of songs by Ricky Ian Gordon interpreted by soprano Stacey Tappan, a longtime friend of the composer since their work on his opera Morning Star at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Amore e Tormento

Alfredo Kraus, one of the most astute artists in operatic history in terms of careful management of technique and vocal resources, once said in an interview that ‘you have to make a choice when you start to sing and decide whether you want to service the music, and be at the top of your art, or if you want to be a very popular tenor.’ 

Rivals—Arias for Farinelli & Co.

In generations past, an important singer’s first recording of Italian arias would almost invariably have included the music of Verdi. 

Verdi at the Old MET

With celebrations of the Verdi Bicentennial in full swing, there have been many grumblings about the precarious state of Verdi singing in the world’s major opera houses today.

Italo Montemezzi: L’amore dei tre re

In the thirty-five years immediately following its American première at the Metropolitan Opera in 1914, Italo Montemezzi’s ‘Tragic Poem in Three Acts’ L’amore dei tre re was performed in New York on sixty-six occasions. 

Così fan tutte from DG

Few operas inspire the kind of competing affection and controversy that have surrounded Mozart’s Così fan tutte almost since its first performance in Vienna in 1790. 

Heart’s Delight: The Songs of Richard Tauber

During his career in film, opera, and operetta, Richard Tauber (1891 - 1948) enjoyed the sort of global fame that eludes all but the tiniest handful of ‘serious’ singers today.

Adriana Lecouvreur from Decca

Known principally for its two concert show-pieces for the leading lady, the success of Francesco Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur relies upon finding a soprano willing to take on, and able to pull off, the eponymous role.

Lawrence Brownlee’s Spiritual Sketches

It would be condescending and perhaps even offensive to suggest that singing traditional Spirituals is a rite a passage for artists of color, but the musical heritage of the United States has been greatly enriched by the performances and recordings of Spirituals by important artists such as Paul Robeson, Marian Anderson, Leontyne Price, Martina Arroyo, Shirley Verrett, Grace Bumbry, Jessye Norman, Barbara Hendricks, Florence Quivar, Kathleen Battle, Harolyn Blackwell, and Denyce Graves.

Great Wagner Conductors from DG

As a companion to their excellent Great Wagner Singers boxed set compiled and released in celebration of the Wagner Bicentennial, Deutsche Grammophon have also released Great Wagner Conductors, a selection of orchestral music conducted by five of the most iconic Wagnerian conductors of the Twentieth Century, extracted from Deutsche Grammophon’s extensive archives.

Great Wagner Singers from DG

There could be no greater gift to the Wagnerian celebrating the Master’s Bicentennial than this compilation from Deutsche Grammophon, aptly entitled Great Wagner Singers.

Adding Movie Magic to The Magic Flute

What better way for Masonic brothers, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Emmanuel Shikaneder to disseminate Masonic virtues, than through the most popular musical entertainment of their age, a happy ending folktale that features a dragon, enchanting flutes and bells, mixed-up parentage, and a beautiful young princess in distress?

L’Incoronazione di Poppea from Virgin Classics

Since its first performance at the Teatro Santi Giovanni e Paolo during Venice’s 1643 Carnevale, Monteverdi’s L’Incoronazione di Poppea has been one of the most important milestones in the genesis of modern opera despite its 250 years of unmerited obscurity. 

Saverio Mercadante: I due Figaro

Though 2013 is the bicentennial of the births of Giuseppe Verdi and Richard Wagner, the releases of Cecilia Bartoli’s recording of Bellini’s Norma on DECCA, a new studio recording of Donizetti’s Caterina Cornaro from Opera Rara, and this première recording of Saverio Mercadante’s forgotten I due Figaro, suggest that this is the start of a summer of bel canto.

Christian Thielemann’s Der Ring des Nibelungen

Recording Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen is for a record label equivalent to a climber reaching the summit of Mount Everest: it is the zenith from which a label surveys its position among its rivals and appreciates an achievement that can define its reputation for a generation. 

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

San Francisco Symphony 60045 [2SACDs]
14 Aug 2012

Mahler: Symphony no. 3 / Kindertotenlieder

Michael Tilson Thomas’s recording of Mahler’s Third Symphony is an outstanding contribution to the composer’s discography.

Gustav Mahler: Symphony no. 3; Kindertotenlieder

Michelle De Young, mezzo soprano, Women of the San Francisco Chorus, Pacific Boychoir, San Francisco Girls Chorus, San Francsico Symphony, Michael Tilson Thomas, conductor.

San Francisco Symphony 60045 [2SACDs]

$24.99  Click to buy

At the core of this release is an insightful treatment of the fourth movement, the setting of the “Midnight Song” from Nietzcher’s Also sprach Zarathustra (“O Mensch! Gib acht!”). While a number of fine recordings of this work exist, this particular interpretations stands apart because of the ways in which the thematic ideas emerge with the shape and phrasing that brings out details, like the evocation of “Urlicht,” the fourth movement of the Second Symphony near the text “Was spricht die tiefe Mitternacht?” in this movement of the Third Symphony. Here Tilson Thomas and Michelle de Young work together in making this interpretation memorable for details like this, which fit into the larger whole. In fact, the interpretation and banding support the structure of the last three movements as a unit, where the solo setting from Nietzche leads into the setting of “Es sungen drei Engel” from Des Knaben Wunderhorn, and culminates in the instrumental Finale of the Symphony. Yet the core of this unity is in this ten-minute movement, which deserves rehearings to appreciate the attention the performers brought to the piece.

De Young is an exemplary Mahler interpreter, and this recording demonstrates her fine technique and sensitivity to the phrasing. Her rich tone is present in the softer passages, as well as in the louder ones, with the color always present, and the voice never strained. In fact the qualities which De Young brings to the fourth movement are evident in the fifth, where the solo voice expresses the confession of St. Peter for betraying Jesus when he was arrested. In this interpretation, the phrasing fits both the text, and the music, with the quotation of lines from the song “Das himmlische Leben” appropriately lyrical. Here the chorus not only conveys the text, but evokes instrumental music with the ostinato figures Mahler used in it.

A similar lyricism is present in the Finale, where the orchestra’s phrasing is poignant, as Tilson Thomas shapes the phrases to create sections that make the structure palpable. This sense of vocality is present throughout the Finale, even the orchestral outbursts in the horns and other brass, which fit well into the fabric of this interpretation. At the same time, the balance between textures and dynamic levels follows the score faithfully and results in an intensive conclusion to the movement. Wordless, text, and even without the movement titles Mahler once used for this work, the result is impressively moving in this persuasive interpretation of a sprawling score, which has challenged generations of performers as they also approached the Third Symphony.

The first three movements of the Symphony are equally convincing, with the lyrical character of the Wunderhorn song “Ablösung im Sommer” evident in the quotations form it in the Scherzo. In that movement Tilson Thomas makes Mahler’s scoring audible, as the shadings emerge readily in this well-engineered release. The delicacy of the second movement is also apparent, with the rich sonorities of the strings resonating well in this performance. The monumental opening movement receives a careful treatment by Tilson Thomas in a performance which lasts 36 minutes. Here the various elements in Mahler’s score are treated with care, so as to distinguish the elements of the score as they occur. As the marches and march-like music develop in its structure, the structure takes shape vividly in this performance. The sonics in this recording represent the live performance well, and give a sense of immediacy and excitement. It is a strong interpretation of the first movement, which shapes the pieces that follow.

Included with this recording is a performance of the song cycle Kindertotenlieder, which De Young interprets persuasively. Her elegant phrasing and clear diction bring the poetry forward in this familiar piece. The set of songs is compelling for the thoughtful tempos that allow the text to be heard, with the accompaniment serving the strophes of each song well. The cycle fits into the remaining time on the second disc, and its inclusion is not related to the Third Symphony. After all, the two works are separated by a decade, and Tilson Thomas is good to distinguish the styles deftly. This recording of Mahler’s Kindertotenlieder bears consideration for the fine collaboration between the soloist, orchestra and conductor in presenting with elegiac qualities of the work without resorting to maudlin sentiment or histrionics. Rather, the sense of loss and its acceptance is present throughout piece and guides this memorable interpretation.

James Zychowicz

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):