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.
16 Nov 2012
Gustav Mahler: Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen, Rückert-Lieder, Kindertotenlieder.
Recorded on 5 and 6 May 2008 and 17 and 18 January 2009 at the Lisztzentrum (Raiding, Austria), this recent Bridge release makes available the piano-vocal versions of three song cycles by Gustav Mahler, Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen, Rückert-Lieder, and Kindertotenlieder performed by mezzo-soprano Hermine Haselböck, accompanied by Russell Ryan.
While the orchestral versions of all three cycles are performed often, it is good to have the keyboard versions of these works, which give appropriate emphasis to the vocal line in the intimate collaboration between the vocalist and her accompanist. All solid performances, the engineering of this recording does not always serve the balances well, with the piano sometimes sounding distant from the voice. This is not an impediment in the recording itself, but detracts from some of the more extroverted passages in the second and third songs of the Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen. Ging’ heut morgen über’s Feld should have a robust quality, which does not emerge in the recording, and the following song, Ich hab’ ein glühend Messer needs an explosive, almost percussive opening, which is recorded at a somewhat low volume in this release. Nevertheless, the intimacy between the voice and piano is effective in the final song of the cycle, Die zwei blauen Augen, which benefits from the elegiac approach Haselböck gives the song. Never maudlin or indulgent, this interpretation gives a sense of the text, with phrasing that offers a sense of the poetic line within the larger context of the vocal structure.
With the Rückert-Lieder, though, the tempos are an issue, with Liebst du um Schönheit and Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen sometimes falling short of the direction of the line that works admirably in Um Mitternacht. In the latter song, the intensity that some singers reserve for the final strophe is present throughout, as Haselböck shapes the work with solid phrasing and outstanding diction. The first song in this recording of the cycle, Blicke mir nicht in die Lieder seems somewhat detached, despite the intense and masterful accompaniment that never flags in this performance. Here, as elsewhere in the recording Ryan evinces a meticulous quality, with clean articulations and precise rhythms to bring out the line and define the textures.
The Kindertotenlieder are effective though, and marred only sometimes weak acoustics. In performing this cycle Haselböck has excellent focus in the first and last songs of the cycle, with a solid interpretation of Nun will die Sonn’ so hell aufgeh’n setting the tone appropriately. This familiar piece is appealing in this performance, as is the subsequent one, Nun seh’ ich wohl, warum so dunkle Flammen, in the somewhat introspective reading of the piece. Yet the final song of the cycle stands out for the convincing interpretation that the performers bring to In diesem Wetter, which has admirable intensity and narrative drive. This recording gives a sense of Haselböck’s fine mezzo, which stands well with some of the other recordings of this important song cycle from Mahler’s maturity. Haselböck has a range which fits this cycle particularly well, with resonant low notes, where needed, and a solid upper range that distinguishes her mezzo-soprano voice. Russell Ryan’s deft touch is a strong part of the recording, as he brings out lines, shapes the counterpoint, and supports the performance without competing with the singer in presenting the important Lieder from the turn of the last century.
James L. Zychowicz