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

Pan-European Orpheus : Julian Prégardien

"Orpheus I am!" - An unusual but very well chosen collection of songs, arias and madrigals from the 17th century, featuring Julian Prégardien and Teatro del mondo. Devised by Andreas Küppers, this collection crosses boundaries demonstrating how Italian, German, French and English contemporaries responded to the legend of Orpheus and Eurydice.

Laci Boldemann’s Opera Black Is White, Said the Emperor

We normally think of operas as being serious or comical. But a number of operas-some familiar, others forgotten-are neither of these. Instead, they are fantastical, dealing with such things as the fairy world and sorcerers, or with the world of dreams.

The Devil, Greed, War, and Simple Goodness: Ostrčil’s Jack’s Kingdom

Here is a little-known opera that, like an opera by the Swedish composer Laci Boldemann that I have reviewed here, and like Ravel’s amazing L’enfant et les sortilèges, utterly bypasses the usual categories of comic and grand/tragic by cultivating instead the rich realm of fantasy and folk tale.

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.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

Songs by Zemlinsky
16 Nov 2012

Songs by Zemlinsky

While not unknown, the songs of Alexander von Zemlinsky (1871-1942) deserve to be heard more frequently.

Songs by Zemlinsky

Hermine Haselböck, soprano; Florian Henschel, piano

Bridge 9244 [CD]

$16.99  Click to buy

The present recording by Hermine Haselböck, mezzo-soprano, and Florian Henschel, piano, includes a selection of twenty-six songs, including pieces from the Nachlass, which were first published in 1995 and represent Zemlinsky’s efforts in this genre from roughly the decade between1889 and 1901. The choice of pieces is excellent both in providing a sense of Zemlinsky’s style at this point in his career, and also in giving a sense of the style Haselböck brings to this repertoire.

While the repertoire may be less familiar than some of the songs by Mahler, which Haselböck also recorded, it is musically engaging. Some of the pieces suggest affinities with composers of the previous generation, like Brahms, as found in his Heine setting Die schlanke Wasserlilie and Liebe und Frühling (text by Hoffmann von Fallerslebe). Yet other pieces are more expressionistic, as with the Sechs Gesänge nach Texten von Maurice Maeterlinck, Op. 13. The Maeterlinck settings are some of the more evocative pieces on this recording, and Haselböck’s interpretation of this set is particularly effective in bringing out the declamation of the text. Her partner in these pieces, Florian Henschel, is equally strong in his stylish performance of these pieces, which show the ways in which Zemlinsky used idiomatic piano figuration to support some of the dissonant sonorities in such songs as Die drei Schwestern and Lied der Jungfrau. The latter is haunting in its subtle presentation of poetry. Haseböck’s masterful interpretations of these pieces and the remainder on this recording show her command of Zemlinsky’s style. Standing between such contemporaries as Gustav Mahler and Alban Berg, Zemlinsky remains an individual voice, and in this regard deserves attention for the ways in which his works in this genre reflect the cultural forces at the turn of the last century, which are rooted in tonal structures, yet make use of modernist effects to allow dissonances that give underscore the texts. Perhaps it is the challenges in Maeterlinck’s texts which challenged the composer to create such memorable settings that bring out the fine qualities of Haselböck’s voice as accompanied by Henschel.

As modern as Zemlinsky can be, he also draws on some of conventions of the Viennese past in the Walzergesänge, op. 6. The bows to traditional dance rhythms and associated musical gestures reflect the composer’s sense of the past, while Zemlinsky’s structures bear attention for the ways in which he transcends some of predictable patterns to create original songs, not pastiches of music from the mid-nineteenth century. Klagen ist der Mond gekommen is an excellent song from this set, and gives a sense style Zemlinsky brought to this set. Likewise, Ich geh’ des Nachts seems at once rooted in Brahms’ Von ewiger Liebe, while looking toward some of the concision Berg brought to his settings of Altenberg’s texts.

Even so, Haselböck includes some of Zemlinsky’s more popular-sounding pieces in the two Brettl-Lieder, In der Sonnengassei and Herr Bombardil. These cabaret-influenced pieces reflect the period and transcend it, as some of the cliché gestures take on new meaning in the composer’s hands. Haselböck offers an effective and sensitive reading of both pieces, which round out this fine well-thought selection of Zemlinsky’s Lieder. Henschel partners well with her in giving authoritative readings of music that deserves the attention they have given it. This is a fine introduction to Zemlinsky’s songs for those unfamiliar with them, while individuals who know the repertoire should enjoy the performances on this welcome recording. The engineering of this recording supports the performances well, with good balances between the voice and piano. The keyboard is full and rich, but never covers the voice. At the same time, the recording gives a good sense of Haselböck’s mezzo-soprano voice, which is suited well to deliver these songs. It is a fine contribution to the music of the fin-de-siècle Vienna, and to the discography of Zemlinsky’s music.

James L. 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):