Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.







Recently in Recordings

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.

Étienne-Nicolas Méhul: Uthal

The opera world barely knows how to handle works that have significant amounts of spoken dialogue. Conductors and stage directors will often trim the dialogue to a bare minimum (Magic Flute), have it rendered as sung recitative (Carmen), or have it spoken in the vernacular though the sung numbers may often be performed in the original language (Die Fledermaus).

A New Anna Moffo?: The Debut Disc of Aida Garifullina

Here is the latest CD from a major label promoting a major new soprano. Aida Garifullina is utterly remarkable: a lyric soprano who also can handle coloratura with ease. Her tone has a constant shimmer, with a touch of quick, narrow vibrato even on short notes.

Il sogno di Scipione: a new recording from Classical Opera

With this recording of Mozart’s 1771 opera, Il sogno di Scipione (Sicpio’s Dream), Classical Opera continue their progress through the adolescent composer’s precocious achievements and take another step towards the fulfilment of their complete Mozart opera series for Signum Classics.

Mozart’s Requiem: Pierre-Henri Dutron Edition

The stories surrounding Mozart’s Requiem are well-known. Dominated by the work in the final days of his life, Mozart claimed that he composed the Requiem for himself (Landon, 153), rather than for the wealthy Count Walsegg’s wife, the man who had commissioned it in July 1791.

Schumann and Mahler Lieder : Florian Boesch

Schumann and Mahler Lieder with Florian Boesch and Malcolm Martineau, now out from Linn Records, following their recent Schubert Winterreise on Hyperion. From Boesch and Martineau, excellence is the norm. But their Mahler Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen takes excellence to even greater levels

Hans Werner Henze : Kammermusik 1958

"....In lieblicher Bläue". Landmark new recordings of Hans Werner Henze Neue Volkslieder und Hirtengesänge and Kammermusik 1958 from the Scharoun Ensemble Berlin, with Andrew Staples, Markus Weidmann, Jürgen Ruck and Daniel Harding.

Elder conducts Lohengrin

There have been dozens of capable, and more than capable, recordings of Lohengrin. Among the most-often praised are the Sawallisch/Bayreuth (1962), Kempe (1963), Solti (1985), and Abbado (1991). Recording a major Wagner opera involves heavy costs that a record company may be unable to recoup.

Premiere Recording: Mayr’s Telemaco nell’isola di Calipso (1797)

No sooner had I drafted my review of Simon Mayr’s Medea in Corinto,



LSO0669 [SACD]
01 Jan 2013

Mahler: Symphony No. 8

Among the recent recordings of Mahler’s Eighth Symphony, Valery Gergiev’s release on the LSO Live label is an excellent addition to the discography of this work.

Gustav Mahler: Symphony No. 8

Viktoria Yastrebov, soprano, Ailish Tynan, soprano, Liudmila Dudinova, soprano, Lilli Passikivi, mezzo-soprano, Zlata Bulycheva, mezzo soprano, Sergey Semishkur, tenor, Alexey Markov, baritone, Evgeny Kikitin bass, Choir of Elthan College, Choral Arts Society of Washington, London Symphony Chorus, London Symphony Orchestra, Valery Gergiev, conductor.

LSO0669 [SACD]

$18.99  Click to buy

Gergiev’s conception of the first part, the Latin hymn Veni creator spiritus (tracks 1-6) conceived symphonically, is convincing and well-thought. The balances between textures, tempos, and dynamic levels represent the score faithfully in a dynamic reading of this piece. The choruses are notable for their refined sound, and clear diction, as evident from the start. It is a convincing performance that warrants attention among other recordings of the piece issued in the last few years.

As to this performance, the sense of musical narrative emerges readily as the extroverted opening “Veni creator spiritus” section is followed by the contrasting sections, which Gergiev delineates incisively. The architecture of this large-scale work becomes audibly apparent in this performance, with the various and shifting forces required for the “Accende lumen sensibus” section (track 4 on this recording) coming together with exceptional clarity. From that point, the movement drives forward, with the resulting sound evoking the composer’s synaesthesic comment to Willem Mengelberg about worlds and planets in motion. This exciting performance has the momentum that makes it stand out among recent recordings as a powerful and authoritative presentation of Mahler’s Eighth Symphony.

The second part, Mahler’s setting of the concluding section from Goethe’s Faust (tracks 7-18) is equally powerful. In contrast to the broad gestures required for the concluding “Gloria patri” of Veni creator spiritus, Gergiev is effective in presenting the more intimate structure of the opening of the piece, with the Anchorites’ music highly evocative. The orchestral details are nicely shaped, with the textures almost palpable as the music emerges from the almost imperceptible sounds of the first measures to the rich orchestral textures later in the section. This sets up the aria of the Pater Ecstaticus, and the vocal exchanges that follow. Here Gergiev’s deft approach to the orchestral accompaniment is apparent, as it supports the vocal line and also brings forward motifs with a sense of their function in the score. The result has the refinement of a studio recording while also conveying the dynamic qualities of a live performance. The prominent miking of the soloists allows them to be heard clearly in this recording, without overbalancing the result, especially in the richly textured choral sections.

In this regard, Gergiev’s soloists are uniform in their delivery, with well-chosen voices covering all the parts. Among the soloists, Sergey Semishkur is especially appealing in the role of Doctor Marianus, with his ringing sound and good diction bringing out the important part of the text. He handles the higher sections of the solo passage with ease and vibrant tone in this passage and in the penultimate “Blikket auf,” Doctor Marianus’s response to the “Komm” of the Mater Gloriosa. The other soloists are also memorable, as the strong principals complement the chorus in Mahler’s musical setting of this important example of Romantic literature. The dramatic qualities in this performance serve as a reminder of the ways in which Goethe’s Faust was an important part of Mahler’s reading and his intellectual world. This recording preserves Gergiev’s effort for future audiences to appreciate, especially the warmly colored “Chorus Mysticus” with which the work concludes. In the matter passage, Gergiev’s attention to details allows the various sonorities, to be heard distinctly. This is partly due to the well-considered tempos Gergiev used in realizing the performance indications and other markings Mahler used in this score. The full sounds of the conclusion resound vibrantly and triumphantly in this convincing reading of the score.

Based on performances given 8-10 July 2008 in St. Paul’s Cathedral, London, this recording benefits from thoughtful sound engineering that offers both the elegant presentation of details and also spacious sound. In addition, the CD includes a concise booklet with the full text of the Eighth Symphony and English translation, along with a full track list. The booklet also includes photos and biographical sketches of the soloists, It is unfortunate, though, that some media players reflect the tracks correctly, but identify the recording with BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra conducted by Donald Runnicles, rather than the LSO with Gergiev. Despite these small problems, this recording of Mahler’s Eighth Symphony is a strong addition to the recorded legacy, and those interested in the work will find much to offer in it. It is a strong and impressive part of Gergiev’s recent Mahler cycle.

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):