Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



Plumbago_9780993198359_1.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Recordings

Richard Danielpour – The Passion of Yeshua

A contemporary telling of the Passion story which uses texts from both the Christian and the Jewish traditions to create a very different viewpoint.

Les Talens Lyriques: 18th-century Neapolitan sacred works

In 1770, during an extended tour of France and Italy to observe the ‘present state of music’ in those two countries, the English historian, critic and composer Charles Burney spent a month in Naples - a city which he noted (in The Present State of Music in France and Italy (1771)) ‘has so long been regarded as the centre of harmony, and the fountain from whence genius, taste, and learning, have flowed to every other part of Europe.’

Herbert Howells: Missa Sabrinensis revealed in its true glory

At last, Herbert Howells’s Missa Sabrinensis (1954) with David Hill conducting the Bach Choir, with whom David Willcocks performed the piece at the Royal Festival Hall in 1982. Willcocks commissioned this Mass for the Three Choirs Festival in Worcester in 1954, when Howells himself conducted the premiere.

Le Banquet Céleste: Stradella's San Giovanni Battista

The life of Alessandro Stradella was characterised by turbulence, adventure and amorous escapades worthy of an opera libretto. Indeed, at least seven composers have turned episodes from the 17th-century Italian composer’s colourful life into operatic form, the best known being Flotow whose three-act comic opera based on the Lothario’s misadventures was first staged in Hamburg in 1844.

Ethel Smyth: Songs and Ballads - a new recording from SOMM

In 1877, Ethel Smyth, aged just nineteen, travelled to Leipzig to begin her studies at the German town’s Music Conservatory, having finally worn down the resistance of her father, General J.H. Smyth.

Wagner: Excerpts from Der Ring des Niebelungen, NHK Symphony Orchestra, Paavo Järvi, RCA-Sony

This new recording of excerpts from Wagner’s Der Ring des Niebelungen is quite exceptional - and very unusual for this kind of disc. The words might be missing, but the fact they are proves to have rather the opposite effect. It is one of the most operatic of orchestral Wagner discs I have come across.

Wagner: Die Walküre, Symphonieorchester Des Bayerischen Rundfunks, Simon Rattle, BR Klassik

Simon Rattle has never particularly struck me as a complex conductor. He is not, for example, like Furtwängler, Maderna, Boulez or Sinopoli - all of whom brought a breadth of learning and a knowledge of composition to bear on what they conducted.

Dvořák Requiem, Jakub Hrůša in memoriam Jiří Bělohlávek

Antonín Dvořák Requiem op.89 (1890) with Jakub Hrůša conducting the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra. The Requiem was one of the last concerts Jiří Bělohlávek conducted before his death and he had been planning to record it as part of his outstanding series for Decca.

Schumann Symphonies, influenced by song

John Eliot Gardiner's Schumann series with the London Symphony Orchestra, demonstrate the how Schumann’s Lieder and piano music influenced his approach to symphonic form and his interests in music drama.

Unusual and beautiful: Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla conducts the music of Raminta Šerkšnytė

Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla conducts the music of Raminta Šerkšnytė with the Kremerata Baltica, in this new release from Deutsche Grammophon.

Diana Damrau sings Richard Strauss’s Vier letzte Lieder on Erato

“How weary we are of wandering/Is this perhaps death?” These closing words of ‘Im Abendrot’, the last of Richard Strauss’s Vier letzte Lieder, and the composer’s own valedictory work, now seem unusually poignant since they stand as an epitaph to Mariss Jansons’s final Strauss recording.

Vaughan Williams Symphonies 3 & 4 from Hyperion

Latest in the highly acclaimed Hyperion series of Ralph Vaughan Williams symphonies, Symphonies no 3 and 4, with Martyn Brabbins and the BBC Symphony Orchestra, recorded in late 2018 after a series of live performances.

Bach’s Christmas Oratorio with the Thomanerchor and Gewandhausorchester Leipzig

This Accentus release of J.S. Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, recorded live on 15/16th December 2018 at St. Thomas’s Church Leipzig, takes the listener ‘back to Bach’, so to speak.

Retrospect Opera's new recording of Ethel Smyth's Fête Galante

Writing in April 1923 in The Bookman, of which he was editor, about Ethel Smyth’s The Boatswain’s Mate (1913-14) - the most frequently performed of the composer’s own operas during her lifetime - Rodney Bennett reflected on the principal reasons for the general neglect of Smyth’s music in her native land.

A compelling new recording of Bruckner's early Requiem

The death of his friend and mentor Franz Seiler, notary at the St Florian monastery to which he had returned as a teaching assistant in 1845, was the immediate circumstance which led the 24-year-old Anton Bruckner to compose his first large-scale sacred work: the Requiem in D minor for soloists, choir, organ continuo and orchestra, which he completed on 14th March 1849.

Emmerich Kálmán: Ein Herbstmanöver

Brilliant Emmerich Kálmán’s Ein Herbstmanöver from the Stadttheater, Giessen in 2018, conducted by Michael Hofstetter now on Oehms Classics, in a performing version by Balázs Kovalik.

Liszt Petrarca Sonnets complete – Andrè Schuen, Daniel Heide

An ambitious new series focusing on the songs of Franz Liszt, starting with all three versions of the Tre Sonetti del Petrarca, (Petrarca Sonnets), S.270a, S.270b and S.161 with Andrè Schuen and Daniel Heide for Avi-music.de.

Une soirée chez Berlioz – lyrical rarities, on Berlioz’s own guitar

Une soirée chez Berlioz – an evening with Berlioz, songs for voice, piano and guitar, with Stéphanie D’Oustrac, Thibaut Roussel (guitar), and Tanguy de Williencourt (piano).

A Baroque Christmas from Harmonia Mundi

A baroque Christmas from Harmonia Mundi, this year’s offering in their acclaimed Christmas series. Great value for money - four CDs of music so good that it shouldn’t be saved just for Christmas. The prize here, though is the Pastorale de Noël by Marc-Antoine Charpentier with Ensemble Correspondances, with Sébastien Daucé, highly acclaimed on its first release just a few years ago.

Christmas at St George’s Windsor

Christmas at St George’s Chapel, Windsor, with the Choir of St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, James Vivian, organist and conductor. New from Hyperion, this continues their series of previous recordings with this Choir. The College of St George, founded in 1348, is unusual in that it is a Royal Peculiar, a parish under the direct jurisdiction of the monarch, rather than the diocese.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

Richard Strauss: <em>Notturno</em>
10 Jul 2014

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.

Richard Strauss: Notturno

Thomas Hampson, baritone; Wolfram Rieger, piano; Daniel Hope, violin.

Deutsche Grammophon 0289 479 2943 7 CD DDD GH [CD]

$15.99  Click to buy

Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau’s recordings of Strauss’s complete lieder may have set the benchmark (the EMI Classic 6-CD set was re-released in August 2013 on the Warner Classics Budget Boxes label), but Hampson has established himself as one of the foremost interpreters of the German Romantic repertory; and, following his much-admired 2011 recording of Mahler’s Des Knaben Wunderhorn, here the American baritone celebrates Strauss’s 150th anniversary with an imaginative recording which takes the listener on a tour through the composer’s life and confirms Hampson’s discernment and sensitivity to this idiom and language.

We begin with two early songs from the Op.10 (1885) settings of Hermann von Gilm zu Rosenegg. Though, like most of these songs, they are only a few minutes in length ‘Zueignung’ (Dedication) and ‘Die Nacht’ demonstrate Hampson’s directness in conveying the young composer’s rapturous moods; the voice may itself have lost some of its youthful bloom but there is great character and richness, an intelligent sense of musical line, and a strength and brightness at the top which brings vigour and ardour. Hampson is also, throughout the recording, superbly attentive to the German text. Pianist Wolfram Rieger is an eloquent partner, providing a warm foundation in the subdued passages, the delicate inter-phrase commentaries well-shaped.

Though many share a brooding intensity, these songs are by no means singular in mood and Hampson is alert to this variety and — in ‘Winternacht’, for example, with its graphic response to Adolf Friedrich von Schack’s nature imagery — to Strauss’s overt word-painting. Strauss’s setting of Felix Dahn’s ‘Ach weh mir unglückhaftem Mann’ (Alas I am an unlucky man) expands the lyric intensity into dramatic realms and Hampson’s baritone assumes a more operatic quality. The song’s direct speech is delivered with immediacy, Hampson finding a dreamy softness for the maiden’s imagined question, ‘Was soll der großen Rosenstrauß,/ die Schimmel an dem Wagen?’ (‘What are you doing with this large bouquet of roses, and these white horses and carriage?’), while Rieger summons the energy of the trotting horses with their clanging bells and the crack of the rider’s whip with éclat.

The elongated vowels of Karl Friedrich Henckell’s brief poetic phrases form extended, searching melodic lines in ‘Ruhe, meine Seele’ (Rest, my soul). As the poet-speaker seeks peace in a tumultuous world, Hampson’s baritone rises with surprising urgency and distress — Diese Zeiten/ Sind gewaltig,/ Bringen Herz/ Und Hirn in Not’ (These times are powerful, bring torment to heart and mind) — before the piano postlude gently quells the anguish.

Both performers surmount the technical challenges of ‘Heimliche Aufforderung’ (Secret Invitation) with accomplishment, Hampson surely negotiating the unpredictable melodic twists and turns while Rieger captures the ever-changing moods in the accompaniment. The poet-speaker’s yearning for the longed-for ‘wondrous night’ (‘O komme, du wunderbare, ersehnte Nacht!’) is rich and radiant; in contrast, ‘Morgen’, presaged by Rieger’s articulate introduction, is wonderfully intimate, the voice shimmering gently as Hampson dreams of ‘tomorrow’, when the ‘silence of happiness’ will settle upon the lovers. ‘Traum durch die Dämmerung’ begins with the still composure of a lullaby but surges impassionedly, before closing with an ethereal whisper, as the poet-speaker is drawn ‘through the grey twilight to the land of love, into a blue, mild light’ (‘durch Dämmergrau in der Liebe Land,/ in ein mildes, blaues Licht’).

Three songs from the last few years of the nineteenth century capture three different and quintessential Straussian moods: the sincerity and wistful melancholy of Detlev von Liliencron’s poetry in ‘Sehnsucht’ (1896), with its quiet, declamatory opening and wonderfully floating closing phrase, is complemented by the buoyant, pure joy of ‘Das Rosenband’ (Ribbons of roses) (Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock, 1897), which in turn fades into the bitter-sweet passion of ‘Befreit’ (Released) (Richard Dehmel, 1898). In the latter, the baritone melody is skilfully crafted, building in concentration, powerfully projected. Indeed, Hampson’s thoughtful shaping of each individual narrative is impressive; the tempi are well-chosen, perfectly matched to sentiment, and the feelings and dramas that unfold are convincing and engrossing.

By 1929 Strauss had his great operatic successes behind him and it is perhaps not surprising that the Op.87 Rückert settings of that year are grander in scale. A reflection on approaching old age, ‘Vom künftigen Alter’ is characterised by a quasi-orchestral rhetoric in the accompaniment, and Rieger relishes the contrasts between the sweeping flourishes in the right hand and more subdued passages which intimate the waning of the poet-speaker’s youthful vigour and the pallor of the fading roses. In ‘Und dann nicht mehr’ (And then no more), Hampson’s outpouring of regret for an irretrievable moment is spacious and even, each statement of Rückert’s oft-repeated refrain imbued with an individual hue and complemented by the vivid piano commentary. ‘Im Sonnenschein’ (In the sunshine) sweeps elatedly to the final couplet, ‘Ich geh’, die süße Müdigkeit des Lebens nun auszuruhn,/ Die Lust, den Gram der Erde nun auszuheilen im Sonnenschein’ (I go now; let the sweet weariness of life rest now, and let the pleasure and sadness of the earth heal now in the sunshine), in which the broadening of the tempo and the openness of the baritone melody wonderfully capture a sense of the composer’s love of life.

The title song, ‘Notturno’ (1899), is the longest and probably the least well-known of this selection. In this powerful miniature drama, originally composed for voice and orchestra, Hampson and Rieger are joined by violinist Daniel Hope, the latter representing the figure of Death who appears as a nocturnal fiddle player who haunts a troubled dreamer. The song showcases Hampson’s control and range, of register and of colour — especially the mahogany richness of the bottom; Hope’s rhapsodic interjections are entrancing. If the song’s melodic invention is less appealing than in some of the other songs, the performance is still a captivating one.

This is a very valuable contribution to the Strauss celebrations this year. Though there is a pleasing generous acoustic, the recording does perhaps favour the voice and there are times when the piano accompaniment lacks clarity in the middle and lower registers; but, Hampson’s impeccable diction and intelligent interpretation, and Rieger’s attentive, persuasive accompaniments, work together to produce performances which are unfailingly absorbing and sincere.

Claire Seymour


Contents:

Richard Strauss (1864-1949): ‘Zueignung’ Op.10 No.1 (1885), ‘Die Nacht’ Op.10 No.3 (1885), ‘Winternacht’ Op.15 No.2 (1886), ‘Mein Herz ist stumm’, Op.19 No.6 (1888), ‘Ach weh mir unglückhaftem Mann’ Op.21 No.4 (1889), ‘Ruhe, meine Seele’ Op.27 No.1 (1894), ‘Heimliche Aufforderung’ Op.27, No.3 (1894), ‘Morgen’ Op.27 No. 4 (1894), ‘Traum durch die Dämmerung’ Op.29. No.1 (1895), ‘Sehnsucht’ Op.32 No.2 (1896), ‘Das Rosenband’ Op.36 No.1 (1897), ‘Befreit’ Op.39 No.4 (1898), ‘Notturno’ Op.44 No.1 (1899), ‘Freundliche Vision’ Op.48 No.1 (1901), ‘Die heiligen drei Könige aus Morgenland’ Op.56 No.6 (1904-06), ‘Vom künftigen Alter’ Op.87 No.1 (1929), ‘Und dann nicht mehr’ Op.87 No.3 (1929), ‘Im Sonnenschein’ Op.87 No.4 (1929).

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):