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

Sandrine Piau: Si j’ai aimé

Sandrine Piau and Le Concert de la Loge (Julien Chauvin), Si j’ai aimé, an eclectic collection of mélodies demonstrating the riches of French orchestral song. Berlioz, Duparc and Massenet are included, but also Saint-Saëns, Charles Bordes, Gabriel Pierné, Théodore Dubois, Louis Vierne and Benjamin Godard.

The VOCES8 Foundation is launched at St Anne & St Agnes

Where might you hear medieval monophony by the late 12th-century French composer Pérotin, Renaissance polyphony by William Byrd, a vocal arrangement of the stirring theme from Sibelius’s tone poem Finlandia, alongside a newly commissioned work, ‘Vertue’ (2019) by Jonathan Dove, followed by an arrangement of the Irish folksong ‘Danny Boy’ and a snappy rendition of Antonio Carlos Jobim’s ‘One Note Samba’ arr. for eight voices by Naomi Crellin, all within 90 minutes?

Gerald Finzi Choral Works

From Hyperion, Gerald Finzi choral works with the Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge, conducted by Stephen Layton. An impressive Magnificat (1952) sets the tone.

Herbert Howells: Choir of King’s College, Cambridge

The Choir of King’s College, Cambridge has played a role in the evolution of British music. This recording honours this heritage and Stephen Cleobury’s contribution in particular by focusing on Herbert Howells, who transformed the British liturgical repertoire in the 20th century.

Mieczysław Weinberg: Symphony no. 21 (“Kaddish”)

Mieczysław Weinberg witnessed the Holocaust firsthand. He survived, though millions didn’t, including his family. His Symphony no. 21 “Kaddish” (Op. 152) is a deeply personal statement. Yet its musical qualities are such that they make it a milestone in modern repertoire.

Kenshiro Sakairi and the Tokyo Juventus Philharmonic in Mahler’s Eighth

Although some works by a number of composers have had to wait uncommonly lengthy periods of time to receive Japanese premieres - one thinks of both Mozart’s Jupiter and Beethoven’s Fifth (1918), Handel’s Messiah (1929), Wagner’s Parsifal (1967), Berlioz’s Roméo et Juliette (1966) and even Bruckner’s Eighth (1959, given its premiere by Herbert von Karajan) - Mahler might be considered to have fared somewhat better.

Lise Davidsen sings Wagner and Strauss

Superlatives to describe Lise Davidsen’s voice have been piling up since she won Placido Domingo’s 2015 Operalia competition, blowing everyone away. She has been called “a voice in a million” and “the new Kirsten Flagstad.”

Nicky Spence and Julius Drake record The Diary of One Who Disappeared

From Hyperion comes a particularly fine account of Leoš Janáček’s song cycle The Diary of One Who Disappeared. Handsome-voiced Nicky Spence is the young peasant who loses his head over an alluring gypsy and is never seen again.

Jean Sibelius: Kullervo

Why did Jean Sibelius suppress Kullervo (Op. 7, 1892)? There are many theories why he didn’t allow it to be heard after its initial performances, though he referred to it fondly in private. This new recording, from Hyperion with Thomas Dausgaard conducting the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, soloists Helena Juntunen and Benjamin Appl and the Lund Male Chorus, is a good new addition to the ever-growing awareness of Kullervo, on recording and in live performance.

Mahler: Titan, Eine Tondichtung in Symphonieform – François-Xavier Roth, Les Siècles

Not the familiar version of Mahler's Symphony no 1, but the “real” Mahler Titan at last, as it might have sounded in Mahler's time! François-Xavier Roth and Les Siècles present the symphony in its second version, based on the Hamburg/Weimar performances of 1893-94. This score is edited by Reinhold Kubik and Stephen E.Hefling for Universal Edition AG. Wien.

Verdi: Messa da Requiem - Staatskapelle Dresden, Christian Thielemann (Profil)

It has often been the case that the destruction wrought by wars, especially the Second World War, has been treated unevenly by composers. Theodor Adorno’s often quoted remark, from his essay Prisms, that “to write poetry after Auschwitz would be barbaric” - if widely misinterpreted - is limited by its scope and in a somewhat profound way composers have looked on the events of World War II in the same way.

Matthias Goerne: Schumann – Liederkreis, op 24 & Kernerlieder

New from Harmonia Mundi, Matthias Goerne and Lief Ove Andsnes: Robert Schumann – Liederkreis, op 24 and Kernerlieder. Goerne and Andsnes have a partnership based on many years of working together, which makes this new release, originally recorded in late 2018, well worth hearing.

Leonard Bernstein: Tristan und Isolde in Munich on Blu-ray

Although Birgit Nilsson, one of the great Isolde’s, wrote with evident fondness – and some wit – of Leonard Bernstein in her autobiography – “unfortunately, he burned the candles at both ends” – their paths rarely crossed musically. There’s a live Fidelio from March 1970, done in Italy, but almost nothing else is preserved on disc.

Stéphanie D’Oustrac: Sirènes

After D’Oustrac’s striking success as Cassandre in Berlioz Les Troyens, this will reach audiences less familiar with her core repertoire in the baroque and grand opéra. Berlioz’s Les nuits d’été and La mort d’Ophélie, Wagner’s Wesendonck Lieder and the Lieder of Franz Liszt are very well known, but the finesse of D’Oustrac’s timbre lends a lucid gloss which makes them feel fresh and pure.

Luminous Mahler Symphony no.3: François-Xavier Roth, Gürzenich-Orchester Köln

Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No.3 with François-Xavier Roth and the Gürzenich-Orchester Köln, now at last on CD, released by Harmonia Mundi, after the highly acclaimed live performance streamed a few months ago.

A First-Ever Recording: Benjamin Godard’s 1890 Opera on Dante and Beatrice

The composer Benjamin Godard (1849–95) is today largely unknown to most music lovers. Specialist collectors, though, have been enjoying his songs (described as “imaginative and delightful” by Robert Moore in American Record Guide), his Concerto Romantique for violin (either in its entirety or just the dancelike Canzonetta, which David Oistrakh recorded winningly decades ago), and some substantial chamber and orchestral works that have received first recordings in recent years.

Between Mendelssohn and Wagner: Max Bruch’s Die Loreley

Max Bruch Die Loreley recorded live in the Prinzregenstheater, Munich, in 2014, broadcast by BR Klassik and now released in a 3-CD set by CPO. Stefan Blunier conducts the Münchner Rundfunkorchester with Michaela Kaune, Magdalena Hinterdobler, Thomas Mohr and Jan-Hendrick Rootering heading the cast, with the Prager Philharmonischer Chor..

Gottfried von Einem’s The Visit of the Old Lady Now on CD

Gottfried von Einem was one of the most prominent Austrian composers in the 1950s–70s, actively producing operas, ballets, orchestral, chamber, choral works, and song cycles.

Britten: Hymn to St Cecilia – RIAS Kammerchor

Benjamin Britten Choral Songs from RIAS Kammerchor, from Harmonia mundi, in their first recording with new Chief Conductor Justin Doyle, featuring the Hymn to St. Cecilia, A Hymn to the Virgin, the Choral Dances from Gloriana, the Five Flower Songs op 47 and Ad majorem Dei gloriam op 17.

Si vous vouliez un jour – William Christie: Airs Sérieux et à boire vol 2

"Si vous vouliez un jour..." Volume 2 of the series Airs Sérieux et à boire, with Sir William Christie and Les Arts Florissants, from Harmonia Mundi, following on from the highly acclaimed "Bien que l'amour" Volume 1. Recorded live at the Philharmonie de Paris in April 2016, this new release is as vivacious and enchanting as the first.

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):