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

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.

Bohuslav Martinů – What Men Live By

World premiere recording from Supraphon of Bohuslav Martinů What Men Live By (H336,1952-3) with Jiří Bělohlávek and the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra from a live performances in 2014, with Martinů's Symphony no 1 (H289, 1942) recorded in 2016. Bělohlávek did much to increase Martinů's profile, so this recording adds to the legacy, and reveals an extremely fine work.

Berlioz: Harold en Italie, Les Nuits d'été

Hector Berlioz Harold en Italie with François-Xavier Roth and Les Siècles with Tabea Zimmermann, plus Stéphane Degout in Les Nuits d’été from Hamonia Mundi. This Harold en Italie, op. 16, H 68 (1834) captures the essence of Romantic yearning, expressed in Byron's Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage where the hero rejects convention to seek his destiny in uncharted territory.

Le Bal des Animaux : Works by Chabrier, Poulenc, Ravel, Satie et al.

Belgian soprano Sophie Karthaüser’s latest song recital is all about the animal kingdom. As in previous recordings of songs by Wolf, Debussy and Poulenc, pianist Eugene Asti is her accompanist in Le Bal des Animaux, a delightful collection of French songs about creatures of all sizes, from flea to elephant and from crayfish to dolphin.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

Harmonia Mundi HMC902107 [CD]
15 Dec 2014

Schubert’s Winterreise by Matthias Goerne

This Winterreise is the final instalment of Matthias Goerne’s series of Schubert lieder for Harmonia Mundi and it brings the Matthias Goerne Schubert Edition, begun in 2008, to a dark, harrowing close.

Schubert: Winterreise D.911

Matthias Goerne, baritone; Christoph Eschenbach, piano.

Harmonia Mundi HMC902107 [CD]

$14.99   Click to buy

While there is little of the angst-ridden word-painting of Ian Bostridge, there is an unwavering attention to the meaning and expressive qualities of the text — as one might expect from a native speaker — and some surprising heightening and emphasis at times. Similarly, while Goerne does not adopt the sustained, penetrating intensity of a singer such as Mark Padmore, there is a growing sense of urgency which is all the more compelling because of the contrast created between the swift opening and the increasing violence of the final songs.

Goerne and his pianist, Christoph Eschenbach, are not melodramatic, but they are direct. Eschenbach plays with flexibility and responsiveness; the accompaniment is prominent, an equal partner on this journey through the austere winter landscape. And, however troubled the melancholy traveller becomes, the beauty of Goerne’s tone is never marred; the beguilingly sweet tone lures us into the bleak land, and we join the wanderer’s mesmerising descent into terror and isolation.

‘Gute Nacht’ begins purposefully, with a surprisingly brisk tread; Goerne’s voice is full of rich colours and the prominent piano accents in the ‘between-phrase’ motifs convey animation. But, with the shift to the major tonality at ‘Will dich im Traum nicht stören,/ Wär’ Schad’ um deine Ruh’ (I will not disturb you as you dream, It would be a shame to spoil your rest) there is a sudden withdrawal and wistfulness, an indication of the wide dramatic range and vocal control which will characterise the whole cycle. Typical too is the subtlety of Eschenbach’s response to the text, as the accompaniment to each stanza paints a slightly different hue.

A forceful and assertive ‘Die Wetterfahne’ follows, full of striking dramatic contrasts: crisp piano motifs convey the anger of the wind, but there is quiet introspection with the line, ‘Der Wind spielt drinnen mit den Herzen,/ Wie auf dem Dach, nur nicht so laut’ (Inside the wind is playing with hearts, As on the roof, only less loudly), before a tempestuous close. Eschenbach’s sensitivity gives expressive nuance to the piano introduction of ‘Gefrorne Tränen’ and in this song Goerne’s voice wells with directness and vulnerability: ‘Ob es mir denn entgangen,/ Daß ich geweinet hab?’ (Have I, then, not noticed That I have been weeping?). The ardency and focused tone powerfully evoke the passionate heat of his tears, that would melt ‘All the ice of winter’.

‘Der Lindenbaum’ is one of the highlights of the first part of the cycle and epitomises the performers’ intelligent musicianship. The opening is theatrical, the crescendo and culminating quaver chords quite brutal; the effect is to infer the realms of emotion that lay beneath the contained lyricism of the baritone’s beautiful utterance. Here Goerne colours the words wonderfully, heightening the rise to ‘ihm’ in the line ‘Es zog in Freud’ und Leide Zu ihm mich immer fort’ (In joy and sorrow I was ever drawn to it), and effecting a tender transition to the major mode, his tone full and earnest as the branches rustle and beckon: ‘Come to me, friend, Here you will find rest.’ But, there is movement as the chilling wind sweeps on, and the piano triplet semiquavers are unrelenting and cold. A telling diminuendo and pause precede the voice’s entry for the final stanza and there is a sudden and powerful sense of lassitude: ‘Nun bin ich manche Stunde Entfernt von jenem Ort,/ Und immer hör’ ich’s rauschen: Du fändest Ruhe dort!’ (Now I am many hours’ journey from that place; yet I still hear the rustling: ‘There you would find rest.’). Goerne’s rising fourth in the repeated last phrase is laden with weariness.

‘Wasserflut’ marks a tightening of the emotional screw, the tension between the voice’s triplets and the piano’s dotted rhythms creating a dragging sense of labouring onwards, as the singer’s tears fall in the snow. Goerne’s baritone burns with ferocity as the ice breaks into pieces: ‘Und das Eis zerspringt in Schollen,/ Und der weiche Schnee zerrinnt.’ And, in the second stanza his pushes so far that he almost loses control of the intonation. Now we understand the depths of the wanderer’s unrest. The mental schism widens in the succeeding songs, conveyed by gestures such as the pause before the final verse of ‘Auf dem Flusse’, before the voice surges forward in a desperate bid to restore the singer’s sense of self: ‘Mein Herz, in diesem Bache/ Erkennst du nun dein Bild? (My heart, do you now recognize/Your image in this brook?).

Eschenbach remains an attentive partner. In ‘Ruckblick’ the troubling juxtaposition of fire and ice in the text prickles in the oscillating triplet semiquavers of the piano introduction; and in ‘Irrlicht’ the piano’s triplet motif is surprisingly hard and insistent, its repeated note followed by an accusing rise. In contrast, Goerne’s sixth and octave leaps are beautifully mellifluous, the richly decorative melody suave and lyrical. The final stanza is strikingly assertive but drifts into pensiveness at the close.

The dynamic and expressive contrasts of ‘Rast’ are so great that we begin to fear for soul and mind of protagonist; might we too be sucked into his darkness. The folksiness of ‘Frühlingstraum’ is bitter-sweet and the song is never allowed to settle, the schnell episode rushing forward with restlessness and haste: such contrasts between wistfulness and pain are disturbing, and the Eschenbach’s final broken arpeggio is full of poignancy.

Goerne’s forceful repeating cry, ‘Mein Herz’, in ‘Die Post’ rings out above Eschenbach’s light- of-foot gallop, but the vigour of this song dissipates in the ensuing ‘Der greise Kopf’. The very slow tempo intensifies the morose pessimism of the text and establishes a mood of disillusionment and exhaustion, of body and soul, which is perfectly captured in Goerne’s lyrical falling phrases, with their almost painfully lovely mordants. The wanderer stares at the road ahead, and at the vista of his own life, and the immensity of blackness before him is powerfully portrayed by the piano’s whispered final phrase which sinks gracefully into silent pathos. Eschenbach’s crisp off-beat semiquavers in ‘Die Krähe’, high above the baritone, evoke the predatory crow, etched in the sky, circling slowly, while the rhythmic imbalances of ‘Letzte Hoffnung’ further restrain the forward momentum. Goerne suggests the faltering of the wanderer, both literal and metaphysical, as he stretches the pulse, even though the vocal line is smooth and unbroken. There is tension at the top of the challenging closing phrase, ‘Wein’ auf meiner Hoffnung Grab’ (And weep on the grave of my hopes), but never strain.

As we move through the final songs Goerne’s baritone becomes fuller and the range of expression broadens. ‘Täuschung’ conveys dreamy preoccupation but the comforts of delusion are swiftly erased in ‘Der Wegweiser’ where Goerne’s monotone is solemn and morose, mimicked by the deathly tread of the accompaniment with its eerie chromatic bass line. The low repetitions of the final stanza, ‘Einen Weiser seh’ ich stehen’ (I see a signpost standing) are ominous.

In ‘Das Wirthaus’, the traveller stops beside a graveyard and longs for rest but, turned away from the tavern, is forced to go onwards. Goerne and Eschenbach adopt what some may find an excessively slow tempo, but it does establish a funereal lethargy; it is dignity rather than irony that is brought to the fore here, and the piano’s full chords take on an ecclesiastical colour, fading gently at the close. After the angry defiance of ‘Mut!’, ‘Die Nebensonnen’ is almost unearthly in its still beauty: again the tempo is very slow and Goerne’s narrow melody circles as if entranced. The human presence of the hurdy-gurdy man in ‘Der Leiermann’ brings no consolation; the quiet phrases are drained of emotion, yet powerfully suggestive of resignation borne of despair.

The tone of the ending is desolate but powerful: Romantic Sehnsucht has been translated into a very modern disorientation and loneliness.

Claire Seymour

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):