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

A Verlaine Songbook

Back in the LP days, if a singer wanted to show some sophistication, s/he sometimes put out an album of songs by famous composers set to the poems of one poet: for example, Phyllis Curtin’s much-admired 1964 disc of Debussy and Fauré songs to poems by Verlaine, with pianist Ryan Edwards (available now as a CD from VAI).

Giovanni Simon Mayr: Medea in Corinto

The Bavarian-born Johann Simon Mayr (1763–1845) trained and made his career in Italy and thus ended up calling himself Giovanni Simone Mayr, or simply G. S. Mayr. He is best known for having been composition teacher to Giuseppe Donizetti.

Matthias Goerne: Bach Cantatas for Bass

In this new release for Harmonia Mundi, German baritone Matthias Goerne presents us with two gems of Bach’s cantata repertoire, with the texts of both BWV 56 and 82 exploring one’s sense of hope in death.  Goerne adeptly interprets the paradoxical combination of hope and despair that underpins these works, deploying a graceful lyricism alongside a richer, darker bass register.

Gramophone Award Winner — Matthias Goerne Brahms Vier ernste Gesänge

Winner of the 2017 Gramophone Awards, vocal category - Matthias Goerne and Christoph Eschenbach - Johannes Brahms Vier ernste Gesänge and other Brahms Lieder. Here is why ! An exceptional recording, probably a new benchmark.

Véronique Gens: Visions from Grand Opéra

Ravishing : Visions, Véronique Gens in a glorious new recording of French operatic gems, with Hervé Niquet conducting the Münchener Rundfunkorchester. This disc is a companion piece to Néère, where Gens sang familiar Duparc, Hahn, and Chausson mélodies.

John Joubert's Jane Eyre

Librettists have long mined the literature shelves for narratives that are ripe for musico-dramatic embodiment. On the whole, it’s the short stories and poems - The Turn of the Screw, Eugene Onegin or Death in Venice, for example - that best lend themselves to operatic adaptation.

Through Life and Love: Louise Alder sings Strauss

Soprano Louise Alder has had an eventful few months. Declared ‘Young Singer of the Year’ at the 2017 International Opera Awards in May, the following month she won the Dame Joan Sutherland Audience Prize at the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World.

A Master Baritone in Recital: Sesto Bruscantini, 1981

This is the only disc ever devoted to the art of Sesto Bruscantini (1919–2003). Record collectors value his performance of major baritone roles, especially comic but also serious ones, on many complete opera recordings, such as Il barbiere di Siviglia (with Victoria de los Angeles). He continued to perform at major houses until at least 1985 and even recorded Mozart's Don Alfonso in 1991, when he was 72.

Emalie Savoy: A Portrait

Since 1952, the ARD—the organization of German radio stations—has run an annual competition for young musicians. Winners have included Jessye Norman, Maurice André, Heinz Holliger, and Mitsuko Uchida. Starting in 2015, the CD firm GENUIN has offered, as a separate award, the chance for one of the prize winners to make a CD that can serve as a kind of calling card to the larger musical and music-loving world. In 2016, the second such CD award was given to the Aris Quartett (second-prize winner in the “string quartet” category).

Detlev Glanert : Requiem for Hieronymus Bosch

Detlev Glanert's Requiem for Hieronymus Bosch should be a huge hit. Just as Carl Orff's Carmina Burana appeals to audiences who don't listen to early music (or even to much classical music), Glanert's Requiem for Hieronymus Bosch has all the elements for instant popular success.

A Falstaff Opera in Shakespeare’s Words: Sir John in Love

Only one Shakespeare play has resulted in three operas that get performed today (whether internationally or primarily in one language-region). Perhaps surprisingly, the play in question is a comedy that is sometimes considered a lesser work by the Bard: The Merry Wives of Windsor.

A Resplendent Régine Crespin in Tosca

There have to be special reasons to release a monophonic live recording of a much-recorded opera. Often it can give us the opportunity to hear a singer in a major role that he or she never recorded commercially—or did record on some later occasion, when the voice was no longer fresh. Often a live recording catches the dramatic flow better than certain studio recordings that may be more perfect technically.

Karine Deshayes’s Astonishing New Rossini Recording

Critic and scholar John Barker has several times complained, in the pages of American Record Guide, about Baroque vocal recitals that add instrumental works or movements as supposed relief or (as he nicely calls them) “spacers.”

Knappertsbusch’s Only Recording of Lohengrin Released for the First Time

Hans Knappertsbusch was one of the most renowned Wagner conductors who ever lived. His recordings of Parsifal, especially, are near-legendary among confirmed Wagnerians.

Kathleen Ferrier Remembered

Kathleen Ferrier Remembered, from SOMM Recordings, makes available on CD archive broadcasts of British and German song. All come from BBC broadcasts made between 1947 and 1952. Of the 26 tracks in this collection, 19 are "new", not having been commercially released. The remaining seven have been remastered by sound restoration engineer Ted Kendall. Something here even for those who already own the complete recordings.

Color and Drama in Two Choral Requiems from Post-Napoleonic France

The Requiem text has brought out the best in many composers. Requiem settings by Mozart, Verdi, and Fauré are among the most beloved works among singers and listeners alike, and there are equally wondrous settings by Berlioz and Duruflé, as well as composers from before 1750, notably Jean Gilles.

Matthias Goerne - late Schumann songs, revealed

Matthias Goerne Schumann Lieder, with Markus Hinterhäuser, a new recording from Harmonia Mundi. Singers, especially baritones, often come into their prime as they approach 50, and Goerne, who has been a star since his 20's is now formidably impressive. The colours in his voice have matured, with even greater richness and depth than before.

LALO and COQUARD: La Jacquerie

La Jacquerie—here recorded for the first time—proves to be a wonderful opera, bringing delight upon delight.

Urania Remasters Marriage of Figaro

Good news for lovers of Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro: the famous Living Stereo recording, a co-production of RCA Victor and English Decca, is now available again, well remastered, on Urania.

Opera Rara: new recording of Bellini's Adelson e Salvini

In May 2016, Opera Rara gave Bellini aficionados a treat when they gave a concert performance of Vincenzo Bellini’s first opera, Adelson e Salvini, at the Barbican Hall. The preceding week had been spent in the BBC’s Maida Vale Studios, and this recording, released last month, is a very welcome addition to Opera Rara’s bel canto catalogue.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

Bach: Cantatas for Bass
03 Sep 2017

Matthias Goerne: Bach Cantatas for Bass

In this new release for Harmonia Mundi, German baritone Matthias Goerne presents us with two gems of Bach’s cantata repertoire, with the texts of both BWV 56 and 82 exploring one’s sense of hope in death.  Goerne adeptly interprets the paradoxical combination of hope and despair that underpins these works, deploying a graceful lyricism alongside a richer, darker bass register.

Bach: Cantatas for Bass

Cantata BWV21: Ich hatte viel Bekümmernis, Sinfonia; Cantata BWV56: Ich will den Kreuzstab gerne tragen; Oboe d’amore Concerto in A major BWV1055R; Cantata BWV82: Ich habe genug

Matthias Goerne (baritone), Katharina Arfken (baroque oboe), Gottfried von

Harmonia Mundi HMM902323 [CD]

€15.99  Click to buy

The highlight of BWV 56 is, for me, the aria ‘Endlich, endlich wird mein Joch’ (At last, at last, my yoke); speaking of the hope found in passing into God’s hands in death, the text describes becoming an “eagle”, finding “strength in the Lord”. Katharina Arfken’s dancing oboe line imbues the aria with an infectious zeal, capturing Bach’s message of hope in the afterlife.  The virtuosic melismas of Bach’s solo bass cantatas require an exceptional agility, and Goerne’s hefty and sonorous timbre copes well with the demands of the extensive runs. Goerne and Arfken beautifully accentuate the aria’s sense of dialogue; listen to the powerful projection of the voice followed by the delicate response of the oboe three minutes in.  This effectively communicates the image of the burden of life leaving the soul, the pleasing lilt enhanced by the light-footed accompaniment of the Freiburger Barockorchester. The final chorale is equally expressive, communicating the sense of security as the soul reaches its “safe harbour”, although I find the rather forward-placed instrumental accompaniment drowns out the vocal line.

It is one of this cantata’s strengths that Bach sets a text that employs such poetic, even Romantic, imagery.  It is not a coincidence that it features an abundance of the pronoun “I”, for Bach’s message is ‘personal’ and Goerne does well to convey the lyrical intensity of the music.  Yet the text does not imply lyrical sweetness alone.  At the moments when the ambience darkens and the texts speaks of “seas raging and foaming”, I find the resonant, glowing acoustic is to the detriment of the recording, as Goerne’s rich lower registers could perfectly evince the darkness of suffering without the need for such a sepia-toned acoustic.  As a result, the occasional harshness that Goerne could have used to convey the pain as well as the hope of the speaker is lost, smudged over by the overly warm acoustic; despite being a cantata about hope in death, I can’t help but feel something is lost when one emphasises the hope alone.

Exploring the similar theme of comfort in death, BWV 82 also features the same exquisite dialogue between oboe and voice that proved a highlight in BWV 56. Here, the ageing Simeon tells of how he recognised Jesus in the Temple, and yearns to die in peace having seen the Messiah; this is a cantata of touching devotion and emotional intensity, which the tonal heft of both Goerne and the oboe communicate well.  Indeed, compared to Joshua Rifkin’s release on Decca with The Bach Ensemble, the present recording offers a far richer oboe timbre, whilst the fullness of Goerne’s voice underlines the assuredness that Simeon feels in knowing he can be with God.  True, compared to Fischer-Dieskau on Archiv, Goerne is less declamatory in the opening phrases of the aria ‘Ich habe genug’ (I am content); Goerne creates a powerful sense of holding back, evoking Simeon’s sense of acceptance.  

As a pupil of Fischer-Dieskau, Goerne has not only adopted his master’s extraordinarily broad repertory (Goerne has already recorded Schubert, Eisler and Mahler-Berio), but he also has his ability to project a powerful narrative.  Yet once again, the warm acoustic blurs the expressive nuances of Goerne’s phrasing in the famous aria, ‘Schlummert ein, ihr matten Augen’ (Go to sleep, you weary eyes).  Fischer-Dieskau’s Archiv drier acoustic allows for a far greater clarity of text and phrasing; both recordings, however, adopt a faster tempo than Eliot Gardiner’s recording with the Monteverdi Choir, also on Archiv.  Gardiner’s slower tempo may better reflect Simeon’s “quiet rest”, but one could argue Goerne’s faster speed better captures his sense of hope.

Although Goerne is central to this disc, the release is not a purely vocal one, making this an enjoyable listen for its generous programming.  We are treated to a powerfully expressive Sinfonia. The other instrumental work proved one of the disc’s greatest pleasures: the Concerto for Oboe d’Amore, performed with tremendous skill by Katharina Arfken.  Providing a delightful sense of energy that never falls apart into the hectic, these are elegant readings that convey Bach’s own sense of pleasure; one can detect the sense of spontaneity and invention that must surely have created an exciting atmosphere around the master when he was at work.  Whether evoking a dance or a lament, this is powerfully emotive and affective music.

Everywhere I read about Goerne, I find his voice likened to “pearls”.  His resonant, rich timbre provides a hefty underpinning to the text, but rarely prevents him from singing with graceful lyricism.  In the year of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, this is an enjoyable release that is a further testament to Goerne’s increasingly broad repertoire.

Jack Pepper

      

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):