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

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.

Wolfgang Rihm: Requiem-Strophen

The world premiere recording of Wolfgang Rihm's Requiem-Strophen (2015/2016) with Mariss Jansons conducting the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks and the Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks with Mojca Erdmann, Anna Prohaska and Hanno Müller-Brachmann, from BR Klassik NEOS.

Ravel’s Magical Glimpses into the World of Children

This is the fifth CD in a series devoted to Ravel’s orchestral works.

About an enfant: Ravel’s Opera about Childhood and Debussy’s Prodigal Son

This recording of Ravel’s second (and last) one-act opera was made during a concert, and -somewhat daringly - with rather close microphone placement. As it turns out, everything went smoothly.

Halévy’s Magnificent La reine de Chypre (1841) Gets Its Long-Awaited World Premiere Recording

Halévy’s La reine de Chypre (The Queen of Cyprus) is the 17th opera to be released in the impressively prolific “French Opera” series of recordings produced by the Center for French Romantic Music, a scholarly organization located at the Palazzetto Bru Zane in Venice. (Other recent offerings have included Saint-Saëns’s richly characterized Proserpine, Benjamin Godard’s fascinating Dante--which contains scenes set in Heaven and Hell--and Hérold’s Le pré aux clercs, an opéra-comique that had a particularly long life in the international operatic repertoire.)

Complementary Josquin masses from The Tallis Scholars

This recording on the Gimell label, the seventh of nine in a series by the Tallis Scholars which will document Josquin des Prés’ settings of the Mass (several of these and other settings are of disputed authorship), might be titled ‘Sacred and Profane’, or ‘Heaven and Earth’.

Leos Janacek: Missa Glagolitica

From Decca, Janáček classics with Jiří Bělohlávek conducting the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra. Given that Bělohlávek died in May 2017, all these recordings are relatively recent, not re-issues, and include performances of two new critical editions of the Glagolitic Mass and the Sinfonietta.

New Hans Zender Schubert Winterreise - Julian Prégardien

Hans Zender's Schuberts Winterreise is now established in the canon, but this recording with Julian Prégardien and the Deutsche Radio Philharmonie conducted by Robert Reimer is one of the most striking. Proof that new work, like good wine, needs to settle and mature to reveal its riches.

Magic Lantern Tales: darkness, disorientation and delight from Cheryl Frances-Hoad

“It produces Effects not only very delightful, but to such as know the contrivance, very wonderful; so that Spectators, not well versed in Opticks, that could see the various Apparitions and Disappearances, the Motions, Changes and Actions, that may this way be presented, would readily believe them super-natural and miraculous.”

Vaughan Williams: A Sea Symphony — Martyn Brabbins BBCSO

From Hyperion, an excellent new Ralph Vaughan Williams A Sea Symphony with Martyn Brabbins conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra and BBC Symphony Chorus, Elizabeth Llewellyn and Marcus Farnsworth soloists. This follows on from Brabbins’s highly acclaimed Vaughan Williams Symphony no 2 "London" in the rarely heard 1920 version.

Superlative Lohengrin from Bayreuth, 1967

The names of Belfast-born soprano Heather Harper and Kansas-born tenor James King may not resonate for younger music lovers, but they sure do for folks my age. Harper was the glowing, nimble soprano in Colin Davis’s renowned 1966 recording of Handel’s Messiah and in Davis’s top-flight recording (ca. 1978) of Britten’s Peter Grimes, featuring Jon Vickers.

Classical Opera: Bastien und Bastienne on Signum Classics

Pride and Prejudice, North and South, Antony and Cleopatra, Much Ado About Nothing: literary fiction and drama are strewn with dissembling lovers who display differing degrees of Machiavellian sharpness in matters of amatory strategy. But, there is an artless ingenuousness about Bastien and Bastienne, the eponymous pastoral protagonists of Mozart’s 1768 opera, who pretend not to love in order to seal their shared romantic destiny, but who require a hefty dose of the ‘Magician’ Colas’s conjuring/charlatanry in order to avoid a future of lonely singledom.

A Stunning Semiramide from Opera Rara

In early October 1822, Gioachino Rossini summoned the librettist Gaetano Rossi to a villa (owned by his wife, the soprano Isabella Colbran) in Castenaso, just outside Bologna. Their project: to work on a new opera, which would be premiered during the Carnival in Venice on 3rd February the following year, based on the legend of Queen Semiramide.

Elgar Orchestral Songs - SOMM

Edward Elgar's Sea Pictures are extremely well-known, but many others are also worth hearing. From SOMM recordings, specialists in British repertoire, comes this interesting new collection of other Elgar orchestral songs, sponsored by the Elgar Society.

Beyond Gilbert and Sullivan: Edward Loder’s Raymond and Agnes and the Apotheosis of English Romantic Opera

Mention ‘nineteenth-century English opera’ to most people, and they will immediately think ‘Gilbert and Sullivan’. If they really know their Gilbert and Sullivan, they’ll probably remember that Sullivan always wanted to compose more serious operas, but that Gilbert resisted this, believing they should ‘stick to their last’: light, comic, tuneful satire.

Pan-European Orpheus : Julian Prégardien

"Orpheus I am!" - An unusual but very well chosen collection of songs, arias and madrigals from the 17th century, featuring Julian Prégardien and Teatro del mondo. Devised by Andreas Küppers, this collection crosses boundaries demonstrating how Italian, German, French and English contemporaries responded to the legend of Orpheus and Eurydice.

Laci Boldemann’s Opera Black Is White, Said the Emperor

We normally think of operas as being serious or comical. But a number of operas-some familiar, others forgotten-are neither of these. Instead, they are fantastical, dealing with such things as the fairy world and sorcerers, or with the world of dreams.

The Devil, Greed, War, and Simple Goodness: Ostrčil’s Jack’s Kingdom

Here is a little-known opera that, like an opera by the Swedish composer Laci Boldemann that I have reviewed here, and like Ravel’s amazing L’enfant et les sortilèges, utterly bypasses the usual categories of comic and grand/tragic by cultivating instead the rich realm of fantasy and folk tale.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

Hyperion Records CDA68245[ CD]
21 Sep 2018

Vaughan Williams: A Sea Symphony — Martyn Brabbins BBCSO

From Hyperion, an excellent new Ralph Vaughan Williams A Sea Symphony with Martyn Brabbins conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra and BBC Symphony Chorus, Elizabeth Llewellyn and Marcus Farnsworth soloists. This follows on from Brabbins’s highly acclaimed Vaughan Williams Symphony no 2 "London" in the rarely heard 1920 version.

Ralph Vaughan Williams : A Sea Symphony. Martyn Brabbins, BBC Symphony Orchestra, BBC Symphony Chorus, Elizabeth Llewellyn, Marcus Farnsworth,

Hyperion Records CDA68245[ CD]

$19.98  Click to buy

Although Brabbins has not hitherto recorded much Vaughan Williams, he is a superlative conductor of British music and of 20th century British music in particular, so the prospect of a new Hyperion series with Brabbins is intriguing.

The brass fanfare sparkles, strong and bright, rather than brassy, introducing the first line "Behold, the Sea! ". In many ways, this symphony is a secular hymn to the sea and what it might represent, so the voice parts are integral to meaning. For a moment the orchestra sings on its own but the voices rise upon the crest, chorus and orchestra surging forwards together. A roll of timpani, and again the anthem "Behold the Sea!" repeated wave after wave. The tide fades, introducing a new theme highlighted by rhythms that suggest shanty song. Hence the interplay between the first soloist and the chorus, "a chant for the sailors of all nations, Fitful, like a surge". This call and response relationship also suggests sacred song. The flags flying here include a special one "for the soul of man"......a spiritual woven signal for all nations, emblem of man elate above death, Token of all brave captains and all intrepid sailors and mates". Though the influence of Debussy and Ravel is significant, the Sea Symphony is very much part of the English choral tradition, albeit in very sophisticated form. After a brief lull, the music surges forth again, underlined by organ. The baritone returns, singing of the "pennant universal", the chorus and soprano repeating the words in concurrence. Then, as so often in chorale, the first verse returns, the soprano at first on her own, the theme elaborated by the baritone, chorus and orchestra together.

The second movement is introduced by mysterious low harmonies, setting the mood "On the beach at night alone". Here, the organ is particularly resonant, the brass and low timbred winds calling out as if in hymnal. At first the baritone is alone, but gradually joined by small than full chorus. "All nations, all identities......This vast similitude spans them". The voices and orchestra repeat the themes, like waves, rising and falling in volume and force. Beautifully judged orchestral playing, the solo instruments heard clearly, before blending back into the whole, rather like stars in a night sky. The fanfare in the scherzo movement was more tumultuous than the fanfare at the very start, for it describes the churning of waves "in the wake of the sea-ship after she passes" - wild but not "motley" given the precise definition in the music, which Brabbins kept sharply focused.

If A Sea Symphony is a journey. it is one which proceeds, like many journeys, looking backwards at turns, but ever forward. Hence the final movement, titled The Explorers, where the ship appears to be taking off into unknown territory. The scherzo movement operated like a Dies Irae, a monent of judgement clearing the way for a more esoteric future. "After the seas are all cross'd, ........The true son of God shall come singing his songs." The mood is now altogether more esoteric, the first verse serene yet expansive with long lines that seem to stretch and search. Shimmering strings echo the voices of the chorus, then joined by brass and winds, and later organ, repeat the harmonies. After this long choral section, the symphony reaches a new stage. Farnsworth and Llewellyn lead the way ahead "fearlessfor unknown shores on waves of ecstasy to sail". The solo violin defines yet another stage, with an element of peaceful bliss. Thus we are prepared for the section "O thou transcendent". Farnsworth's voice glows, the relative lightness of his baritone well suited to the luminous imagery in the text. In the finale, the energy and exuberance of the first movemen returns, invigorated "Away ! Away O soul! hoist instantly the anchor!" Llewelyn rallies the chorus and the orchestra surges yet again. Sea shanty rhythms are heard again as the "ship" sets forth. The motif "Behold the Sea" is reprised before the very last section, but as the "ship" sails out of sight, silence gradually descends, as if some form of transcendence is achieved. Brabbins's instinct for structure, honed from years of experience in modern music, pays off handsomely in this last movement, which unfolds with great coherence. This A Sea Symphony feels like the herald of a new age, as indeed it was, connecting also to other 20th century music of spiritual yearning.

As a bonus, this recording includes Darest thou now, O soul, a three minute miniature for unison voices and string orchestra, (a hymn with orchestra !) using the same Walt Whitman text which Vaughan Williams used in Towards the Unknown Region. It is an excellent choice, complementing A Sea Symphony not only in terms of poetic ideas but also taking up the violin line near the end of the symphony.

Anne Ozorio

   

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):