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

Henry Purcell, Royal Welcome Songs for King Charles II Vol. III: The Sixteen/Harry Christophers

The Sixteen continues its exploration of Henry Purcell’s Welcome Songs for Charles II. As with Robert King’s pioneering Purcell series begun over thirty years ago for Hyperion, Harry Christophers is recording two Welcome Songs per disc.

Anima Rara: Ermonela Jaho

In February this year, Albanian soprano Ermonela Jaho made a highly lauded debut recital at Wigmore Hall - a concert which both celebrated Opera Rara’s 50th anniversary and honoured the career of the Italian soprano Rosina Storchio (1872-1945), the star of verismo who created the title roles in Leoncavallo’s La bohème and Zazà, Mascagni’s Lodoletta and Puccini’s Madama Butterfly.

Requiem pour les temps futurs: An AI requiem for a post-modern society

Collapsology. Or, perhaps we should use the French word ‘Collapsologie’ because this is a transdisciplinary idea pretty much advocated by a series of French theorists - and apparently, mostly French theorists. It in essence focuses on the imminent collapse of modern society and all its layers - a series of escalating crises on a global scale: environmental, economic, geopolitical, governmental; the list is extensive.

Ádám Fischer’s 1991 MahlerFest Kassel ‘Resurrection’ issued for the first time

Amongst an avalanche of new Mahler recordings appearing at the moment (Das Lied von der Erde seems to be the most favoured, with three) this 1991 Mahler Second from the 2nd Kassel MahlerFest is one of the more interesting releases.

Max Lorenz: Tristan und Isolde, Hamburg 1949

If there is one myth, it seems believed by some people today, that probably needs shattering it is that post-war recordings or performances of Wagner operas were always of exceptional quality. This 1949 Hamburg Tristan und Isolde is one of those recordings - though quite who is to blame for its many problems takes quite some unearthing.

Women's Voices: a sung celebration of six eloquent and confident voices

The voices of six women composers are celebrated by baritone Jeremy Huw Williams and soprano Yunah Lee on this characteristically ambitious and valuable release by Lontano Records Ltd (Lorelt).

Rosa mystica: Royal Birmingham Conservatoire Chamber Choir

As Paul Spicer, conductor of the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire Chamber Choir, observes, the worship of the Blessed Virgin Mary is as ‘old as Christianity itself’, and programmes devoted to settings of texts which venerate the Virgin Mary are commonplace.

The Prison: Ethel Smyth

Ethel Smyth’s last large-scale work, written in 1930 by the then 72-year-old composer who was increasingly afflicted and depressed by her worsening deafness, was The Prison – a ‘symphony’ for soprano and bass-baritone soloists, chorus and orchestra.

Songs by Sir Hamilton Harty: Kathryn Rudge and Christopher Glynn

‘Hamilton Harty is Irish to the core, but he is not a musical nationalist.’

After Silence: VOCES8

‘After silence, that which comes closest to expressing the inexpressible is music.’ Aldous Huxley’s words have inspired VOCES8’s new disc, After Silence, a ‘double album in four chapters’ which marks the ensemble’s 15th anniversary.

Beethoven's Songs and Folksongs: Bostridge and Pappano

A song-cycle is a narrative, a journey, not necessarily literal or linear, but one which carries performer and listener through time and across an emotional terrain. Through complement and contrast, poetry and music crystallise diverse sentiments and somehow cohere variability into an aesthetic unity.

Flax and Fire: a terrific debut recital-disc from tenor Stuart Jackson

One of the nicest things about being lucky enough to enjoy opera, music and theatre, week in week out, in London’s fringe theatres, music conservatoires, and international concert halls and opera houses, is the opportunity to encounter striking performances by young talented musicians and then watch with pleasure as they fulfil those sparks of promise.

Carlisle Floyd's Prince of Players: a world premiere recording

“It’s forbidden, and where’s the art in that?”

John F. Larchet's Complete Songs and Airs: in conversation with Niall Kinsella

Dublin-born John F. Larchet (1884-1967) might well be described as the father of post-Independence Irish music, given the immense influenced that he had upon Irish musical life during the first half of the 20th century - as a composer, musician, administrator and teacher.

Haddon Hall: 'Sullivan sans Gilbert' does not disappoint thanks to the BBC Concert Orchestra and John Andrews

The English Civil War is raging. The daughter of a Puritan aristocrat has fallen in love with the son of a Royalist supporter of the House of Stuart. Will love triumph over political expediency and religious dogma?

Beethoven’s Choral Symphony and Choral Fantasy from Harmonia Mundi

Beethoven Symphony no 9 (the Choral Symphony) in D minor, Op. 125, and the Choral Fantasy in C minor, Op. 80 with soloist Kristian Bezuidenhout, Pablo Heras-Casado conducting the Freiburger Barockorchester, new from Harmonia Mundi.

Taking Risks with Barbara Hannigan

A Louise Brooks look-a-like, in bobbed black wig and floor-sweeping leather trench-coat, cheeks purple-rouged and eyes shadowed in black, Barbara Hannigan issues taut gestures which elicit fire-cracker punch from the Mahler Chamber Orchestra.

Alfredo Piatti: The Operatic Fantasies (Vol.2) - in conversation with Adrian Bradbury

‘Signor Piatti in a fantasia on themes from Beatrice di Tenda had also his triumph. Difficulties, declared to be insuperable, were vanquished by him with consummate skill and precision. He certainly is amazing, his tone magnificent, and his style excellent. His resources appear to be inexhaustible; and altogether for variety, it is the greatest specimen of violoncello playing that has been heard in this country.’

Those Blue Remembered Hills: Roderick Williams sings Gurney and Howells

Baritone Roderick Williams seems to have been a pretty constant ‘companion’, on my laptop screen and through my stereo speakers, during the past few ‘lock-down’ months.

Bruno Ganz and Kirill Gerstein almost rescue Strauss’s Enoch Arden

Melodramas can be a difficult genre for composers. Before Richard Strauss’s Enoch Arden the concept of the melodrama was its compact size – Weber’s Wolf’s Glen scene in Der Freischütz, Georg Benda’s Ariadne auf Naxos and Medea or even Leonore’s grave scene in Beethoven’s Fidelio.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

23 Jun 2005

CARISSIMI: Oratorios

Two recent CDs of Carissimi oratorios provide the listener the opportunity to compare very different “takes” on the composer’s remarkable works, which exemplify the sophisticated and exclusive style cultivated by the cardinalate nobility in mid-seventeenth-century Rome. Carissimi’s oratorios survive in manuscript only, and with relatively sparse indications concerning instrumentation; it has long been a challenge for contemporary performers to balance the need for dramatic clarity with the desirability of sonic variety, and the two groups featured on these CDs take different approaches to that challenge, each with fruitful results.

Giacomo Carissimi:


Jepthe, Jonas, Oratorios
Consortium Carissimi, dir. Vittorio Zanon
Naxos 8.557390 [CD]

Dialogo del gigante Golia, Oratorios
Monika Mauch, Constanze Backes, Wilfrid Jochens, Harry van der Kamp; La Capella Ducale, Musica Fiata Köln, dir. Roland Wilson
cpo 999 983-2 [CD]

Two recent CDs of Carissimi oratorios provide the listener the opportunity to compare very different "takes" on the composer's remarkable works, which exemplify the sophisticated and exclusive style cultivated by the cardinalate nobility in mid-seventeenth-century Rome. Carissimi's oratorios survive in manuscript only, and with relatively sparse indications concerning instrumentation; it has long been a challenge for contemporary performers to balance the need for dramatic clarity with the desirability of sonic variety, and the two groups featured on these CDs take different approaches to that challenge, each with fruitful results.

The ensemble "Consortium Carissimi" was founded in Rome in the late 1990s to bring more attention to the works of the prolific composer (whose fame in a wide variety of genres was extraordinary in the 1600s, but who is now known primarily for his Latin oratorios). This is the first recording by the ensemble to tackle sacred dramatic works in the genre, and while it is understandable that they chose to measure their Jepthe (the most famous of Carissimi's oratorios, a jewel of compact drama) against the many other recorded versions of the work, their goal of greater exposure for Carissimi's music might have benefited from the choice of less well-worn works (the other oratorio in the recording, Jonas, has also been recorded repeatedly since at least the 1970s). The ensemble's approach is minimalistic, with a clear focus on the dramatic delivery of text; this is done very effectively, and the clarity and subtlety of enunciation is wonderful, especially on the part of Marco Scavazza, the baritone who plays the title role in Jepthe. The lament of the daughter of the king who must die without children is certainly the most poignant moment in the work, and soprano Nadia Caristi has an extraordinary delivery; likewise in Jonas, the monologues are extremely powerful.

The duets and ensemble sections that punctuate the works are less interestingly conveyed. Melody-instrument reinforcement is relatively sparse (two violins), and even with a reasonably well-stocked continuo group (two plucked-string and two bass-line string in addition to the harpsichord/organ player) the accompaniment creates a relatively uniform effect. There are few moments of dramatic sonic contrast: it seems that the ensemble is relying on the power of the solo voices, sometimes dangerously leaning toward a monotonous effect.

The male voices of the ensemble are the strongest aspect of this recording, both individually and in their sonic blend. This makes the trio for tenor, baritone, and bass that complements the two oratorios — "Dai piu riposti abissi", an Italian cantata — the most remarkable and worthwhile piece on the CD. It alone is worth the purchase price, and the clarity of the delivery in the two oratorios is a welcome change over some earlier recordings of the works that provided more sound and fury than dramatic effect. One hopes that the Consortium Carissimi will continue to expand our awareness of Carissimi's lesser-known works, their strength being perhaps the smaller-scale compositions rather than the oratorios.

More musically satisfying overall to this reviewer is the other disc under consideration, a recording of four recently-rediscovered Carissimi oratorios. Perhaps the unfamiliarity of the works (thought to be lost, but recovered in a Czech archive) adds to the pleasure of discovery; while Jepthe is a wonderful work, it is more exciting to have the opportunity to experience another facet of Carissimi's creativity. Certainly La Capella Ducale and Musica Fiata Köln, long-standing effective interpreters of seventeenth-century concerted music, are on top of their game. The two sopranos, seasoned Constanze Backes and the young Monika Mauch, create extraordinary characterizations of old-testament heroines (and heros), and veteran bass Harry van der Kamp at his sonorous best, especially in his turn as the cocky giant Goliath. The presence of brass resources (cornetti and trombones, long a strong suit for Musica Fiata) in the soundscape gives Roland Wilson a wider palette than that available to Consortium Carissimi, and that palette is deployed to great effect, creating a wonderfully varied interplay between melody and continuo resources (despite actually having a more compact continuo group than the Italian ensemble). Delivery is perhaps a little less crisp than in the other disc under consideration, but the dramatic power of the musical gestures is unquestionable, and Wilson and his ensembles once again demonstrate their command of the sacred musical idiom of the Italian seventeenth century.

While the Consortium Carissimi CD is interesting as a comparison-point to many other recordings of Jepthe and Jonas, and most worthwhile for its more unusual Italian cantata, the Musica Fiata CD is a must-have for its expressive variety (not to mention the delight of discovering Mauch's powerful voice); the fact that it provides what appear to be the first recordings of four wonderful Carissimi works is icing on the cake. One quibble with the format: while Naxos (as they often do) have created many (almost too many?) separate tracks, allowing the listener to quickly locate a particular excerpt, cpo frustratingly provides a single track for each work — which, in the case of Regina Hester and Diluvium Universale, makes for 25-minute tracks — making it difficult for the listener to find favorite passages. But this is a small logistical matter, and a negligible road-bump in the enjoyment of this fabulous CD.

Andrew Dell'Antonio
The University of Texas at Austin

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):