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

Britten: Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings; Les illuminations; Nocturne
25 Jan 2006

BRITTEN: Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings etc.

In an era where new studio recordings by major orchestras have dwindled to a pathetic dribble, leaving many fine institutions to start their own in-house labels, the Berlin Philharmonic still has an active contract with a major company (its conductor’s label of many years, EMI) and releases come on a regular basis. A recent one features some of Benjamin Britten’s great work for instruments and tenor.

Benjamin Britten:
(1) Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings; Les illuminations; Nocturne
(2) Sinfonia da Requiem; Four Sea Interludes and Passacaglia from Peter Grimes; Symphonic Suite from Gloriana

(1) Ian Bostridge, Berliner Philharmoniker, Simon Rattle (cond.)
(2) London Symphony Orchestra, Stuart Bedford (cond.)

(1) EMI 7243 5 58049 2 1 [CD]
(2) Naxos 8.557196 [CD]

 

For once, Simon Rattle’s face doesn’t dominate the cover art, nor does his name. Happily, the composer gets the largest font size, but right above his name comes that of the recording's star, Ian Bostridge, and his thin frame fills half the cover (not easy for a slender gentleman to do), photographed in the classic “pensive stare into the future” pose.

Bostridge joins a fairly extensive list of tenors – mostly British – who have recorded some or all of these pieces. The composer’s versions with his partner Peter Pears will never be eclipsed, but so great are these works than almost any version will have its merits. Not long ago Naxos re-released the Collins Classic recording with Philip Langridge singing the Serenade and Nocturne (reviewed here on Opera Today). So the most recent choice becomes one between a budget priced recording and this full-price release (the Naxos has Ann Murray singing Phaedra in place of Les Illuminations).

Your reviewer recommends acquiring both, if feasible. The Langridge/Bedford is warmly recorded and impeccably performed, all offered at low cost. This Bostridge/Rattle version, unsurprisingly, features state-of-the-art audio, and the special qualities of both vocalist and conductor are on ample display. Although some may take that as a warning.

As composed for Pears, these pieces do not require an ample voice, and Bostridge does not possess one. His lighter, sharply defined tenor settles right into the emotional ambiguity of the settings, carrying tinges of both irony and real sensitivity, even simultaneously. In “Being Beauteous” from Les Illuminations he manages some characterful low notes along with the resonant head voice many of the numbers ask for. The Serenade “Nocturne,” with its repeated refrain of “dying,” could have a little more individual color to each iteration, but the understated effect Bostridge employs has its justification as well.

Bostridge pulled another duty for the recording: he wrote a quite interesting booklet essay. He has a thorough command of each work’s creation and inspiration, and does not refrain from discussing the implications of Britten’s “attraction to young men or boys” when of possible relevance.

Conductor Rattle has shown in his career, besides a brilliance that has taken him far, an occasional tendency to wander off into details and momentary effects. In the famous shimmering opening chords of the Serenade “Nocturne,” he adopts an aggressive, slashing attack that strikes the ear at first as fresh and vital, but might come to seem arbitrary. The Berlin Philharmonic, needless to say, performs with exquisite precision, and Radek Baborak’s horn in the Serenade has a beauty others have foregone for a more sorrowful tone produced by the fragile intonation of a natural horn.

Those Berlin strings have such body and texture they begin to feel like a living organism, sighing and moaning with Bostridge’s vocal lines. Would it really be wrong to wrap oneself up in the exquisite texture they produce?

So those who have found Bostridge impressive, and the many fans apparently following all of Rattle’s recorded work with the Berlin Philharmonic, will want this disc. Most of all, lovers of these exquisite Britten scores should give a listen to these often arresting performances. The booklet essay and all texts are offered in English, French, and German.

britten_sinfonia.gifMeanwhile, Naxos continues its re-release of Britten’s music first published on Collins Classic. The latest disc features instrumental music from two operas, Gloriana and Peter Grimes. The Sea Interludes certainly do not lack for fine recorded performances, and these have much merit, but the wonderful music from Gloriana deserves wider exposure. The suite here opens with the opera’s opening tournament scene before segueing into the courtly dances, selections that are popular on some classical radio selections. Gloriana may be a problematic opera, but the suite is a delight from start to finish, something not always easy to say about Britten’s music.

The Sinfonia da Requiem returns to the more sober, bare style commonly associated with Britten, and Bedford and the LSO offer a powerful rendition.

Thirty years ago Britten died; these two discs indicate that his music retains its power and drama, and it will as long as artists as committed and serious as Bostridge and Rattle are drawn to it.

Chris Mullins
Los Angeles Unified School District, Secondary Literacy

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):