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CD Stocking Stuffers for Christmas (Part two)

Ideal gifts for the francophiles, those in search of past French treasures, for the inveterate explorers of byways, or for those addicted to the human voice in all its glory....

by Joel Kasow

For the francophile in the family, there are several possibilities. If he or she is an early music fan, Naxos has issued two cds of cantatas and instrumental music by Louis-Nicolas Clérembault. The cantatas are interpreted by Sandrine Piau and Luc Coadou, both of whom demonstrate a mastery that it would be difficult to match. And the music is every bit as fascinating as that by other composers of the period.

If we come down to the 20th century, Albert Roussel might qualify as one of those composers that everyone admires but few love. Jacques Mercier's two discs are indispensable, for no one else has recorded the suites from the opera-ballet Padmâvati, while the incidental music to Le Marchand de sable qui passe has perhaps once before benefitted from a recording. It is these two items, plus Roussel's own orchestrations of some of his mélodies, that enrich the catalogue, with Véronique Gens offering her own brand of charm alongside the experienced François Le Roux whose voice is beginning to show a few signs of wear. But what magnificent music, especially "La Menace" specifically written for orchestra.

Once again, we are aware of how unadventurous are the people who organize our concerts. Most extraordinary of all is EMI's anticipation of the celebration of Poulenc's centenary. Four boxes with five cds each give us everything the composer wrote, including a number of items specially recorded that have recently come to light, thereby offering a magnificent tribute to a composer who merits more than the disparagement to which he is subject in too many august circles. Special tribute will be paid in an article in January in which the recent spate of recordings will be discussed at length, but your appetite might be whet by the list of participants in the details below.


Clérembault: Orphée; Léandre et Héro; Symphonie à cinq; Sonata prima "Anonima"; Suite No. 2 for harpsichord
Sandrine Piau
, soprano
Les Solistes du Concert Spirituel
Naxos 8.553744


Clérembault: La Mort d'Hercule; Poliphème; Simphonia 2, 3, 5, 6, 7
Luc Coadou, bass
Les Solistes du Concert Spirituel
Naxos 8.553743


Poulenc: Piano & musique de chambre
Gabriel Tacchino, Jacques Février, piano - and many more....
EMI 7243 5 66831 2 9 (5 cds)


Poulenc: Concertos, musique symphonique & religieuse
Rosanna Carteri, Régine Crespin, sopranos; Gabriel Tacchino, Francis Poulenc, Jacques Février, piano; Maurice Duruflé, organ; Aimée van der Wiele, harpsichord; Georges Prêtre, Pierre Dervaux, conductors; and many more
EMI 7243 5 66837 2 3 (5 cds)


Poulenc: Oeuvres lyriques
Dialogues des Carmélites :
(Duval, Crespin, Gorr, Berthon, Scharley, Dervaux)
Les Mamelles de Tirésias : (Duval, Giraudeau, Cluytens)
La Voix humaine : (Duval, Prêtre)
Le Gendarme incompris, La Dame de Monte-Carlo, L'Histoire de Babar, Le Bal masqué, etc.
EMI 7243 5 66843 2 4 (5 cds)


Poulenc: Mélodies & chansons
Elly Ameling, Liliane Berton, Marie Devellereau, Mady Mesplé, Jessye Norman, Rita Streich:
sopranos
Nicola Gedda, Jean-Paul Fouchécourt, Michel Sénéchal: tenors
Gabriel Bacquier, Jean-Christophe Benoit, Pierre Bernac, François Le Roux, William Parker, Nicolas Rivenq, Gérard Souzay, José Van Dam: baritones
Dalton Baldwin, Jean-Philippe Collard, Jacques Février, Irwin Gage, Geoffrey Parsons, Francis Poulenc, Emmanuel Strosser, Gabriel Tacchino:piano
John Nelson, Georges Prêtre: conductorsEMI 7243 5 66849 2 8 (5 cds)


Roussel: Bacchus et Ariane; Mélodies: La Menace; Adieux; 3 Odes anacréontiques; 2 Poèmes chinois; Sarabande; Le Bachelier de Salamanque

Véronique Gens, soprano
François Le Roux, baritone
Orchestre National d'Ile de France
Jacques Mercier, conductor
RCA 74321 606312


Roussel: Suites pour orchestre : Suites de Padmâvati; Petite Suite; Le Marchand de sable qui passe; Suite en Fa
Orchestre National d'Ile de France
Jacques Mercier, conductor
RCA 74321 585962


Friends of French Opera was an association based in New York in the 60s and 70s, and they would be delighted with a 10-cd box EMI has just released, almost all for the first time on cd, of recordings from just that period, made in Paris with Rita Gorr, Nicolai Gedda and Georges Prêtre, to name those most favored. There are a number of treasures, such as the excerpts from Massenet's Hérodiade with Crespin and Gorr in prime condition so that we can only regret EMI's lack of courage in not giving us a complete version, nor did they use Gedda for Roméo when the opera was given a complete recording, Corelli being regarded as a better value commercially if not artistically. The discs are not all well-filled and certainly not well-documented, but the bargain price compensates for these lacunae.


Les années Pathé: 10 Opéras Français
Gluck: Iphigénie en Tauride - (Gorr, Gedda, Blanc, Quilico, Prêtre)
Gluck: Alceste- (Rubio, Gedda, Bianco, Prêtre)
Cherubini: Médée- (Gorr, Esposito, Chauvet, Bianco, Prêtre)
Rossini: Guillaume Tell - (Guiot, Gedda, Blanc, Lombard)
Berlioz: Damnation de Faust - (Gorr, Gedda, Souzay, Cluytens)
Délibes: Lakmé- (d'Angelo, Berbié, Gedda, Blanc)
Gounod: Roméo et Juliette - (Carteri, Gedda, Dens, Rouleau, Lombard)
Thomas: Mignon - (Rhodes, Esposito, Vanzo, Roux, Hartemann)
Massenet: Hérodiade- (Crespin, Gorr, Lance, Dens, Mars, Prêtre)
Massenet: Thaïs- (Brumaire, Dens, Dervaux)
EMI 7


For inveterate explorers of byways, Decca has come up with two operas in need of modern recordings, and done them with welcome style. Carl Nielsen's Maskarade is one of this century's comic masterpieces, destined to rest on the sidelines as singers are unlikely to learn their roles in Danish; why this should be so is a mystery as they manage to learn roles in Czech (see below) or Polish these days. Aage Haugland, Bo Skovhus, Gert-Henning Jensen and Henriette Bonde-Hansen are all splendid, enjoying themselves as much as conductor Ulf Schirmer, who this time has a cast worthy of the work and his talents. Renée Fleming, Ben Heppner, Dolora Zajick and Franz Hawlata may not have been Prague's first choice for their roles in Dvorák's Rusalka, but their stage experience tells and evidently the coach has ensured that their declamation verges on perfection. It is, however, the presence of Sir Charles Mackerras whose affection for Czech music is here allowed to flower.


Dvorák: Rusalka
Renée Fleming (Rusalka); Dolora Zajick (Jezibaba); Eva Urbanová (Foreign Princess); Ben Heppner (Prince); Franz Hawlata (Water Goblin)
Czech Philharmonic Orchestra and Kühn Mixed Choir
Sir Charles Mackerras
, conductor
Decca 460 568-2 (3 cds)


Nielsen: Maskarade
Henriette Bonde-Hansen (Leonora); Marianne Rørholm (Pernille); Susanne Resmark (Magdelone); Gert-Henning Jensen (Leander); Bo Skovhus (Henrik); Aage Haugland (Jeronimus)
Danish National Radio Symphony Orchestra & Choir
Ulf Schirmer
, conductor
Decca 460 227-2 (2 cds)


Finally, for those who are addicted to the human voice in all its glory, there are four cds that should not be missed. Tenor sensation José Cura is also a conductor, arranger and composer, and all four facets of his musical personality are on display in a disc of Argentinian songs, Anhelo, where the prevailing melancholy may not be everyone's cup of tea, while there is no denying the singer's charisma. Anne Sofie von Otter is a beneficiary of DGG's Centenary Collection, with excerpts from several of her recital albums so that we can admire her interpretations of Grieg, Berg, Korngold and Weill, not always easy in the absence of texts, but the price is right. Christine Schäfer teams up with Pierre Boulez to give us a reading of Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire nicely balanced between song and speech. Her performance of the three-minute hair-raising "Herzgewächse" is shows that she is not the least afraid of the 20th century.

Finally, Opera Rara has joined the three tenors bandwagon, finding among the works of Rossini several duets and even a trio for tenors. The highly distinctive timbres of Bruce Ford, William Metteuzzi and Paul Austin Kelly navigate the intricacies of Rossini's coloratura with a deftness that many a soprano would envy. Soprano Nelly Miricioiu joins in two numbers, offering further demonstration that the music written for the then Signora Rossini holds no terrors for her. A winner of a disc.


Anhelo: Argentinian Songs
José Cura, tenor, conductor, orchestrator
Ernesto Bitetti, guitar
Eduardo Delgado, piano
Erato 3984-23138-2


Anne Sofie von OtterGrieg: Haugtussa; Berg: 7 frühe Lieder; Korngold; Weill
Anne Sofie von Otter, mezzo
Bengt Forsberg, piano
DGG 459 058-2


Rossini - Three TenorsExcerpts from La Donna del Lago; Otello; Ricciardo e Zoraide; Armida
Nelly Miricioiu, Bruce Ford, Paul Austin Kelly, William Metteuzzi
Philharmonia Orchestra and Geoffrey Mitchell Choir
David Parry
, conductor
Opera Rara ORR 204


Schoenberg: Pierrot Lunaire
Herzgewächse:Ode to Napoleon Buonaparte
Christine Schäfer; David Pittman-Jennings (Ode) Solistes de l'Ensemble Intercontemporain
Pierre Boulez
, conductor
DGG 457 630-2

Back to CD Stocking Stuffers for Christmas (Part one)
Ideal gifts for the inveterate opera lover, the nostalgic opera lover, for those who are conductor oriented,
for the russophiles and for staunch feminist friends......


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