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CD Review: Charpentier, Gluck, Mahler and a Long-overdue Rossini Cantatas Vol. 2.

By Joel Kasow

PARIS, 30 July 2001

Charpentier: Trois Histoires Sacrées
Marie-Louise Duthoit, Jaël Azzaretti (sopranos); Gérard Lesne, Benjamin Clee (countertenors); Jean-François Novelli, Nicolas Bauchau (tenors); Roman Nédélec, Raimonds Spogis (basses);
Il Seminario Musicale
Gérard Lesne (conductor)
ASTREE NAIVE E8821 (texts and translations in English, French and German)

Charpentier: Trois Histoires Sacrees

Gérard Lesne celebrates his new recording contract with this performance of three sacred cantatas by Marc-Antoine Charpentier: Mors Saülis et Jonathæ (H 403), Sacrificium Abrahae (H 402) and Dialogus inter angelum et pastores (H 406). These small-scale works show how Charpentier had been influenced by Carissimi during his stay in Rome, so that the most is made of the dramatic elements. Gérard Lesne is the guiding force, everyone participating at a high level of excellence. Music for the connoisseur, but also for those who are willing to stretch a bit into new domains.

Gluck: Iphigénie en Tauride
Mireille Delunsch (Iphigénie); Alexia Cousin (Diane); Yann Beuron (Pylade)
; Simon Keenlyside (Oreste); Laurent Naouri (Thoas)
Choeur des Musiciens du Louvre
Musiciens du Louvre
Marc Minkowski, conductor
ARCHIV 471133-2 (2 cds - texts and translations in English, French and German

Gluck: Iphigénie en Tauride

Do not hesitate, run out and buy this recording, one of the best of a Gluck opera to date. Marc Minkowski has no fear of whipping up a frenzy when required, yet he also can inspire the intensity for some of the profoundest personal dilemmas. A near ideal cast is headed by Simon Keenlyside's outstanding Oreste (but Thomas Allen is his equal on the Gardiner recording), Yann Beuron's noble Pylade, Laurent Naouri's overbearing tyrant Thoas and Mireille Delunsch as an Iphigénie a tad more fragile than one might like, but convincing nonetheless. Orchestra and chorus maintain the high level of excellence.

Henze: Sechs Gesänge aus dem arabischen; Three Auden Songs
Ian Bostridge (tenor); Julius Drake (piano)
EMI7243 5 57112 2 9 (texts and translations in German, French and English)

Henze: Sechs Gesänge aus dem arabischen

Hans Werner Henze's long distinguished career has often been punctuated by lyric excursions. After hearing Ian Bostridge he composed 6 songs from the Arabian for the tenor, taking advantage of the singer's special qualities: a strong lyric impulse and a personal way with words. The music is not always graceful, the cycle a bit too long (about three quarters of an hour), but there are sufficient moments when all comes together. The Auden settings are considerably shorter, with special emphasis on "Lay your sleeping head, my love", one of the poet's most tender effusions. Recommended as a good introduction to the world of Henze, whose operas are seriously underrepresented on disc.

Mahler: Das Lied von der Erde
Violeta Urmana (mezzo); Michael Schade (tenor)
Wiener Philharmoniker;
Pierre Boulez, conductor
DGG 469 526-2 (texts and translations in German, English and French)

Mahler: Das Lied von der Erde

Mahler: Symphony No. 8
Jane Eaglen, Anne Schwanewilms, Ruth Ziesak (sopranos); Sara Fulgoni, Anna Larsson (contraltos); Ben Heppner (tenor); Peter Mattei (baritone); Jan-Hendrik Rootering (bass)
Prague Philharmonic Choir
Netherlands Radio Choir
Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
Ricchardo Chailly, conductor
DECCA 467 314-2 (2 cds - texts and translations in English, French and German)

Mahler: Symphony No. 8

Two new Mahler recordings have recently been issued, a long-awaited 8th Symphony from Riccardo Chailly and the Concertgebouw Orchestra, and DGG's third release of a performance of Das Lied von der Erde in the last four years. The "Symphony of a Thousand" once again demonstrates that Chailly is one of today's leading Mahlerians, judging the ebb and flow to perfection, an "objective" reading if you will far removed from the style of a Bernstein or Tennstedt, but one with character. Soloists and choruses dovetail in the intricate writing, all impeccably in place. This may be one of the most difficult works to record, but the Decca engineers have surpassed themselves.

Pierre Boulez has long conducted certain of the symphonies, gradually working his way through the series without always convincing listeners of his aptitude for or affinity with all the composer's works. This new recording of Mahler's vocal symphony is puzzling, as if the conductor is going through the motions, with the Vienna Philharmonic doing its best to impose its Mahler style under the literal baton of the conductor. The vocal soloists are recorded quite closely, so that nuances do not always register as they might if given a bit more space. Violeta Urmana has become a major artist in the short period she has been active, stunning audiences with her portrayals of Kundry as well as the standard Verdi mezzo repertoire (not to mention Adalgisa in Norma), once more her singing bordering on perfection, but we might question if she has entirely digested all the composer demands of his performers. Michael Schade is a bit stretched in the more forceful sections.

Rossini: Cantatas, Vol. 2
Le Nozze di Teti, e di Peleo: Elisabetta Scano (soprano); Daniela Barcellona, Cecilia Bartoli (mezzo-sopranos); Juan Diego Florez, Luigi Petroni (tenors). Il pianto d'Armonia sulle morte di Orfeo: Paul Austin Kelly (tenor)
Orchestra and Chorus of La Scala ; Riccardo Chailly, conductor
DECCA 466 328-2 (texts and translations in English, French, German and Italian)

Rossini: Cantatas, Vol. 2

We have waited far too long for this latest installment of Rossini cantatas in performances that are worthy of preservation. Once again, the multi-faceted Riccardo Chailly shows that Rossini is another of the composers close to his heart. While neither of these works could be considered a masterpiece, they are carefully crafted, even Il Pianto d'Armonia which dates from the composer's 16th year. Le Nozze di Teti was yet another of the pièces d'occasion that Rossini knocked off, pillaging his works for ideas, so that we hear many themes of Barbiere di Siviglia, for example. Admirers of Cecilia Bartoli will be delighted with her showpiece aria, which uses Almaviva's usually omitted cabaletta that ultimately found its place as Cenerentola's final aria, and we are once again left breathless at the derring-do. Juan Diego Florez is a more-than-promising Rossini tenor, and we can only hope that he will not take on roles that are inappropriate to his vocal character. Daniela Barcellona makes the most of her limited appearance, but once more we must question the casting of Elisabetta Scano whose acidulous tones do not fall easily on the ear, at least in recording. A must.

Related Articles: An Interview with Riccardo Chailly

.Joel Kasow is the Operanet editor of Culturekiosque.com.

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