POSTED 14 SEPTEMBER 2001
"Little Women-Complete Opera"
Young American composer Mark Adamo adapted the classic Louisa May
Alcott novel "Little Women" for the opera stage on a commission from
Houston Grand Opera. His sensitive treatment of this touching story,
which was recently aired on PBS's "Great Performances," offers a
neo-Straussian opportunity to characterize through a rich tapestry
of female voices.
In "El Nino," John Adams turns to the story of the Nativity to
create a postmodern oratorio that interweaves sources from the
Gnostic Gospels and the Mexican poets Sor Juana Inéz de la Cruz
and Rosario Castellanos. This world premiere recording features Dawn
Upshaw and Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, Paul Hilliard's Theatre of
Voices, and conductor Kent Nagano.
"Falstaff / Terfel, Pieczonka, Hampson, Roschmann, Shtoda, Daidkova,
Berlin Phil., Abbado"
Chalk up another triumph for the Verdi anniversary year. For this
new recording of "Falstaff," Bryn Terfel's outsized singing
personality perfectly matches Verdi's conception. Under the baton of
Claudio Abbado, this interpretation is by far the best of the
current crop and is indispensable for Terfel and Hampson fans.
"Schwanengesang; Vier Ernste Gesange"
Baritone Thomas Quasthoff here tackles two of the cornerstones of
the lieder repertory, and the result is one of the most moving,
exciting lieder discs in years. Much of its appeal lies in
Quasthoff's attractive vocalism, a rich, firm voice comfortable with
both the lyric and the dramatic demands of these songs.
Those who associate the "Passion" with Bach's version are in for
several surprises when experiencing Arvo Part's "Johannes
Passion," written in 1982. Its monastic austerity, solemnity, and
stark simplicity seem to offer an oasis of calm in a restless world.
"Rameau: La Guirlande - Zephyre / Daneman, Méchaly, Ockenden,
Decaudaveine, Agnew, Baloza; Christie"
Both works on this recording have idyllic, pastoral settings and
very flimsy librettos: the first is about love among shepherds and
shepherdesses; the second about love among gods, goddesses, and
nymphs. Rameau's music infuses these contrived, artificial
characters and situations with vibrant life and human emotions. It
is beautiful music, with an unfailing crystalline purity, whether
expressing joy, pleading, or nostalgia.
OPERA IN ENGLISH
"Don Giovanni (Chandos Opera in English Series)"
The issue of whether to perform operas in their original language
has long been hotly debated, with very strong arguments to be made
on both sides. But it's hard to imagine a more compelling case for
opera in English than the one presented by the Chandos Opera in
English series. This new recording of "Don Giovanni" is the first
Mozart opera in the series, and it marks an auspicious debut.
More Chandos Opera in English
FEATURED ON PBS THIS MONTH: MICHAEL AMANTE
Poised to become the next PBS favorite, Italian-American tenor
Michael Amante delivers favorites from Puccini, Verdi, and more on
his self-titled debut CD.
FEATURED BARGAIN OF THE MONTH
"Mahler: Das Lied von der Erde / Bernstein, Vienna Philharmonic
After more than three decades, this remains the "Lied" of choice if
you prefer Mahler's sanctioned baritone alternative in the alto
songs. Bernstein's the hero of this intense, powerful reading.
See more Opera & Vocal Value Picks
POSTED 13 AUGUST 2001
THE "RING" IN ENGLISH
A Goodall Time
Reginald Goodall's legendary traversal of Wagner's cycle with the
English National Opera (in Andrew Porter's marvelous translation) is
finally back after a long absence. Chandos has beautifully
remastered and repackaged this interpretation--famously slow but
loving and rich in detail--as part of its Opera in English series.
NEW AND NOTABLE
"Ian Bostridge - Schubert Lieder, Volume II"
Ian Bostridge's second Schubert recital for EMI is even more
impressive than the first--and that's saying something. Much of the
disc finds him in a somber mood; even though the tone is frequently
valedictory and the tempo often slow, there is never a lack of
"The Glass Hammer: Scenes from Childhood Kept against Forgetting
(Poetry by Andrew Hudgins)"
"The Glass Hammer" is an hourlong cycle of 15 songs by Jorge Martin, a
Cuban-American composer. Andrew Hudgins's poems often occupy the
twilight zone between heightened prose and poetry. Martin's music,
like the texts, encompasses both the declamatory aspects of vocal
writing and the lyric expressiveness of the poetry.
"Kingdom Come; Hymnodic Delays; Fog Tropes II for String Quartet and
American composer Ingram Marshall has issued his second recording
on Nonesuch with this mesmerizing program that reflects his work
with electronic experimentation and Asian musical traditions.
Featured on "Kingdom Come"--the title work is a meditation on the
Bosnian conflict--are Paul Hillier and his Theatre of Voices, as
well as the Kronos Quartet, who commissioned "Fog Tropes II."
The title "Casta Diva" tells all. This recital disc has soprano
Angela Gheorghiu reaching out beyond the lyric Verdi, Gounod,
Massenet, Puccini repertory in which she made her name and edging
into the gymnastic world of coloratura and bel canto--with some
measure of success.
"The Radiant Voice of Barbara Bonney"
Of all the laudatory epithets applicable to Barbara Bonney, the
term "radiant" might not be the one that springs to mind--at least,
not insofar as it suggests the warm luxuriance of sunshine. Bonney's
light, bright lyric soprano is something else: a voice of delicate
refinement and transparent, pure-toned beauty.
"Andre Previn - Diversions, Songs / Fleming, Bonney, Previn"
Andre Previn's long and distinguished career as a conductor
has overshadowed his work as a composer and pianist, but this disc
of "diversions" lifts the curtain, offering a fair sampling of
Previn's output. Renee Fleming, star of Previn's opera "A
Streetcar Named Desire," takes the honors in "The Giraffes Go to
"Peter and the Wolf: A Special Report"
National Public Radio's new "Peter and the Wolf: A Special Report"
has to be one of the most innovative treatments of the classic work
available today. The composer's famous introduction to the orchestra
is transformed into a clever "All Things Considered" audio story,
performed by the Virginia Symphony with the narration of favorite
NPR hosts Robert Siegel, Linda Wertheimer, Ann Taylor, and others.
Two other classical works for little ones--Britten's "The Young
Person's Guide to the Orchestra" and Saint-Saens's "Carnival of
the Animals"--fill out this most impressive disc.
More Classical Music for kids
POSTED 17 JULY 2001
"Handel: Gloria (World Premiere Recording) - Dixit Dominus / Kirkby,
Martinpelto, von Otter [IMPORT]"
George Frideric Handel
Handel made headlines this past March when London's Royal Academy
of Music announced the discovery (in its own archives) of a
previously unknown composition. The "Gloria" for solo soprano and
strings features sweetly lilting melodies and spectacular
coloratura, sung by Emma Kirkby in the world premiere recording from
"Higglety-Pigglety Pop! and Where the Wild Things Are (Maurice
Maurice Sendak's children's books have won thanks from countless
parents whose bedtime reading chores were turned to adult delights.
Set to the adventurous music of Oliver Knussen, they'll appeal to
lovers of sophisticated fantasy works like Ravel's "L'Enfant et les
"Karita Mattila - Arias & Scenes / Yutaka Sado, London Philharmonic
In her new collection, Karita Mattila, impersonating heroines from
a heady mix of Russian, Czech, German, and Italian operas, displays
extraordinary vocal, stylistic, and emotional range.
"Schneewittchen (Snow White)-Co"
This isn't Disney's "Snow White." "Schneewittchen" is a postmodern
dramatic meditation based on the work of Robert Walser. Heinz
Holliger's luminous orchestration, like the often radiant vocal
lines, tosses fragments of melodies about like so much falling snow,
making the listening less forbidding than the telling.
"Bells Opus. 35/John of Damascus"
Rachmaninov allegedly considered "The Bells" to be his best work,
and it is not difficult to hear why. The soloists are superb, but
the real star is the Moscow State Chamber Choir. Also included is a
piece by Sergei Taneyev, a composer who should be more widely
"Legendary Wagner Singers of the 1930s (Telefunken Legacy Series)"
The Telefunken Legacy series from Teldec presents a number of
highly valuable historical recordings, nicely repackaged and
catalogued. "Legendary Wagner Singers of the 1930s" gathers
interpretations by Max Lorenz, Helge Roswaenge, Maria Reining, and
"Meyerbeer: Robert le Diable / Renato Palumbo, Martina Franca"
Giacomo Meyerbeer's reputation has swerved dramatically since it
reached a zenith during his highly successful career in the heyday
of French grand opera. And in many ways his legacy has been unfairly
overlooked. This recording of his genre-setting early work "Robert
le Diable" comes from a live performance last year at Italy's
Martina Franca Festival and includes several frequently cut passages
as well as full libretto in French and English.
JORDI SAVALL'S LATEST
"Alfons V ("El Magnanim"): El Cancionero de Montecassino-Religious
and Profane Music"
Alfons V ("The Magnanimous") had high artistic ambitions for his
dominion when he ascended the throne of Aragon in 1416. And for a
short time, his patronage did produce an extraordinary musical
rebirth centered in Naples. The "Cancionero de Montecassino"
contains a wonderful potpourri of styles for sacred and secular
purposes--yet another example of the versatility and breadth of
musical discovery that are characteristic of Early Music guru Jordi
See more Jordi Savall titles
TALLIS SCHOLARS ON GIMELL
"Spem in Alium"
Named for Renaissance composer Thomas Tallis, Peter Phillips and
his extraordinary singers have found great footing in the 16th
century, though they perform music from several other periods as
well. "Spem in Alium" was the Tallis Scholars' first recording
devoted to their namesake composer--and it remains one of the best
Tallis discs available.
See more Tallis Scholars titles
NEW SHADES OF SARAH BRIGHTMAN
Superstar crossover vocalist Sarah Brightman greets the new
millennium with a bolder grasp of her musical niche on "La Luna,"
now available in its concert version in DVD format. On "A Whiter
Shade of Pale," celebrity DJs remix Brightman's take on the Procul
Harum rock classic as well as "A Question of Honour."
"Whiter Shade of Pale [CD-SINGLE]"
"Sarah Brightman - La Luna (Live in Concert)"
FREE MUSIC DOWNLOADS
George Frideric Handel
"Silla" has a sketchy history, with no record of a performance in
the composer's lifetime. This "opera seria" was written early during
Handel's resettlement to London, although some of the music was
later recycled. Download two selections from this Handel rarity now,
for free, from Amazon.com:
"Sol per te, bell'idol mio" (Natasha Marsh and Joanne Lunn)
"Alza il volo mia fama" (James Bowman)