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Discussion Starter · #181 · (Edited)


Poulenc:
Banalités
Chansons villageoises
Quatre poèmes de Guillaume Apollinaire
Tu vois le feu du soir
Main dominée par le coeur

Debussy:
Beau soir
L'écheonnement des haies
Le Promenoir des deux amantes

Ravel:
Histoires naturelles
Mélodies hébraïques

Satie:
Trois mélodies


Pierre Bernac and Francis Poulenc had a long and fruitful working relationship, going back to 1926 when Bernac gave the first performance of Poulenc's Chansons gaillardes (not included on this disc). They first appeared in recital together in 1934 and continued to do so until Bernac retired from public performing in 1960. In fact the majority of Poulenc's songs were written for Bernac and I suppose one could say that they enjoyed a similar relationship to that of Britten and Pears, without the emotional attachment, apparently always using the polite 'vous' with each other at all times.

Bernac's voice was evidently not large but he had an enormously varied tonal palette which enabled him to capture every shift in mood, every emotion, implied or overt, in each song. Though the voice was not of itself of great natural beauty, its range was wide and Poulenc exploited this to great effect. Bernac was also a great teacher, numbering Gérard Souzay, Elly Ameling and Jessye Norman among his pupils, and he wrote with great insight about the art of singing. His The Interpretation of French Song is an absolute must for anyone interested in performing this repertoire.

Bernac and Poulenc left behind quite a legacy of recordings, most of them recorded for EMI and RCA in 1947. However these Columbia sessions took place in 1950. The Poulenc selection is self recommending, but he is equally at home in the songs of Debussy, Ravel and Satie, embracing the lyricism of Debussy's Beau soir, the slightly detached irony of Ravel's Histoires naturelles or the parodic wit of the Satie songs.

Anyone who enjoys the subtle art of French song should definitely hear them.
 

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Discussion Starter · #182 ·


This recital, the second Callas recorded for EMI, was designed to show off her versatility, so we get one side of verismo, and one of coloratura, with Boito's L'altra notte from Mefistofele bridging the gap. It caused quite a stir at the time. The coloratura side was of material more associated with singers like Galli-Curci and Pagliughi; the verismo items more likely to be the preserve of Ponselle and Muzio, or Callas's contemporary, Tebaldi. There is no doubt that Tebaldi could not have attempted any of the coloratura items on the disc and the gauntlet was effectively laid down. The range too is phenomenal, and takes her up to a high E natural (in the Vespri aria, and the Bell Song), a note unthinkable from a soprano who could bring the power she does to an aria like La mamma morta.

Of the operas represented, Callas had only sung Mefistofele and I Vespri Siciliani on stage at that time, though she would go on to sing Rosina in Il Barbiere di Siviglia (and make a very successful studio recording) and Maddalena in Andrea Chénier. But, as is her wont, even in isolation, Callas is able to enter fully into the character and sound world of each character that she is singing.

She starts with two of Adrianna's solos from Adrianna Lecouvreur, a role that would no doubt have suited her dramatic gifts down to the ground, though, truth to tell, the opera is pretty tawdry stuff. I have the recording with Scotto and Domingo, who make the very best case for it, but I still have little time for it. That said, Callas is brilliant at conveying Adrianna's humility in the first aria, her pain and sadness in the second. Her recording of La mamma morta is well known, and became quite a hit after it was featured in the Tom Hanks Oscar winning movie Philadelphia. Notable is the way Callas's tone colour matches that of the cello in the opening bars, and the way she carefully charts its mounting rapture. Some may prefer a richer, fuller sound. None have sung it with such intensity.

Ebben ne andro lontana, a glorious performance, is full of aching loneliness, its climax solid as a rock, but the prize of this first side is without doubt the crepuscular beauty of Margherita's L'altra notte from Boito's Mefistofele, a sort of mini mad scene, which Callas fills with a wealth of colour and imagination. One notes the blank, colourless tone at L'aura e fredda, even more drained and hopeless on its repeat, the baleful sound of her chest voice on E la mesta anima mia; and does any other singer so accurately encompass those coloratura flights of fancy as her soul takes wing on Vola, vola? This is the stuff of genius.

The second side also has its attractions. Rosina's Una voce poco fa is a mite slower than it was to become in the studio set, but Callas's ideas on the character are perfectly formed, and she already uses that explosive Ma to underline Rosina's less than docile temperament. Her runs, scales and fioriture are as elastic as ever, and the little turns on the final faro giocar have to be heard to be believed.

The Dinorah aria is a rather empty piece and I sometimes wonder why she even bothered with it. There are some magical echo effects and her singing is wonderfully fleet and accurate, but it's not a favourite of mine. I'm not a big fan of the Bell Song either, to be honest. Callas lavishes possibly more attention on it than it's worth, but in so doing at least makes it a little more interesting than the birdlike warblings we usually get. The opening has a mesmeric , almost improvisational air about it, and the bell imitations are clear and true. I remember once playing this track at a friend's place one summer evening, the window open, while a bird (I have no idea what it was) sang for all its worth on a branch just outside. It was as if the bird was singing in response. The high E she sings at its climax is clean as a whistle, but it does sound like the very extreme of her range. Best of all the coloratura items is her breezy, elegantly sung Merce, dilette amiche from Verdi's I Vespri Siciliani, which is lovely in every way and ends on another epic high E.
 

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Discussion Starter · #183 · (Edited)




In many ways this is an infuriating compilation, not because of anything to do with Mme Price herself, but because of the shoddy presentation, which does her, and her colleagues on these discs, no service whatsoever. The skimpy booklet lists the arias on the discs, bit not one word about their provenance, who is conducting, what year the record was made or indeed anything at all to place them in context. Even Manon Lescaut is spelled wrongly on the front cover. All we get is a puff about her career and the unhelpful information on the back of the disc that the compilation was issued in 1999. Texts and translations are hardly to be expected these days, but I do like to at least know a bit about the date of the recording, the orchestra, conductor and other singers who appear.

There is a good chance of course that I am not the target audience. Maybe most people who buy the set are happy just to put the discs on, sit back and let the gorgeous voice pour out some familiar tunes, which, for the most part, is what we get, the least well known piece here being the excerpt from Barber's Antony and Cleopatra.

At least the selection concentrates mostly on her strengths, so we get fine examples of her Aida, both the Leonoras, her Carmen and a liberal sprinkling of Puccini arias, which are beautifully sung if not particularly specific in character. The weakest items here are the Mozart arias and Dido's Lament, regally voiced but impassively emotionless. However there are some very impressive performances here, particularly those taken, I assume, from complete performances of Il Trovatore, La Forza del Destino and Aida, roles for which she was well suited. The voice was certainly one of the glories of its age, with a dark plangency particularly suited to the melancholy of characters like Aida and Leonora.

That said, I would have to say that, personally, I find this hotchpotch kind of compilation, which concentrates on the singer rather than the music, completely unsatisfactory. As it happens, I am, at the moment, also working my way through the Janet Baker twenty disc Great Recordings box, which I suppose one could also legitimally call a hotchpotch. If I am finding this a much more rewarding listening experience, it presumably has something to do with the better, more logical programming, and also the greater specificity of Baker's art.

Dipping in and extracting arias here and there from this set will proabably afford the most pleasure and maybe that is what one is supposed to do with a compilation like this.
 

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I posted on the Historical Wagner thread links to Amazon for a Wagner collection that I downloaded a couple of days ago. The 4cd box was a ludicrous price but the download was ludicrously low. I suppose it could be called a vocal collection given its nature.

I've given it a cursory listen. It is exactly what I thought it would be so I wasn't disappointed.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/s?k=richard+Wagner+on+record&i=digital-music&ref=nb_sb_noss

https://www.amazon.com/s?k=Richard+Wagner+on+record&i=digital-music&ref=nb_sb_noss
 

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Discussion Starter · #185 ·
I posted on the Historical Wagner thread links to Amazon for a Wagner collection that I downloaded a couple of days ago. The 4cd box was a ludicrous price but the download was ludicrously low. I suppose it could be called a vocal collection given its nature.

I've given it a cursory listen. It is exactly what I thought it would be so I wasn't disappointed.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/s?k=Richard...ref=nb_sb_noss

https://www.amazon.com/Richard-Wagne...=dmusic&sr=1-1
The first link took me to a book called The Hedgerow Apothecary and the second to a "Sorry we couldn't find that page".

What is the 4 disc set?
 

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Hi Tsaras, I’ve corrected the links , I hope, on my original post #184. That should show you the box to which I was referring.
 
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Well clearly this is a load of nonsense. The links seem to have gone haywire again. I'll just post a picture of the box and you can look it up in Amazon yourself.
 
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Discussion Starter · #189 · (Edited)


Lucia Popp was, still is, one of the world's most loved soprano. I only had the pleasure of hearing her live once, in the mid 1980s at a recital at the Barbican at which she sang Schumann's Frauenliebe und Leben at around the same time most of this disc was recorded. Though she didn't speak until introducing her encores at the end (gorgeous Strauss songs, if I remember correctly), she had a winning personality and a sort of relaxed, casual manner that made you feel you were one of a few friends she had invited into her living room for an evening of song.

She was an accomplished Mozart singer and the first part of this recital was recorded at the time she was making the transition from roles like Zerlina, Blonde, Despina and Susanna to the Countess, Konstanze, Fiordilgi and the two Donne in Don Giovanni. She had an immediately recognisable sound, the voice bright and silvery, though, by the mid 1980s, it is possible to detect a slight tarnish on its purity at the very top, which I don't hear in the sacred arias recorded in 1967 when she was in her late 20s. Nonetheless she makes a convincing Fiordiligi managing the wide leaps with dramatic aplomb. Both Donna Anna and Donna Elvira also go well. Not surprisingly, considering her early prowess as a coloratura, she tosses of Anna's flourishes with an ease that would be the envy of most dramatic sopranos.

I don't know if she ever sang Cherubino on stage, but his character is caught beautifully in a wide-eyed Voi che sapete, whilst the Countess's Porgi amor is not only sung with poise but captures her aching loneliness. However, my favourite tracks in this first recital are the opening L'ameró, saro constante from Il ré pastore, Illia's ideally floated Zeffiretti lusinghieri and, best of all, Susanna's Deh vieni, non tardar, which captures to perfection the tender ambiguity of the piece.

When we move to the sacred arias from 1967, it is to hear a voice which is brighter, firmer and purer, perfectly suited to the music she is singing here, but it is still recognisably the same voice. Occasionally one is aware, both in 1967 and 1983, of what John Steane referred to as the "tooth-paste squeeze" method, her legato not quite perfect, but for the most part this is a lovely voice, well schooled and with a strong personality.
 

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Discussion Starter · #190 ·


This disc was, I think, DiDonato's first ever recital record. It was recorded during and after performances at the Théâtre de la Monnaie in Brussels in 2008, though there is precious little sign of any audience. Since then of course DiDonato has become a major star with quite a few recital discs under her belt.

DiDonato first came to my attention when the Aix-en-Provence festival brought their superb Luc Bondy production of Hercules to the Barbican in 2006. Her Dejanira was a compelling study in irrational jealousy and eventual mental degradation, all perfectly at the service of the music, so, when this recital was issued, I eagerly snatched it up. However, at the time, I found it a little disappointing and couldn't quite work out why. The singing is wonderfully accomplished, her command of coloartura quite superb, with none of that awful rat-a-tat explosiveness that one gets from Bartoli.

The problem would appear to be one of communicatin. The voice itself, at least as recorded here, just lacks that last ounce of individuality and, possibly a fault of the recording producer rather than the singer, she had as yet not learned to project character and emotion solely through sound. Predictably, and no doubt because she had stage experience of the role, the solos from Dejanira are the most vivid, especially the dramatic outbursts in Where shall I fly. Another highspot is Ariodante's Scherza infida, which she sings with melting tone and imbues with a sense of utter, aching desolation. What is missing elsewhere is that last degree of exitement.

The excellent accompaniments are by Les Talens Lyriques under Christophe Rousset and I am reminded that shortly after acquiring the disc I attended a concert at the Barbican, in which these same artists performed most of the music on this disc. The diminutive DiDonato came onto the stage looking a little like a young Bette Midler, wearing a tight long black skirt and sequined boob tube, her hair a shock of blond curls round her shoulders. However any thoughts of Midler were soon dispelled the moment she began to sing as we were treated to two hours of magnicent singing with DiDonato running the gamut of emotions. Clearly DiDonato needs an audience.
 
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Discussion Starter · #196 ·


Where does the time go? I can't believe it is almost twenty years since I worked with Renée Fleming when the London Symphony Orchestra put on a semi-staged production of Previn's A Streetcar Named Desire at the Barbican Hall with Previn himself conducting. I only had a very minor role, but I found Fleming to be a very gracious lady, an arch professional and a conscientious artist. The rehearsals and performances are amongst my fondest memories and I will never forget the experience of hearing that voice close to, with her literally singing into my ear on occasion. The final Korngold-like aria Blanche sings before being taken away to the asylum was possibly one of the most beautiful things I have ever heard.

I mention this to put into context my reactions to listening to this recital, which I wanted to like much more than I did. The recording was made in 2001 when the voice had acquired a new richness in the middle and lower ranges whilst retaining its beauty and ease up on high, even throughout its compass and admirably firm, with no trace of hardness when singing at full tilt. As it seems now we have said goodbye to Fleming, the classical arists it is good to be reminded that this was one of the most ravishing instruments of the last thirty years or so. She has always had a fairly eclectic repertoire which embraced both opera and song, covering a wide range of different composers and styles, but I've always thought her best suited to the music of Mozart and Strauss.

Hence it is the songs by Strauss and Joseph Marx which make the stongest impression, especially Cäcilie, its radiant close easily and ravishingly voiced. The Marx songs suit her well too, their sensuous expressivity responding well to the heady beauty of Fleming's voice. Thibaudet is also superb in the tricky accompaniments, tossing off their difficulties as if they are the easiest things in the world.

Elsewhere I am not so sure this operatic vocal effulgence is what I want to hear. I found myself longing for the greater simplicity and cleaner vocal production of a Victoria De Los Angeles in the Fauré, the slight touch of irony and cool detachment brought to Debussy's Chansons de Bilitis by a Régine Crespin. The Rachmaninov, with their heavier accompaniments, perhaps respond better to this operatic treatment, but I find it just too sophisticated and even here I prefer a slightly simpler, more direct approach.

However enjoyable it is to hear one of the most beautiful voices of recent times whatever the circumstances, ultimately there are other discs I would pull out first when wanting to sample Fleming at her best.
 

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I've been listening to quite a lot of Wunderlich recently, also his lieder recordings. These were very wonderful! Especially the first disc I listened thanks to Tsaras' review earlier in the thread. The excerpts from Il Barbiere di Siviglia, although sung in German, were very eye-opening - true vocal mastery. Also Don Ottavio's two arias - I have no idea how he made his not very big voice sound so huge, exciting and full.. and this legato! Wunderlich had an absurdly beautiful voice - it feels that whatever he decided to utter sounded breathtakingly beautiful. What I maybe appreciate the most about his singing, apart from his magnificent natural instrument, is how intelligently and expressively he sang. He engages his whole register producing a very full and rich sound.

He knew exactly the balance between expressiveness and vocal beauty - something I've become to appreaciate greatly after those Bellini recordings I've listened to. Wunderlich never seemed to fall into the trap of just relying on the sheer vocal beauty he had - he always added some insightful details to his singing. He does so through pure vocals, he doesn't have to start sobbing or something like this. I guess his extensive experience with operetta and lieder taught him this very effectively. The way he uses legato is magnificent and even when just producing the vocal ornaments, he somehow manages to retain the dramatic aspects of the character.

The moral of the story is that it's very important to tie your shoelaces properly - everyone will be happier :rolleyes:!
 

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Discussion Starter · #198 · (Edited)


View attachment 137745

I've been listening to quite a lot of Wunderlich recently, also his lieder recordings. These were a very wonderful! Especially the first disc I listened thanks to Tsaras' review earlier in the thread. The excerpts from Il Barbiere di Siviglia, although sung in German, were very eye-opening - true vocal mastery. Also Don Ottavio's two arias - I have no idea how he made his not very big voice sound so huge, exciting and full.. and this legato! Wunderlich had an absurdly beautiful voice - it feels that whatever he decided to utter sounded breathtakingly beautiful. What I maybe appreciate the most about his singing, apart from his magnificent natural instrument, is how intelligently and expressively he sang. He engages his whole register producing a very full and rich sound.

He knew exactly the balance between expressiveness and vocal beauty - something I've become to appreaciate greatly after those Bellini recordings I've listened to. Wunderlich never seemed to fall into the trap of just relying on the sheer vocal beauty he had - he always added some insightful details to his singing. He does so through pure vocals, he doesn't have to start sobbing or something like this. I guess his extensive experience with operetta and lieder taught him this very effectively. The way he uses legato is magnificent and even when just producing the vocal ornaments, he somehow manages to retain the dramatic aspects of the character.

The moral of the story is that it's very important to tie your shoelaces properly - everyone will be happier :rolleyes:!
I don't just like this post, I love it.

Wunderlich had one of the most headily beautiful voices ever vouchsafed to man and, as if that were not enough, he was wonderfully musical and thoughtful. You can trace how his interpretation of Dichterliebe deepened from the DG recording to the live performances later, especially the final one in Edinburgh.

He could turn his talent to almost anything. In operetta and songs, like in his glorious recording of Granada he exudes an infectious joy in the act of singing itself. Though almost all his recordings of the Italian repertoire are in German, his golden tone and wonderful legato transcend the language. His Tamino remains peerless, none better on disc and the reason I continue to prefer the Böhm recording to all others, despite the ladies being bettered elsewhere. What else might we have expected to him had he lived longer? Maybe Lohengrin, maybe even Walther. Just imagine the Prize Song sung by that gorgeous, golden voice.

I've reviewed a few Wunderlich sets on my blog, if you're interested.

https://tsaraslondon.wordpress.com/2019/03/24/fritz-wunderlich-a-dg-box-set/

https://tsaraslondon.wordpress.com/2019/09/19/fritz-wunderlich-icon/

https://tsaraslondon.wordpress.com/2019/09/27/fritz-wunderlich-live-on-stage/

He is without question my favourite tenor.
 

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I don't just like this post, I love it.

Wunderlich had one of the most headily beautiful voices ever vouchsafed to man and, as if that were not enough, he was wonderfully musical and thoughtful. You can trace how his interpretation of Dichterliebe deepened from the DG recording to the live performances later, especially the final one in Edinburgh.

He could turn his talent to almost anything. In operetta and songs, like his glorious recording of Granada he exudes an infectious joy in the act of singing itself. Though almost all his recordings of the Italian repertoire are in German, his golden tone and wonderful legato transcend the language. His Tamino remains peerless, none better on disc and the reason I continue to prefer the Böhm recording to all others, despite the ladies being bettered elsewhere. What else might we have expected to him had he lived longer? Maybe Lohengrin, maybe even Walther. Just imagine the Prize Song sung by that gorgeous, golden voice.

I've reviewed a few Wunderlich sets on my blog, if you're interested.

https://tsaraslondon.wordpress.com/2019/03/24/fritz-wunderlich-a-dg-box-set/

https://tsaraslondon.wordpress.com/2019/09/19/fritz-wunderlich-icon/

https://tsaraslondon.wordpress.com/2019/09/27/fritz-wunderlich-live-on-stage/

He is without question my favourite tenor.
Thanks, I'll check your reviews out! They have been very useful so far. I like listening to recitals and lieder to get better acquainted with singers.

I'm actually not bothered by Italian opera sung in German, especially when it has good singers. There are some video excerpts of different operas where Wunderlich sang, for example Keilberth's Il Barbiere with Wunderlich, Prey and Hotter - all three seem to enjoy themselves. Wunderlich looks so young but seemed to also be a very good and not at all an awkward actor. If Wunderlich's voice had indeed become a bit darker and heavy enough for jugendlich Wagner then his Lohengrin would be to die for!
 

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Discussion Starter · #200 ·


What an utterly charmng and delightful disc this, cleverly planned and beautifully executed.

With her distinctive timbre and wonderfully expressive voice, Gomez's personality fairly bursts through the speakers and she is superbly supported here by John Constable on the piano, who unerringly captures the mood of the songs. You feel as if these two artists really enjoy making music together, and indeed their association is a long one, having first appeared on disc together twenty years earlier. Gomez would have been in her early fifties when the present disc was recorded but the voice has hardly changed in the intervening years.

What we have here is a compendium of Spanish inflluenced songs by German, French and English composers, as well as songs by Spanish composers, covering a wide range of styles and eras. The programming is eminently sensible and makes for very satisfying listening.

We start with a group of sixteenth century Villancios from the courts of Charles V and Philip II in piano arrangements by Graciano Tarragó., which encourage the kind of decoration and improvisation of the 16th century vilancico. Fuenllana's De los alamos vengo, madre is no doubt better known from Rodrigo's orchestral arrangement, but Gomez sparkles quite as much here.

From thence we turn to a group of Spanish influenced songs by Wolf and Schumann, in which Gomez captures perfectly the deep melancholy of Schumann's Tief im Herzen trag' ich Pein as well as the girlish coquettishness of Wolf's In dem Schatten meiner Locken. Spain has always provided a deep vein of inspiration for French composers, so we are next treated to a group of songs by Bizet, Ravel, Saint-Saëns and Délibes in which Gomez's sense of style is impeccable.

Next come the three Granados Tornadillas, in which we are probably more used to hearing the fuller, chestier sound of someone like Conchita Supervia. Gomez intelligently, rather than copy her style, is more languorous. I might prefer Supervia's vibrancy, but Gomez's way is just as valid.

The two Walton songs, both taken from Façade, find Gomez pointing the Sitwell's lyrics deliciously and lead us into the final group, which Gomez calls "Seven Other Popular Songs". The first three songs are by Roberto Gerhard, who, s an exile from Franco's Spain, had relocated to Cambridge in the UK in 1942, where he lived until his death in 1970. These are his versions of folk-songs collected by his teacher, Felipe Pedrell. bittersweet souvenirs of a composer in exile. The others are by Tarrago, Rodrigo, Guridi and Obradors. Gomez is yet again is a wonderful guide through this musical journey of Spain, brilliantly capturing the mood of each song.

An excellent recital that should be a lot better known than it is.
 
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