Arias from The Marriage of Figaro, Alceste, Tannhäuser,
Peter Grimes, Fidelio, Rodelinda, Lohengrin, The Consul, Die tote
The Land of
Smiles; DVORÁK: Songs my mother taught me. RODGERS:
Climb ev'ry mountain.
Powerhouse soprano Christine Brewer's two latest recordings are commendable indeed. It's a pleasure to hear a big, controlled sound such as hers, and she is in top form. I don't particularly enjoy opera in English, even when as clearly enunciated as it is in this second volume of arias in English for the Chandos label. In the Korngold and Lehár Brewer is joined by tenor Timothy Robinson, and conductor David Parry and the LPO give strong accompaniments. This is a deluxe Chandos presentation offering profuse program notes and complete texts in an oversized booklet that does not fit into the jewel box. Brewer's June 2008 recording of Górecki's moving Symphony of Sorrowful Songs is welcome, although many may prefer the more gentle vocalism of Dawn Upshaw in the famous 1992 recording with David Zinman conducting. And let us hope the remarkable Brewer overcomes the physical problems that made it impossible for her to sing in last season's Met Ring.
Naxos is doing their part in the revival of music of Giuseppe Martucci (1856-1909). In addition to his composing, Martucci was a conductor of note who conducted Italian premieres of two Wagner operas. A favorite of Toscanini, Martucci composed two symphonies and two piano concertos. Concerto No. 1, premiered in 1878, remained in manuscript for almost a century, unjustly so. It is a pleasant work, with suggestions of Mendelssohn and Chopin, very played here by Gesualdo Coggi. However, the gem of this disk is the orchestrated version of La canzone dei ricordi ("The Song of Remembrance"), a cycle of seven songs written in 1887 for voice and piano, orchestrated 11 years later. It was a pioneering work of its time as song cycles were few. The poems are by Rocco Emanuele Pagliara which have a prevailing mood of lost love and resolution to passing years. The music is compelling, and the performance by mezzo Silvia Pasini is magnificent—she is a singer to watch. Don't miss this remarkable disk! Surprisingly, texts are provided only in Italian.
Romanian soprano Virginia Zeani (b. 1925), after studied with the great tenor Aureliano Pertile, made her debut in 1948 in Bologna in La traviata, a specialty of hers that she sang 650 times (!) during her career. Zeani was selected by Poulenc to sing Blanche in the premiere of his Dialogues of the Carmelites, an opera she sang in San Francisco in 1983 as her official final performance. She had the misfortune of singing during the time of Callas and Tebaldi, but said she never wanted to be a "diva" and fight for fame. Zeani has many devoted fans, but her voice did not seem to record particularly well. Preiser's CD offers Decca recordings from 1957, and excerpts from I puritani and L'elisir d'amore (both with bass Nicola Rossi-Lemeni) and Anna Bolena from a 1958 RAI concert.
Wagnerites must get Volume 23 in Profil's Staatskapelle Dresden Edition. In it you will hear Wagner singing of a caliber seldom encountered today. From German Radio Archives, recorded 1944-1945, we have Act I of Walkure in a magnificent performance, particularly Max Lorenz's Siegmund, and bass-baritone Josef Herrmann's performance of Wotan's Farewell is vocally and histrionically commanding—there is no Wotan today who can match what is heard here. Sound quality is splendid well-balanced mono for the Walküre music, although audio sources for some items on CD2 are not the best. The CD booklet explains circumstances of these, although much is unknown—but in spite of this, this album is revelatory. Profuse program notes in German and English are included along with many fascinating photos.
R.E.B. (June 2009)