TAVENER: Lament for Jerusalem.
Angharad Gruffydd Jones, soprano; Peter Crawford, counter-tenor; Choir of London and Orch/Jeremy Summerly, cond.
NAXOS 8.557826 TT: 54:35

MARGARETE ARNDT-OBER Arias from Der Prophet, Carmen, Samson und Dalila, Rienzi, Lohengrin, Tristan und Isolde, Das Rheingold, Die Walküre, Don Carlos, Aida, Il trovatore, La gioconda and Boris Godunov
PREISER 89630 TT: 78:58

EVA TURNER Arias from Il trovatore, Aida, La gioconda, Cavalleria rusticana, Tosca, Turandot; songs of Ronald and Tosti
PREISER 90634 TT: 77:55

ROLANDO VILLAZON Arias from The Tales of Hoffman, Tosca, Cavalleria Rusticana, Fedora, Martha, Eugen Onegin, Der Rosenkavalier, Un ballo en maschera, Don Pasquale, Carmen, Les pècheurs de perles, and Ernani
Rolando Villazon, tenor; Bavarian Radio Chorus; Munich Radio Orch/Michel Plasson, cond.

RENATA TEBALDI Arias from Don Carlos, Un ballo en maschera, Giovanna d'Arco, Turandot, La gioconda, La rondine, Cavalleria rusticana, and L'Arlesiana
Renata Tebaldi, soprano; New Philharmonia Orch/Oliviero de Fabritiis, cond.

This premiere recording of John Tavener’s Lament for Jerusalem is a major addition to the composer’s discography. Tavener calls it “a mystical love song,” with text, including Christian, Judaic and Islamic texts, sung either in Greek or English. The composer comments that Jerusalem is a universal symbol signifying the changeless and celestial synthesis of the Cosmos and the primordial longing of man for God. Each of the seven sections of this 55-minute work consists of a stanza followed by a cosmic lament. Lament for Jerusalem is gentle, powerful music of serene beauty, with soprano and counter-tenor soloists—you won’t find the cataclysmic choral/orchestral outbursts heard in many of the composer’s large-scale choral works. Lament, composed in 2002, was rewritten two years later for the 31-member Choir of London and Orchestra and their conductor Jeremy Summerly who gave the premiere of the revised version in December, 2004; this recording was made a few months later. The performance is perfection, beautifully recorded with warm, spacious acoustics. Complete texts are provided. Another major addition to Naxos’ series of Tavener recordings!

Few operaphiles have heard of alto Margarete Arndt-Ober (sometimes known as Margaret Ober) although she was a major figure on the operatic scene at the beginning of the 20th century. Born April 15, 1885 in Berlin, she made her operatic debut while very young, and made her Met debut as Ortrud in November 1913, where for four seasons she was the leading mezzo and would have remained if the war had not intervened. As Amneris she so impressed Caruso that he called her "the German she-devil." At the Met she was Octavian in the first American Rosenkavalier in 1913, and Alisoun in the world premiere of De Koven's The Canterbury Pilgrims in 1917. After returning to Berlin she became known for her Wagner,and gave her farewell performance in 1943. She continued to sing character roles, and died March 17, 1971, just before her 86th birthday. Wagner is featured prominently on Preiser's release, along with Meyerbeer, Bizet, Saint-Saëns, Verdi, Ponchielli and Boris Godunov, as well as her first recording, made in 1908, an excerpt from Kienzi's Der Evangelimann. Her voice is remarkable in every way, rich and solid throughout her entire range, and we are fortunate to have this opportunity to hear this relatively unknown but important artist.

Much more familiar to listeners is British soprano Eva Turner (1892-1990), famous for her singing of Turandot although she also sang many dramatic Italian roles as well as Wagner. Her strength and brilliance in the higher soprano register are legendary, and she was an attractive woman: Toscanini prised her "bella figura." Admirers of this remarkable soprano surely will wish to have the Pearl 3-CD set of all of her recordings (see REVIEW), but for others, this Preiser CD will be of great interest.

Rolando Villazon is a major young tenor on today's operatic scene and is heard to good advantage in these superlative recordings on Virgin Classics. His voice is solid, secure, ringing in the upper register and shows remarkable dramatic insight throughout. Doubtless we will be heariing much from him, and deservedly so.

Decca continues their Classic Recitals series including a disk devoted to Renata Tebaldi containing exactly what was on the original LP (London SXL 6152). These arias were recorded in September 1964 when Tebaldi was in fine voice but there is an occasional hardness in the upper register. Still, collectors will welcome this reissue. Playing time is rather brief (52:51)as this mid-price CD contains what was on the original LP. As usual in this series, original LP notes are included, reduced and virtually impossible to read.

R.E.B. (March 2005)