Author Topic: Favorite vocal recitals on CD or DVD  (Read 86111 times)

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Offline André

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Re: Favorite vocal recitals on CD or DVD
« Reply #340 on: April 12, 2019, 04:34:31 PM »


This recital has been rightly praised in this thread. Sayao’s voice has the sheen and suppleness required to spin a beautiful legato while perfectly articulating the texts. She may lack the thrilling vocal expansion of Sutherland in the last phrases of The Jewel song (at "Marguerite, ce n’est plus toi, ce n’est plus ton visage") but she makes up for it with a perfectly placed high C at the end. Her Manon is sheer delight. She captures the character’s disarming flirtatiousness like no other soprano I know.

The only chink in her armoury is the lack of a real trill, but that’s a small price to pay for what she brings. I listened to Juliet’s waltz yesterday with Mady Mesplé and was sorely disappointed, not least by the way her vocal production makes it almost impossible to understand the words (in her own native language!). Sayao’s pronunciation is near perfect, a big plus in the Hahn, Duparc and Debussy items, where her easy conversational delivery ideally espouses the vocal line.

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: Favorite vocal recitals on CD or DVD
« Reply #341 on: April 13, 2019, 01:17:05 AM »


This recital has been rightly praised in this thread. Sayao’s voice has the sheen and suppleness required to spin a beautiful legato while perfectly articulating the texts. She may lack the thrilling vocal expansion of Sutherland in the last phrases of The Jewel song (at "Marguerite, ce n’est plus toi, ce n’est plus ton visage") but she makes up for it with a perfectly placed high C at the end. Her Manon is sheer delight. She captures the character’s disarming flirtatiousness like no other soprano I know.

The only chink in her armoury is the lack of a real trill, but that’s a small price to pay for what she brings. I listened to Juliet’s waltz yesterday with Mady Mesplé and was sorely disappointed, not least by the way her vocal production makes it almost impossible to understand the words (in her own native language!). Sayao’s pronunciation is near perfect, a big plus in the Hahn, Duparc and Debussy items, where her easy conversational delivery ideally espouses the vocal line.

I have this disc too, and enjoy it very much.
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: Favorite vocal recitals on CD or DVD
« Reply #342 on: April 13, 2019, 01:17:38 AM »


Jennie Tourel was born in Russia in 1900 of Jewish parents, but she and her family left just after the Revolution, temporarly settling in Danzig before moving to Paris. She fled to Lisbon just before the Nazis occupied France and from there to the USA, becoming a naturalised Amercian in 1946.

She had an illustrious career both in the opera house and on the recital stage, and was the creator of the role of Baba the Turk in Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress. She was still active when death ended her career in 1973, in fact in the middle of performances of Donizetti's La Fille du Régiment in Chicago. The longevity of her career is testament to her sound technique, but if the years were kind to her voice, she was also careful never to overtax it. She knew what suited her and stuck to it.

The dates of the recordings on this disc are unknown, but the Italian and French items are stereo, which would place them at least from the early to mid 1950s. Her voice is still admirably firm, with no trace of wobble or excessive vibrato. Her legato isn't always perfect, and her runs can be lightly aspirated, which mars her performance of the Rossini items, and also of Bizet's Adieux de l'hotesse arabe, though she sings it with more personality and drama than many.

Berlioz's Absence is sung with piano, and is notable for the firmness of the line, though personally I prefer a more inward display of longing. Tourel is too loud in places and she rushes the pharse la fleur de ma vie. Much better are Poulenc's Violon and Liszt's Oh! Quand je dors and I particularly enjoyed Ravel's Kaddish, which exploits her rich lower register.

The Russian items are all worth hearing, beginning with a mournful Tchaikovsky None but the lonley heart, the cello obligato adding to the pervading sense of melancholia. As befits the general mood of the Russian items, she uses a bigger, more dramatic sound, but she can also be lightly high-spirited in a song like Dargomizhsky's Look darling girls. In all she displays a strong personality and superb musicianship.

Song texts and translations are provided on the disc itself, which doubles as a CD-ROM, though, annoyingy, if you want to read them at the same time as listening to the disc, you will have to print them out before playing the disc on a CD player.
« Last Edit: April 13, 2019, 01:19:36 AM by Tsaraslondon »
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Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: Favorite vocal recitals on CD or DVD
« Reply #343 on: April 14, 2019, 12:31:37 AM »


The lion's share of this CD is a reissue of what, I believe, was Caballé's first recital disc for RCA, recorded in 1965 when the voice was at its freshest, and at around the same time as her sensational international debut in Lucrezia Borgia at Carnegie Hall, when she was a last minute replacement for Marilyn Horne. Up until then her repertoire had focused on Mozart and Strauss, plus Massbel enet's Manon, and in fact she made her Glyndeboure debut later the same year as the Marschallin. However it was as a bel canto specialist that she would eventually become known, and she was one of the sopranos (along with Sutherland and Sills) who spearheaded the bel canto revival, set in motion by the legendary 1957 La Scala Visconti production of Anna Bolena with Callas.

The voice itself was rich and velvety, even throughout its range, her breath control exemplary, with the ability to float the most incredible pianissimi, an effect she perhaps overused in later years. There were a few chinks in her armour, especially for a bel canto specialiste; her trills were somewhat ill defined, and though the voice had flexibility and negotiated florid music well, there was the occasional hint of an aspirate, never encountered in the singing of Callas or Sutherland.

The tendency to aspirate, noticeable in the very first phrase of Casta diva, mars the beauty of the performance and the aria is not as mesmerising as it can be, despite the gorgeous sound. But this is nit picking and hers is still one of the most ravishing performances of the piece you will hear. Better I think is the Mad Scene from Il Pirata, which is sung with deep feeling and a true appreciation of the dramatic situation. The cabaletta does not have the lacerating effect of Callas in the same music, but works well within Caballé's gentler conception.

All three Donizetti roles which follow became Caballé staples in the next few years, and she fulfils all their demands for vocal gandeur and personality. Always evident is the sincerity of her art, but she is not one of the world's character actors. It has to be admitted that all these Donizetti and Bellini heroines sound much the same, the characters pretty interchangeable. Does that matter? Well I suppose that depends on one's personal preferences, and mine are well known. That said, I am grateful for what she has, and Caballé is certainly not unfeeling, in fact often most affecting. Where Sutherland's dazzling performances often leave me cold, I find Caballé's dramatic commitment, albeit rather generalised, satisfies me more. We would be privileged to hear singing of such beauty and accomplishment now.

RCA have here added a Mira o Norma , recorded in 1972 (I assume this is from the complete set with Fiorenza Cossotto, though she is not credited) and the first part of the closing scene from Anna Bolena, recorded in a somewhat boomy acoustic in 1970. Already there is just a very occasional hint of the hardness that would later affict her loud high notes and result in the over-exploitation of those floated high pianissimi, but there is still much that is very beautiful. Befittingly, the disc ends with the quite close to the cavatina from Anna Bolena, the final phrase spun out and floated through the air on a pure thread of glorious sound. It is for moments such as these that the art of Montserrat Caballé will most be remembered.


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Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: Favorite vocal recitals on CD or DVD
« Reply #344 on: April 19, 2019, 01:48:39 AM »


The first time I heard Maggie Teyte was when I was just starting to enjoy French song. I was learning Duparc's Chanson triste and a friend played me her recording of the song with Gerald Moore at the piano. I was absolutely entranced and it has remained my yardstick ever since. First of all the flowing tempo they adopt is aboslutely right (so many take it too slowly) and she responds perfectly to all Duparc's markings - floating the tone beautifully on the mon of mon amour (it is marked doux by Duparc) an effect I have tried, not too successfully, to emulate myself. Her high A is clear, clean and true, but she takes the lower option on the words de tes bras, dipping down into that gloriously rich lower register she had. As you listen, you feel the song is addressed to you personally and you want to just lie back in the warm embrace of her comforting words. The French christened her L'Exquise Maggie Teyte, and the adjective suits her perfectly.

She was born in 1888 in Woverhampton, but went to Paris in 1903 to study with the famous tenor Jean De Reszke. She made her first public appearanc in 1906, singing Cherubino and Zerlina under Reynaldo Hahn, making her first professional appearance in Monte Carlo the following year. She then joined the company at the Opéra-Comique in Paris and was shortly after chosen to replace Mary Garden in the role of Mélisande, for which she was coached by Debussy himself. She is the only singer ever to have been accompanied in public by Debussy himself, and she is an invaluable link to so many musicians of the past. Despite her early success however, she didn't really establish herself with the main opera houses, and went into semi-retirement after her second marriage (to Canadian millionaire Walter Sherwin Cottingham) in 1921.

In 1930 she tried to resuscitate her career, but ended up singing in variety and music hall (24 performances a week!) until, in 1930, she made some recordings of Debussy songs with Alfred Cortot, which were so successful that she then became known as the leading French song interpreter of her time. She also sang at Covent Garden in such roles as Butterfly, Hänsel and Eurydice in Gluck's opera, as well as Manon in English (with Heddle Nash).

The present set concentrates on recordings of French song with orchestra and piano made between 1940 and 1948, making her 60 when she recorded Ravel's Schéhérazade, not that you would ever suspect it. The voice is still absolutely firm with no trace of wobble or excessive vibrato, top notes pure and true (a thrilling top B flat in Asie), the inimitable lower register gloriously rich.

It starts with a rather hectic recording of Berlioz's Le spectre de la rose. The fast tempo was presumably adopted so that they could fit the song onto a single 78, but it does remind us that it is in waltz time and she brings a peculiarly intimate touch to the closing lines,which are sung with an ineffable sadness. Absence is sweetly touching.

Occasionally her attention to the meaning of the words can get in the way of the music, and the tempo fluctuations in Fauré's Après un rêve are just too much, the general speed much too slow, but the accelerando on Reviens, reviens just too much. On the other hand the tempo for his Clair de lune is absolutely spot on with a moment of pure magic as she infuses her tone with warmth at Au calme clair de lune and Gerald Moore switches to a more free flowing style in the accompaniment.

Over the two discs there is scarcely a performance that doesn't warrant attention, but I single out for special consideration Duparc's gorgeous Phidylé, which is lazily erotic as it should be (note her telling observation of the diminuendo on baiser - most singers miss it completely) and the aforementioned Chanson triste, the former with the LSO under Leslie Heward, the latter with Gerald Moore on the piano. Also on disc 1 is a superb performance of Chausson's Chanson perpétuelle, whilst she breathes new life into Hahn's popular Si me vers avaient des ailes.

In all she remains inimitable and individual, though, it seems these days, only known to connoisseurs. This set is no longer available, nor are the Debussy songs she recorded with Cortot. John Steane says in his wonderful book The Grand Tradition,

Quote
But basically the point about Maggie Teyte is the very simple one, that her singing is so good: that is, her voice is so clear, its production so even, its intonation so faultless, its movement in big upward leaps so clean and athletic, and its excellence was so well preserved for so long.

Not only is her actual singing so good, but she has something personal to say in all she does, and voice and style are instantly recognisable.

There are other examples of her art more readily available on other lablels but this old EMI set is a treasure and I urge Warner to reissue it along with the Debussy songs with Cortot. It should be in the collection of anyone who is interested in French song.
« Last Edit: April 19, 2019, 01:50:39 AM by Tsaraslondon »
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Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: Favorite vocal recitals on CD or DVD
« Reply #345 on: April 19, 2019, 11:28:50 PM »


I’m going to stick my neck out and say that this is the best recital record Callas ever recorded, and by default one of the classic recital discs of all time. The 1954 Puccini disc and "Lyric and Coloratura" find her in better voice, but this one sums up more than any other her greatness, her ability to bring alive music that can seem formulaic, and even plain dull in the hands of lesser artists.

I know I’ve said this elsewhere, but her singing has an improvisatory air about it, almost as if she is extemporising on the spot; how she achieves this whilst closely adhering to what is on the printed page is a mystery beyond solving. In the Anna Bolena finale, the recitative alone provides a lesson in how to bind together disparate thoughts and ideas. She brilliantly conveys Anna’s drifting mental state, whilst still making musical sense of the phrases and the long line. We can only imagine what she might have achieved in Monteverdi’s recitativo cantavo.

Once into the first aria, Al dolce guidami, her voice takes on a disembodied sound, as if the singing is coming from the far recesses of her soul. Her legato is as usual superb, her breath control stupendous, those final melismas spun out to the most heavenly lengths.  In the cabaletta Coppia iniqua, her voice takes on a majestic power, and she manages the oft omitted rising set of trills with more force than anyone.

In the magnificent Final Scene from Il Pirata, she traces a long Bellinian line second to none; spinning out the delicate tracery of the decorations from Digli ah digli che respiri  onwards with magical fluency. A complete contrast is afforded when she rears back with the words Qual suono ferale, before launching into the thrillingly exciting cabaletta.

Ophelia’s scene from Hamlet is quite different. There is no formal recitative, aria, recitative, cabaletta construction. The scene is more a series of arioso segments interspersed with recitative and can often sound disjointed as a result. Callas binds together its disparate elements with masterly ease. Her voice is lighter here than in either the Bellini or Donizetti, and though the very upper reaches tax her somewhat, she sings with delicacy and consummate skill. The switch from Italian to French causes her no problems at all, her enunciation of the French text admirably clear. Yet again every fleeting expression, every change of thought is mirrored in her voice.

A listening companion of the eminent vocal critic John Steane once said to him regarding Callas, “Of course you had to see her,” to which he replied, “Oh, but I can, and I do.” This was her genius, amply displayed in this recital; the ability to make us see as well as hear.

« Last Edit: April 21, 2019, 12:52:56 AM by Tsaraslondon »
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Offline knight66

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Re: Favorite vocal recitals on CD or DVD
« Reply #346 on: April 21, 2019, 12:24:10 AM »
That gift of singing, unrolling the music as though she was extemporising is perhaps her rarest gift of all. It was not inevitable and it is fully felt in some music only. So few musicians have this ability. Recently I heard the late Brahms piano pieces played by Glenn Gould. I know them well to listen to, but he took them to an altogether different level from even Katchen. Ruminative, and as though he was inventing the music and taking me on a journey with him.

Lorraine Hunt Lieberson is another who seemed to meditate her way through music. This was especially strong in Bach: as though she was streaming him direct, rather than adhering to notation that is hundreds of years old. 

I will get that Callas recital down and give it a listen. But it won’t be today. Right now it is the second half of Bach’s St Matthew while my wife is making spiced Easter Biscuits and we have a walk planned for later.

Happy Sunday all.

Mike

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Offline knight66

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Re: Favorite vocal recitals on CD or DVD
« Reply #347 on: April 22, 2019, 09:08:07 AM »

The Irish Soprano Heather Harper has died at age 88. She was versatile encompasing Verdi, Puccini, Strauss, Handel and Bach, Wagner Mozart and Britten.

Below I have copied a review of a Strauss disc from nine years ago; how time flies.


Heather Harper is a name which is not much mentioned on these threads. She sings in a number of well thought of performances. I think of her primarily as a Mozart, Handel and Britten singer, though her range went to Wagner to Verdi and, as here, Richard Strauss. Her contribution in the Hickox Britten 'War Requiem' is especially fine, so too hew Ellen Orford in the Davis version of Britten's 'Peter Grimes'. The Female Chorus role in 'The Rape of Lucretia' is wonderfully voiced. Her live Hunting Fathers and 'Les Illumination' are live performances caught on the wing and unequaled.

I was looking for copies of Leontyne Price singing Strauss 'Four Last Songs'. I am still waiting for the Price disc; but while searching I came across this disc. Harper recorded the Four Last Songs twice, this is the second one, dating from 1988, she was 58.

Is it any good? Yes, it certainly is.

The performance is on CFP which cost me less than £4 with free postage! The silly price, did not encourage me to lower my expectations or judgement calls. This joins Schwartzkopf, Janowitz, Auger and Norman, who are my first recommendations depending on what you want out of the pieces. It comes ahead of Studer, Fleming, te Kanawa, Della Casa and Isokoski.

This is not just based on voice alone. Richard Hickox steers the LSO through the songs providing an underlying pulse for each which moves them along but not at the expense of expressiveness. The orchestra shimmers and is mellow, there is lots of detailed phrasing within the pulse. Harper at a relatively advanced age does not put a foot wrong. Some German vowels sound on the harsh side; apart from this the silvery soprano, ample and warm, sounds in terrific condition; high soft, high loud, diminuendo, nothing seems stressed. It is a distinctive voice, she does not vary tone much, but is expressive with words and volume. It is a fully formed thought through performance and there is nothing of the routine about it.

Accompanying the set we have 12 orchestrated Strauss songs. She includes about four that were new to me; a bonus as I have quite a few discs of Strauss songs. The programme is a delight and as the conductor does not get lost in cream-puff land, they do not pall. The programme lasts just over an hour and I was left wanting more, to the extent I played it straight through twice, then again the next day.

 

If you don't believe me; try the samples.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Strauss-Songs-London-Symphony-Orchestra/dp/B001DCGKKS/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=music&qid=1280418589&sr=1-1

I wonder how Leontyne Price will compare?

Mike

Edited for typos and punctuation
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Offline ritter

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Re: Favorite vocal recitals on CD or DVD
« Reply #348 on: April 22, 2019, 09:19:39 AM »
The Irish Soprano Heather Harper has died at age 88. She was versatile encompasing Verdi, Puccini, Strauss, Handel and Bach, Wagner Mozart and Britten.
...
I posted this sad news in the General Opera News thread before seeing your post here, knight66. A very engaging and versatile singer.
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Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: Favorite vocal recitals on CD or DVD
« Reply #349 on: April 25, 2019, 01:35:41 AM »


Zaide: Ruhe sanft, mein holdes Leben
La finta giardinera: Crudeli fermate... A dal pianto
La clemenza di Tito: S'altro che lagrime
Cosí fan tutte: Ei parte...Senti... Per pietà
Il rè pastore: L'amerò,sarò costanze
Lucia Silla: Pupille amate
Idomeneo: Se il padre perdei
Die Zauberflöte: Ach ich fühl's


Kiri Te Kanawa became known to the world when she sang Let the bright Seraphim at the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana, but opera afficionados had known of her for at least ten years before that. I remember very clearly seeing a TV broadcast frm Glyndebourne of Le Nozze di Figaro, in which Te Kanawa played the Countess, Ileana Cotruas Susanna and Frederica Von Stade Cherubino. It effectively launched all three ladies' international careers, and it was principally as a Mozart singer that Te Kanawa became known.

Later she sang roles by Verdi (the gentler heroines like Desdemona and Amelia in Simon Boccanegrea), Puccini (Mimi and Manon), Strauss (the Marschallin, Countess Madeleine and Arabella), as well as Gounod's Margeurite, Tatyana and Barber's Vanessa, but I still think of her chiefly as a Mozart specialist, and it is in this repertoire that I enjoy her most.

It is good to see so many arias taken from Mozart's lesser known operas, but the recital tends to concentrate on gracefully flowing arias, and so there is little variety. Of course there is much pleasure to be gained from the beauty of Dame Kiri's creamy soprano, and her technical command of the music, but she evinces little character and the recital tends to settle back comfortably into its frame. You could of course argue that the music demands no more than it is given, and, for most of the music you'd probably be right, but when it comes to the recitative and aria from Cosí fan tutte, my mind kept going back to a more sharply characterised, but no less scrupulously sung version by Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, and I couldn't help but wonder what she would have made of a similar collection.

Still, we should be grateful for what we have. It is rare indeed to hear such accomplished singing (and orchestral playing) allied to such a glorious voice. The disc certainly plays to her strengths, that is a voice of creamy beauty, even throughout its range, and maybe it is better experienced piecemeal, rather than in one sitting, when you'd be less inclined to notice the lack of variety in the programme.

\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Offline knight66

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Re: Favorite vocal recitals on CD or DVD
« Reply #350 on: April 25, 2019, 09:23:07 AM »
Naxos disc of Vaughn Williams songs sung by Roderick Williams Baritone, piano Iain Burnside.

I have been dimly aware of Roderick Williams, but have not listened to him an a concentrated way. I heard him singing some Delius and decided to look for some of his work. This disc has The Songs of Travel, The House of Life and from 20 years later in composition, four songs set to poems by Fredegond Shove.

The voice is light very sweet, open and forward, evenly produced and you can easily make out ever word he sings. He sounds very natural, which no doubt hides a lot of work.

He is expressive within bounds, everything is civilized. He is not going for visceral and I am very happy to take him on his own terms. There is nothing dull here and his legato draws the ear so that I sat up to hear the songs from the House of Life that had never really caught my ear before. The famous song in the set is Silent Noon, which is well done. But I thought the songs either side were finer. This is a singer created to sing Finzi, he does rhapsodic beautifully.

The Songs of Travel go very well, they are not etched into the mind as with Terfel for example. This is perhaps a more traditional approach. Of course, the piano is in safe hands, sensible tempi, sensitive painting of the sounds.

A delightful disc.

Mike
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Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: Favorite vocal recitals on CD or DVD
« Reply #351 on: April 27, 2019, 02:55:34 AM »




This disc was recorded back in 2003, when Joseph Calleja was a virtually unknown twenty-six year old, and on the threshhold of his career. At that time, the voice was a light lyric tenor with a distinctive fast vibrato, more akin to the sound of tenors like De Lucia and Bonci than what we have become used to since.

Repertoire on the disc is judicially chosen, and I am very surprised to see that in his most recent disc of Verdi arias, he tackles music for Otello, Manrico and Radames (though I don't think he has sung any of these roles on stage yet). Listening to the performances on this disc, one wouldn't suspect for a moment that the voice would develop to embrace that repertoire. So far he has taken his career slowly and I do hope he doesn't push himself too far.

But back to the recital disc in question, and I must say I find it very satisfying. Far from the can belto of so many tenors, there is lighness and grace to his singing, and he refreshingly brings as much attention to recitative as he does to an aria. Take the opening piece, the recitative to Alfredo's Dei miei bollenti spiriti, which brims with joyful high spirits, softening with a touch of intimacy at Qui presso a lei. The aria itself is sung with a nice buoyancy and affectionate phrasing, switching to a more propulsive manner for the cabeltta.

The Macbeth aria is sung with a deep sense of melancholy, whilst the Duke is all charm and insouciance, though the top D he attempts is a little insecure. Nemorino's Quanto e bella is delivered with a nice winsome charm, and Edgardo's final scene is suitably tragic.

I'm not sure the aria from Adrianna Lecouvreur was a good choice for him, as it seems to cry out for a beefier sound. Nevertheless his restraint is most welcome, and it is good to be free of all those sobs and aspirates that used to pass for emotion in some Italian tenors of an earlier generation

In all Riccardo Chailly offers impeccable support, and it is good that scenes are given complete with chorus and interjections from other singers (Linda Easley as Annina and Giovanni Battista Parodi as Raimondo).

All in all a very successful debut recital, and it is good to know that Calleja is still active today, largely fulfilling the promise he showed in this one.
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Offline André

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Re: Favorite vocal recitals on CD or DVD
« Reply #352 on: April 27, 2019, 04:02:15 AM »
When vacationing in Malta a few years ago the cd "Joseph Calleja: The Maltese Tenor" was prominently advertised and sold in various places. I had never heard of him. I bought the disc and liked what I heard. He sings lyric to spinto roles (Puccini’s and Massenet’s Des Grieux, Faust, Cavaradossi, but also Nadir, Rodolfo...). Definitely a very nice instrument, well schooled and tastefully used.

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: Favorite vocal recitals on CD or DVD
« Reply #353 on: April 28, 2019, 01:26:06 AM »


This four disc set is of recordings made between in the 1940s and early 1950s, when Tebaldi was in her twenties. It is a mixture of live and studio recordings, so sound quality varies quite a bit. It is also a convenient grouping together of four different discs issued by Fonit Cetra in 2002, which no doubt explains why we get so many different performances of the same aria. Given that there is little difference between them, you may decide you don't need to listen to four different performances of La mamma morta and of Desdemona's Willow Song.

And of course the first thing we need to say is that it was an extraordnarily beautiful voice, even throughout its range, firm and rich, her diction admirably clear, though, even at the beginning the very top could sound strained and off pitch. The top C climax to her 1950 Cetra studio recording of Aida's O patria mia is hard won and slightly under the note and the voice's greatest beauty lies in the middle register, though many of today's sopranos would also kill for the richness down below. Nor is she an unfeeling performer, though, at this stage in her career, it can tempt her into excess, especially when singing live, and she tends to sound lacrymose rather than truly moving. She goes way over the top in Desdemona's Willow Song, and she is much more restrained, and consequently more moving, in the Decca Karajan recording. The other thing to say about Tebaldi is that, however beautiful the voice, however firm the delivery, however musical her singing, her performances rarely stay in the memory, nor does she ever really light up a phrase or a line the way others can. Performances of some of this same music, by such as Muzio, Callas, Caballé, De Los Angeles and Schwarzkopf resonate in my mind's ear, and I can often recall individual details. With Tebaldi I never can. I can recall the sound of the voice, but little that is specific to the music she is singing. In these early performances, I found that she often over-characterises the music, introducing sobs and emphases which detract from the beauty of the sound, rather than make it more dramatic. It is somewhat akin to watching a hammy actor.

A few specifics then about the discs themselves. Disc 1 covers studio recordings made for Decca and Fonit Cetra in 1949 and 1950, arias from Aida, Madama Butterfly, Faust, Manon Lescaut, Tosca, Il Trovatore, La Traviata, Otello, La Boheme, Mefistofele, La Wally, Andrea Chénier and, most surprisingly Susanna's Deh vieni from Le Nozze di Figaro, though she makes a very heavyweight Susanna, and this is the least successful item on the first disc. Recorded sound here is fine here, and there is certainly much pleasure to be gained from the voice itself.

The prize of Disc 2 is some extended excerpts from a 1951 concert performance of Verdi's Giovanna d'Arco with Carlo Bergonzi and Rolando Panerai. Though she is taxed by some of the coloratura, the role suits her well. Also excellent are the two extracts from a 1950 performance of the Verdi Requiem under Toscanini, with Giacinto Pradelli, Cloe Elmo and Cesare Siepi. It is somewhat dimly recorded, but you can hear how fine she was in this work. Why Decca never recorded her in it is beyond me. A welcome surprise is Elisabeth's Dich, teure Halle (in Italian) from Tannhäuser. It is also good to hear the young Di Stefano in a 1950 concert performance of the Act I duet from Madama Butterfly.

Disc 3 is entitled Gli Inediti, which is presumably of previously unissued recordings. This time she sings the Countess's Porgi amor but, though more suited to the character, Mozart is not really her métier. The excerpts from a 1949 performance of Andrea Chénier wih Del Monaco are prime examples of that hamminess I alluded to, but she gives us a lovely performance of Louise's Depuis le jour in Italian. It lacks Callas's quiet intensity and mounting rapture, but is much more securely sung and works well on its own terms. The disc closes with a small piece of history; a 1945 performance of the love duet from Otello, with the then almost sixty year old Francesco Merli, though recording here is at its dimmest. Nevertheless it affords us a glimpse of the great tenor in one of his most famous roles.

The fourth disc pits Tebaldi against her teacher, Carmen Melis. Excerpts from Tebaldi's first recordings of La Boheme and Madama Butterfly, which I personally prefer to her later recordings under Serafin, and arias from Manon Lescaut and Tosca, all very fine. Melis is caught in excerpts from Tosca and Massenet's Manon. She is a singer who is new to me, and I must say I found her very impressive, and actually more communicative than her pupil, though the top C at the line Io quella lama gli piantai nel cor is a little precarious, and she takes the upper option on the word cor. The Manon excerpt is Manon's N'est-ce plus ma main (in Italian) from the duet with Des Grieux, and she is wonderfully seductive and persuasive.

Tebaldi is a central singer in that she demonstrates most of the virtues of good singing. The voice is a beautiful one, the line always firmly held, her legato generally excellent. Her only faults are a lack of a trill and clumsy execution of fast moving music (hardly necessary in most of the music she sang) and a slightly short top. (I remember that in her interview with Luca Rasponi for the book The Last of the Prima Donnas, she bemoans the ever rising pitch of modern orcehstras, which must have been a nightmare for her.) My preferences are well know, and I prefer singers who have something more specific to say about the music they assay, but the set is one I still enjoy dipping into from time to time.
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Offline André

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Re: Favorite vocal recitals on CD or DVD
« Reply #354 on: April 28, 2019, 07:42:00 AM »
My own reaction to Tebaldi’s art is quite similar to yours.

She did not record the Verdi Requiem for Decca, but that label has issued a live performance from 1951, which I listened to recently and briefly commented in the WAYL thread. The back of the jewel case has an honest assessment of the sound (quite rough). I found Tebaldi very uneven in the part, sometimes gorgeous, sometimes vulgar - as if she was singing Nedda or Santuzza.




Her best work IMO is to be found in her portrayal of Liú in the Leinsdorf recording. THAT one is memorable.

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: Favorite vocal recitals on CD or DVD
« Reply #355 on: April 28, 2019, 10:15:03 PM »
My own reaction to Tebaldi’s art is quite similar to yours.

She did not record the Verdi Requiem for Decca, but that label has issued a live performance from 1951, which I listened to recently and briefly commented in the WAYL thread. The back of the jewel case has an honest assessment of the sound (quite rough). I found Tebaldi very uneven in the part, sometimes gorgeous, sometimes vulgar - as if she was singing Nedda or Santuzza.




Her best work IMO is to be found in her portrayal of Liú in the Leinsdorf recording. THAT one is memorable.

You've hit the nail on the head, and it's one of the things I don't like about Tebaldi. Given the voice itself was gorgeous, I find she cam sometimes be vulgar, introducing the worst excesses of the verismo singer into all the music she sings, more in evidence in these early recordings than it was later. Her Desdemona, for instance, is a lot more poised for Karajan in 1961 than it was in the earlier performances. How much this was due to a refinement in her art and how much was down to Karajan not allowing her her usual intrusive sobs, I don't know.

\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: Favorite vocal recitals on CD or DVD
« Reply #356 on: April 29, 2019, 12:50:25 AM »




Well this is something of a hotch potch, no doubt explained by its provenance - music included in the 1991 documentary film made after his recovery from leukemia My Barcelona, a celebration of the unique relationship between the man and the city of his birth.

What we get is a mixture of operatic arias, popular song and excerpts from Ramirez's Navidad Nuestra and Misa Criola, which, surprisingly perhaps, makes for a pleasantly varied disc.

No great revelations, I suppose. Carreras is at his honeyed best in Cavaradossi's E lucevan le stelle from the 1976 Davis recording of Tosca, a performance of poetic beauty, made before some of the heavier repertoire he essayed took a toll on his essentially lyric tenor, but most of the selections give pleasure. I particularly enjoy his version with piano of Mompou's haunting Damunt de tu només los flors and the Ramirez pieces are also great fun.

An undemanding but enjoyable disc.
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: Favorite vocal recitals on CD or DVD
« Reply #357 on: April 30, 2019, 12:45:42 AM »


On 17 February 1959, Joan Sutherland sang her first Lucia di Lammermoor at Covent Garden. She had first been engaged at Covent Garden in 1952, singing small parts, such as Clotilde to Callas's Norma. That same year she sang her first leading role there (Amelia in Un Ballo in Maschera), but the administration didn't at first realise her potential and the roles she sang (Agathe, The Countess, Desdemona, Gilda, Eva, Pamina, Lady Rich in Gloriana and Jennifer in Tippett's The Midsummer Marriage) gave no real indication of the direction her career would take. She herself had thought she would be a Wagnerian soprano, but Richard Bonynge, who married her in 1954, eventually convinced her otherwise, and in 1959 Covent Garden gave her the honour of a new production of Lucia di Lammermoor, directed by Franco Zeffirelli and conducted by Tullio Serafin. Sutherland proved a sensation, and, at the age of 35, she became a star, in demand all over the world for dramatic coloratura roles.

This disc adds to her debut recital, made shortly after the Covent Garden Lucia, two arias from one of her most successful sets The Art of the Prima Donna  (Casta diva and the I Puritani Mad Scene), recorded in 1960 and Santo di patria, lifted from another set The Age of Bel Canto, recorded in 1963.

Those who know me will know I am not much of a Sutherland fan. The mannerisms (the mushy diction especially, the droopy portamenti, the weak lower register) that crept in as early as the 1960s irritate me so much I find it hard to listen, and the beauty of the voice is, for me at least, no compensation.

It is good to be reminded, then, that it was not always so, and she sounds quite different here, the voice much more forwardly produced, and, even if she rarely uses the words to suddenly bring a phrase into sharp relief, her diction is much clearer as a result. Maybe this has something to do with the conductors she was working with then, all Italians, Nello Santi for the debut recital, Francesco Molinari-Pradelli for The Art of the Prima Donna, Tullio Serafin at Covent Garden. Interestingly Serafin advised her to study the role of Lady Macbeth, but Bonynge obviously thought otherwise.

The main meat of the disc, however, is that first ever recital made with the Paris Conservatoire Orchestra under Nello Santi. Lucia's two big solos were an obvious choice, to which are added Merce, dilette amiche from Verdi's I Vespri Siciliani, Ernani! Ernani involami from Ernani and O luce di quest'anima from Donizetti's Linda di Chamounix.

Throughout the technical command is stunning, as is the beauty of voice, the top notes, of which there are many, one of its greatest glories. Nor is she just a technical machine. Though there is little attempt at vocal characterisation (Norma doesn't sound much different from Lucia), she is not an unfeeling singer. There is command in Norma's Sediziose voce, poetic feeling in the recitative to the Ernani aria, breezy grace in the aria from I Vespri Siciliani.

Fresh from the success of the Covent Garden performances, the Lucia arias are predictably best of all. Here not only is the execution vocally stunning, but she is the very epitome of the young Romantic heroine, driven mad by despair. Like Callas, she is a far cry from the piping, doll-like sopranos who had made Lucia something of a laughing stock among opera cognoscenti by then. Unfortunately already by her first complete recording of the opera made in 1961,  the tone has become more occluded, the diction less precise, the vowels begin to be rounded and dulled, and the vitality and immediacy heard here starts to droop.

Though vital and alive in the scene from Verdi's Attila, conducted by Richard Bonynge, the diction is not as clear as it is on that frst recital, though the recording here does give some indication as to the size and fullness of the voice. Even with that small niggle about the diction, this is still a stunning performance, thrilliingly dramatic, and I've never heard it better sung. Deutekom on the Philips complete set is pallid by comparison.

So this disc, along with The Art of the Prima Donna are, I would suggest, essential Sutherland, and remain permanent parts of my collection. The rest I personally can live without.
« Last Edit: April 30, 2019, 01:47:04 AM by Tsaraslondon »
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: Favorite vocal recitals on CD or DVD
« Reply #358 on: May 02, 2019, 04:19:48 AM »




This two-disc compilation is drawn from the EMI catalogue and includes arias taken both from complete sets and recital discs.

People often go misty-eyed at the mere mention of Franco Corelli and he still inspires a huge following among opera lovers. For many he can do no wrong, and certianly the voice was a magnificent one, unique and no doubt a God-given gift. For me it's more often a case of (to paraphrase the song from A Chorus Line) voice ten, artistry three. Not always, I hasten to add, and, if the performances on this set are anything to go by, he did respond to a strong hand at the helm. Predictably the best of them tend to be taken from complete sets, particularly those conducted by Zubin Mehta (Celeste Aida), Lovro von Matacic (Vesti la giubba) and Tullio Serafin (Pollione's Meco all'altar di Venere from the second Callas Norma), which is arguably the best of all).

These are all on Disc One, where elsewhere there is just too much can belto sobbing. Manrico's Ah si, ben mio, from the Schippers complete set, is delivered at a relentless forte (why not his stunning Di qella pira, I wonder?), as are the excerpts from the Santini recording of Andrea Chénier. Worst of all is the graceless, over-loud version of Roméo's Ah, lève-toi, soleil, sung in execrable French. Listen to this and then to Bjørling, Kraus, Gedda or Alagna to hear how beautifully poetic the aria can sound.

Disc 2 has even less to commend it, I'm afraid. The best performances are taken from a recital record with an unknown orchestra under one, Franco Ferraris. Cavaradossi's Recondita armonia lacks poetry, but E lucevan le stelle is much better, though he rather ruins the final measures with an excess of sobbing. Cielo e mar is also a fine, sensitive performance, with the added bonus of those gloriously free and ringing top notes.
 
But the less said about some of the items though, the better. After the operatic arias, we are treated (I'm not sure that is the correct word) to a selection from, presumably, a record of sacred arias, all in absolutey ghastly arrangements. Handel's ubiquitous Largo from Semele is mangled almost beyond recognition, the Schubert and Bach/Gounod Ave Marias sung through a sort of treacle soup, and Rossini's Domine Deus from the Petite Messe Solenelle bludgeoned to death. Franck's Panis angelicus, taken, by the looks of things, from another album, doesn't fare much better, nor, surprisngly does Lara's Granada from the same album. Not entirely Corelli's fault, as the arrangement is quite possibly the most ghastly I've ever heard, the tempo pulled around so much the piece loses any sense of flow. What price Wunderlich's gloriously ebullient and sunny version for DG? Corelli sounds plain angry.

Fortunately the final two items somewhat redeem this sorry mess. The arrangements might not be much better, but in Cardillo's Core 'ngrato and De Curtis's Torna a Sorriento, one just basks in the Mediterranean warmth of Corelli's glorious tenor. It is moments like these that remind us of why we listen to him.
« Last Edit: May 02, 2019, 12:10:46 PM by Tsaraslondon »
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: Favorite vocal recitals on CD or DVD
« Reply #359 on: May 03, 2019, 12:16:50 AM »




It was in 1979 that Kurt Weill's widow, Lotte Lenya, saw Stratas singing the role of Jenny in The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahoganny. Knocked out by Stratas's performance, she called her her "dream Jenny", and afterwards she wrote to her, "nobody can sing Weill's music better than you do," and offered her a number of unpublished songs that she had closely guarded since Weill's death in 1950.

The result was the first of these two discs, recorded in 1981, in which Stratas sings a collection of songs to piano accompaniment by Richard Woitach. Unfortunately, for the CD release, Nonesuch omitted the lyrics and translations that were included with the original LP, and what notes that remain are in minuscule print, almost too small to read without a magnifying glass. This seems little short of a crime, given Stratas's vividly dramatic performances. Even without the aid of translations you can get a gist of their meaning, but how much more satisfying the disc would be be if we knew exactly what she was singing.You might be able to find texts and translations of some of them by scouring the internet, but it's a long and arduous task.

Most people had no doubt got used to Lenya singing Weill's songs in her gravelly baritone, but, as Lenya herself pointed out, her voice dropped over the years, and Stratas was performing them in the original keys. That said, most of these originally written for cabaret, had hardly ever been performed since and were here receiving their first recordings, though they are much better known now, and Weill selections have appeared from artists as diverse as Anne-Sophie von Otter and Ute Lemper.

Teresa Stratas was 54 at the time of the first recording. She had made her professional debut at the age of 20, joining the Met company the following year (1959), becoming a Met favourite until her final performance there in 1995 (in the role of Jenny in The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahoganny). The voice can be termed useful rather than beautiful, and, though a diminutive figure, she had a powerful stage presence, great personal beauty and was a superb actress. This might explain why she made comparatively few recordings, the most famous probably being Pierre Boulez's recording of the completed Lulu, a role she had made her own in the Paris premiere. Beautiful or not, it was the perfect instrument for Weill's songs, which rely on expression rather than beauty of tone.

Favourites for me here are the two settings of the same melody, one French, one German Wie lange noch and Je ne t'aime pas, the two Propaganda Songs Buddy on the Night Shift and Schikelgruber, and the glorious Youkali. Though the second disc is enlivened by the orchestral accompaniments, I have a special affection for the more intimate piano settings.

This second disc appeared four years later, and is more far reaching, though much of the material was more well known. The Y Chamber Orchestra under Gerard Schwarz  has an undeniable of a theatre orchestra about it, which is perfect for the material. The songs are taken from Broadway musicals, and both German and French theatre works. Texts and translations are at least included, though print is again minuscule.

Stratas's range is formidable. Though capable of the "Brechtian bark" we are probably more used to, it is bound into the fabric of her performance, as is the full operatic soprano at key moments. Consequently not only do we get the full meaning of the lyrics, but the lyricism of Weill's writing is revealed to a much greater extent. Take the most famous song on the album, Surabaya Johnny, which emerges almost as a mini psycho-drama for solo performer. Her French and German are both impeccable, her command of the Broadway idiom just about perfect (a few years later she was to record the role of Julie in John McGlinn's first ever complete recording of Jerome Kern's Showboat). One of the most glorious performances is of Lonely house from Street Scene, which is swirlingly lyrical with an aching loneliness.

Both discs are an absolute must.
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

 

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