Author Topic: Favorite vocal recitals on CD or DVD  (Read 90758 times)

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Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: Favorite vocal recitals on CD or DVD
« Reply #420 on: June 21, 2019, 01:25:54 AM »


This was Katia Ricciarelli's debut recital, released in 1972 when she would have been 26. For this 1991 CD release, BMG added two items from a duet recital with Domingo, made at the same time.

Ricciarelli had an illustrious career and prolific recording career, but, it always seems to me, has never enjoyed the acclaim of her slightly older Italian contemporaries, Mirella Freni and Renata Scotto. She perhaps asked a little more of her essentially lyrical voice than it would deliver but, unlike singers like Sass and Souliotis, she was intelligent enough to later drop some of her dramatic roles in favour of more lyric fare. Her Turandot might have been ill advised but, like Sutherland's, it was confined to the studio.

This Verdi disc catches her at her peak singing, for the most part, a selection of unfamiliar arias from Giovanna d'Arco, I Masnadieri, Jérusalem, Il Corsaro and I Vespri Siciliani as well as arias from Otello, Il Trovatore and Don Carlo, plus duets from Un Ballo in Maschera and Otello with Domingo.

The voice is a beautiful one and she is an imaginative singer, responsive to mood and text, but there are occasions when her legato is not as good as one might wish. If one were to compare her performance here of Medora's Non so le tetre immagini with a late one by Callas, made in 1969, it is to find that, despite Callas's by this time waning resources, the long line is maintained, the wide intervals bound more closely together, where Ricciarelli can be a little angular. Nor is Ricciarelli's coloratura technique as clean as Callas's. One is grateful for the beauty of the tone and her dramatic involvement, nonetheless.

Ricciarelli is a singer I have come to appreciate more with the passing of the years. I heard her live a few times, on the last occasion at a concert at the Barbican when her voice was probably past its best. The programe consisted mainly of bel canto arias, and I remember well her outstanding singing of Giulietta's Oh quante volte, so good that it held the audience in rapt silence. She was forced to repeat the aria as an encore at the end of the night.

She is always musical, always alert to the drama, always imaginative and this Verdi disc is a good reminder of her excellence in the field. There are very few sopranos singing today who could touch her in this repertoire.

« Last Edit: June 21, 2019, 01:34:21 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 #421 on: June 23, 2019, 02:21:18 AM »


These days, with Domingo's sometimes less successful forays into the baritone repertoire, it is easy to forget just how amazing his career was, not to mention how long it has lasted. This two disc set is a composite of three recitals made in 1968, 1971 and 1972 when Domingo (27 at the time of the first disc) was already an experienced artist, having first appeared on stage at the age of sixteen and singing his first major role (Alfredo) in 1961 at the age of 20.

The earliest of these recitals, which was given the title Romantic Arias heralded the arrival of a major artist, not only a tenor but a musician. The repertoire is wide ranging, taking in music from Handel to Mascagni and he sings in Italian, French, German and Russian. I can't think of many tenors, even from the golden age of 78s, who could sing Puccini and Mascagni with so much passion and yet give us a wonderfully accomplished Il mio tesoro from Don Giovanni, the longest run sung cleanly and accurately and not only spun out in a single breath but phrased through into the next statement of the opening tune. The only other tenor I've come across who manages it as well is John McCormack. In all, whether it be in Lohengrin's Narration or Lensky's aria, sung in Russian, his singing is musical and immaginative. If we were to nitpick, it might be to note that, especially in the Italian items, there is a lack of excitement, of real intensity, though I'd aver both are qualities that later served to make him the best Otello to be heard for many years. So he may not thrill in the manner of a Franco Corelli, but could Corelli have ever embraced such a wide range of differing music styles with such musicality and sensibility? I dount it very much. So let's be grateful for what we have.

The second disc entitled Domingo sings Caruso is less wide ranging, most of the arias more well known, though it does include an aria for Marcello from Leoncavallo's version of La Bohème, and the third La Voce d'Oro, an apt description of the golden tone that pours forth. Again, in both recitals, one might note that his singing can be a little generic, but his musical sensibilities are always evident. Nor does he ever indulge in the vulgar mannerisms of some who preceded him. His singing is always tasteful, his musical manners impeccable.

To the three recitals, BMG have added two Leoncavallo arias (another from La Bohème and one from Chatterton) which were originally included as fill-ups for his recording of I Pagliacci under Nello Santi. Both are attractive pieces, wonderfully sung by Domingo.

Looking at Domingo's website I see his calendar is still pretty full, with engagements, both singing and conducting, booked up to November next year. It is a remarkable achievement for a man approaching his eighties. There is no doubt the promise of these early recitals has been not only fulfilled but surpassed. Now that we have said goodbye to Domingo the tenor, now might be a good time to go back to these early recordings and remember just how good he was.




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

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: Favorite vocal recitals on CD or DVD
« Reply #422 on: June 28, 2019, 11:11:15 PM »


A four disc set that collects together all five of Leontyne Price's Prima Donna recital records proves to be a variable pleasure.

Full review on my blog https://tsaraslondon.wordpress.com/2019/06/29/leontyne-price-the-prima-donna-collection/

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

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: Favorite vocal recitals on CD or DVD
« Reply #423 on: June 29, 2019, 12:50:21 AM »




This 1997 compilation of recordings by Kathleen Ferrier was no doubt leveled at the popular Classic FM market. Not a whiff about the provenance of the various tracks, no texts or translations, nor a mention of the accompanists, amongst whom would be the illustrious name of Bruno Walter.

There is, however, a great deal of pleasure to be had from this hotch potch of songs and arias, even if it would seem that very little thought has gone into the programming.

Kathleen Ferrier died from cancer in 1953, at the age of 41 at the height of her career. She had made her operatic debut at Glyndebourne in 1946, creating the role of Lucretia in Britten's The Rape of Lucretia and following it with that of Orfeo in Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice, a role with which she was particularly associated (and indeed there are two versions of Orpheus's Lament included here, one in Italian and one in English). She also formed close associations with Sir John Barbirolli and Bruno Walter, who later wrote "I recognised with delight that here potentially was one of the greatest singers of our time." A memento of their association is included here in a thrillingly intense version of Um Mitternacht from Mahler's Rückert LIeder and of course most people will be aware of their great recording of Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde.

Ferrier, a genuine contralto of the sort that seems to have gone out of fashion today, had a voice that one most associates with a grave solemnity, suited to such pieces as Have mercy, Lord, on me from Bach's St Matthew Passion, but it could equally turn to gaiety and lightness, as it does here in such songs as Bridge's Go not happy day and the traditional song I know where I am going, both delivered with perfect, natural, unforced diction, which never impedes her natural legato. I also particularly enjoy the beautiful Quilter songs, which we rarely hear these days.

The Handel and Bach items would get no points for authenticity today, but, if the style and voice might seem old-fashioned, her sincerity and gift for communication do not. Her singing has a way of going straight to the heart in a way that should never go out of fashion.

There are better representations of Ferrier's art out there, but this one serves well as an introduction to a great singer, who died far too young.
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: Favorite vocal recitals on CD or DVD
« Reply #424 on: July 01, 2019, 12:37:34 AM »




Lucia Popp, who tragically died of brain cancer at the age of 54, is one of those sopranos everyone seems to love, and with good reason. She had a winning personality, an immediately recognisable voice of great beauty and a rare gift for communication.

She made her debut at the age of 23, a light coloratura, singing roles such as the Queen of the Night, Blonde, Zerlina, Despina, Sophie, Oscar and Susanna, but by her 30s had moved on to the lyric repertoire and her roles would henceforth be Pamina, the Countess or the Marschallin. She was also active on the concert patform and was a superb recitalist, and this compilation, taken from her EMI recordings, is a good example of her work in all fields.

Disc 1 concentrates on works with orchestra starting with a lovely rendition of Rusalka's Song to the Moon, taken from a 1988 recital of Slavonic Arias. She is ideal in the two Smetana arias too, but the Letter Scene from Eugene Onegin, which closes disc 1, ideally requires a fuller tone. One appreciates the fullness of heart nonetheless.

Gorgeous in every way are the exceprts from the Frühbeck de Burgos recording of Carmina Burana, no doubt the main reason many of us consider his recording a first choice for the work. I was lucky enough to hear Popp sing Strauss's Vier letzte Lieder under Tennstedt at the Royal Festival Hall in the early 1980s and their 1982 recording has long been considered a top recommendation for the work, so it is good to have it here included in its entirety. A further reminder of their artistic collaboration is the inclusion of the fourth movement of Mahler's Symphony no 4, where Popp strikes and ideal note of childlike innocence.

Disc 2 starts with some 1967 recordings of Handel and continues with Mozart, taken both from complete recordings and a 1983 recital, so we get examples of her Queen of the Night under Klemperer and her Pamina under Haitink (both often considered touch stones for the roles). I don't know if she ever sang Donna Anna on stage and I'm not sure the voice would ever have been right for the role. None the less the line in Non mi dir is beautifully sustained and the coloratura section cleanly articulated in a way heavier voices don't often achieve. The Schubert songs expose a slight lack of colour, and we note that she is better at expressing joy as in Die Forelle and An Sylvia than the drama inherent in Gretchen am Spinnrade. On the other hand that fullness of heart I spoke about earlier suits Strauss's Zueignung to perfection.

If one were to find any other fault, it would be to note that her legato is not always perfect. She has a tendency to use what John Steane once referred to as the squeeze-box method of production, where each individual note is given a slight push which impedes the long legato line. One might also note that the voice lost some of its silvery purity in the later recordings. She was a considerable artist, nonetheless, and this compendium, which finishes with Popp letting her hair down in arias from Die lustige Witwe and Die Fledermaus can be considered to live up to its title.

« Last Edit: July 01, 2019, 12:48:06 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 #425 on: July 05, 2019, 10:03:55 AM »




If we are to say goodbye to Renée Fleming the opera singer, then now might be a good time to be reminded of this, one of her most successful recital discs, recorded in 1996, when Fleming was at the height of her powers, and before the tendency to indulge in jazzy slides and swoops had become too pronounced.

All but one of the roles represented here were part of her stage repertoire at the time, and she would in fact go on to sing Strauss's Daphne in 2005.

The programme is both varied and interesting. We start with both of Countess Almavivas arias from Le Nozze di Figaro, sung with ideal poise and beauty of tone, before plunging into the romantic imaginings of Tchaikovsky's lovelorn Tatyana. Fleming plays the ardently impulsive young girl to the life. She yearns indwardly In Rusalka's Song to the Moon, and I doubt I have ever heard Ellen's Embroidery Aria from Peter Grimes sung with such superb control and feeling. Desdemona's Willow Song and Ave Maria crops up on many recitals, but Fleming does not suffer at all by comparison with such well known interpreters as Rethberg, Ponselle or Tebaldi.

I suppose the two cornerstones of Fleming's repertoire have been Mozart and Strauss, so it is fitting that, having started with Mozart, we should finish with Struass, a suitably ecsatic version of the closing scene from Daphne.

The recital is beautifully presented with Larissa Diadkova contributing as Filipyevna and Emilia and Jonathan Summers as Balstrode. The London Symphony Orchestra under Solti provide excellent support.

The only criticism I would have is that her diction is not always as good as it might be, but in all other respects this is a classic recital disc.
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: Favorite vocal recitals on CD or DVD
« Reply #426 on: July 07, 2019, 02:20:38 AM »


Rosa Ponselle is known for having one of the most extraordinary voices ever to be recorded. Along with Caruso and Ruffo, she was one of Serafin's "three miracles" and had a voice of unparalleled richness and power. According to Walter Legge, the voice was "majestic, enormously rich in overtones. Her legato was perfect with a breath control that only makes the listener breathless with amazement."

Her career was not long, and she retired relatively early at the age of 40. Some say her withdrawal from the stage was precipitated by adverse criticisms for her Carmen, but it could just as well have been put down to her shrinking top register. The rest of the voice remained admirably secure and rich however, and recordings made at her villa in the 1950s reveal it still to be firm as a rock, though she hadn't sung in public for many years.

Her first recordings were acoustics made for Columbia, but she switched to Victor in 1923, when from 1925, her recordings were made using the electrical process, and all the recordings here have been produced by Ward Marston. The collection gathers together just one recording of every Verdi extract Ponselle recorded, so there are no duplications and, where she did record an extract twice, Marston has chosen whichever he considered to be the best, regardless of whether it was acoustic or electrical.

If we are to think of the ideal Verdi soprano, then Ponselle is undoubtedly the voice to which one would turn, its timbre rich and velvety with ample reserves of power, admirably firm but flexible, limpid and responsive. If there are any faults, they tend to be attributable to the recording process and the strictures of side lengths, thus the recitative to the Ernani aria is somehwat perfunctory and rushed where Callas is incredibly detailed with a much greater range of tone colour.

I wonder too about pitch. Ponselle was known to occasionally employ downward transpositions, so would D'amor sull'ali rosee (recorded acoustically in 1918) be sung at pitch, gven the fact she opts for the optional high Db? It is a lovely performance, the high notes poised and beautifully integrated into the line, so maybe questions of pitch don't really matter, though they would affect the sound of the voice itself.

Nevertheless all the performances here could be considered models of Verdi style, not only the arias, but the duets with Martinelli, Pinza and Stracciari and the final trio from La Forza del Destino with both Martinelli and Pinza, surely one of the greatest versions of ths scene ever committed to disc. Other favourtes for me would be the Miserere (with Martinelli) which exploits her gloriously rich lower register and La vergine degli angeli from La Forza del Destino, her legato perfect and the line spun out on a pure, firm thread of sound the likes of which you will not hear from any other singer.

Of course Ponselle was much more than a Verdi soprano, as we know from recordings of excerpts from Norma, La Gioconda and L'Africaine, as well as songs, but it is good to have here a collection of Verdi arias sug by arguably the greatest Verdi soprano of the twentieth century.

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

Offline KevinP

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Re: Favorite vocal recitals on CD or DVD
« Reply #427 on: July 08, 2019, 03:33:25 PM »
Probably not worth starting a new thread about, so I'll ask here:

Who would you like to see get a big box release of vocal recitals?

My first choice would probably Martti Talvela.

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: Favorite vocal recitals on CD or DVD
« Reply #428 on: July 10, 2019, 12:28:20 AM »
Probably not worth starting a new thread about, so I'll ask here:

Who would you like to see get a big box release of vocal recitals?

My first choice would probably Martti Talvela.

I'd probably go for Victoria De Los Angeles. There have been a few box sets, but nothing as exhaustive as the ones for Callas, Schwarzkopf and Janet Baker. I had an LP set called Les Introuvables de Victoria De Los Angeles, which was much better than ant of those that have come out on CD since.
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: Favorite vocal recitals on CD or DVD
« Reply #429 on: July 12, 2019, 11:39:07 PM »




"Great Moments" is the title of this three disc compilation, issued in 2000, and EMI certainly had a great deal to choose from. Nicolai Gedda must be one of the most recorded tenors in history. I suppose one should point out that the "moments" here are all purely operatic. To get a more rounded view of Gedda's range, both in range and repertoire, one would have to include his work in orotorio and song, embracing music from Bach to the present day, as well as some operetta. But this is a sensible conflation of music from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, covering twenty years of recording from 1952 to 1974.

Gedda was a keen linguist and sang virtually without accent in French, German, Italian, Spanish, Russian, English and his native Swedish. This linguistic ability no doubt also informed the vast range of music and styles he was able to embrace. It certainly makes for a pleasingly varied selection of excerpts.

Disc one is made up, mostly, of the earliest material, hence we have excerpts from his splendid Dimitri on the 1952 Dobrowen recording of Boris Godunov (with Eugenia Zareska) and the whole of his first recital for EMI, recorded in 1953. A further excerpt from Boris Godunov from a 1969 recital is included, along with an aria from Rimsky-Korsakov's May Night which shows the voice virtually unchanged in seventeen years, though the style is possibly a little more assertive.

The 1953 recital is a real treasure-trove of delights, opening with a version of Lensky's Act II aria, which is so beautiful that it bears comparison with Sobinov. He sings it as an inner monologue, the pianissimo reprise spun out in mastery fashion. Also wonderful are his honeyed performance of Du pauvre seul ami fidèle from Auber's La Muette de Portici and the glorious mezza voce legato of Nadir's Au fond du temple saint. The other French items are just as desirable, but he also delivers an ardently poetic Cielo e mar from Ponchielli's La Gioconda and his sadly restrained performane of Federico's Lament from Cilea's L'Arlesiana. Some may prefer a more overtly passionate rendering in the manner of Corelli, but personally I find Gedda's vocal restraint quite refreshing and not in the least bit unemtional. This first disc ends with a joyfully ebullient version of Mes amis, écoutez l'histoire from Adam's Le postillon de Lonjumeau, sung in Swedish and recorded live in 1952.

Disc 2 is also wide ranging, starting with music by Rousseau, Gluck (Gedda coping superbly with the high tessitura of Gluck's tenor version of Orphée et Eurydice) and Mozart, before moving on to the German Romantic repertoire. Taken from a 1957 recital disc, Don Ottavio's arias and Tamino's Dies Bildnis ist bezaubernd schön are much better than on the complete Klemperer recordings, with a lovely smile in the tone for Tamino's aria. Belmonte's Ich baue ganz, recorded in 1967 with the Bath Festival Orchestra under Sir Yehudi Menuhin and sung in impeccable English, is brilliantly done. Exciting performances of Huon's arias from Oberon lead us into the German Romantics. Gedda only once sang Lohengrin on stage, but decided that Wagner wasn't for him. His lyrical approach to In fernem Land and Mein lieber Schwann is very beautfiful nonetheless.

Best of all on this second disc is a magical performance of Magische Töne, sung in a ravishing mezza voce of ineffable sweetness, the long legato line beautifully and firmly held. This is great singing, no doubt about it.

Disc 3 is of French and Italian arias and duets. It starts with a superb performance of La gloire était ma seule idole from Berlioz's Benvenuto Cellini, a role Gedda made very much his own and of course later recorded complete under Sir Colin Davis. Next comes a dramatic version of Un autre est son époux from Werther, the joyful Aubade from Lalo's Le Roi d'Ys, and the Raoul/Marguerite duet from Les Huguenots (with Mady Mesplé) with Arnold's Asil hérèditaire from Rossini's Guillaume Tell, with its fabulously ringing top notes, leading us into the Italian bel canto items.

Mirella Freni joins him for duets from La Sonnambula, Lucia di Lammermoor and Don Pasquale whilst alone he sings Edgardo's Tombe degli avi miei and Ernesto's Cercherò lontana terra. The Bellini had me wishing he had been engaged for Callas's studio recording of La Sonnambula rather than the ineffectual Monti. After all he had already sung Narciso in her recording of Il Turco in Italia.

Freni, who had yet to venture into more dramatic repertoire, blends well with Gedda in the duets, but back in 1966 she had yet to learn how to project personality in a recording. Her singing is lovely but a little anonymous. Both the solo items could be considered models of bel canto style but are also sung with appreciation of the dramatic situation, the recitatives vividly delivered.

To finish we have a clutch of encores, including Lara's Granada and the lovely Berceuse from Godard's Jocelyn, which give us a glimpse of Gedda's prowess in lighter fare and remind us of that Gedda also recorded a lot of operetta.

Given Gedda was such a prolific recording artist, there was a lot to choose from when compiling a set of Great Moments, and no doubt the set could have extended to many more discs. There is no doubt, though, that EMI have chosen some plums from his discography and there isn't a dud performance on the whole set. Extravagantly recommended.
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Offline André

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Re: Favorite vocal recitals on CD or DVD
« Reply #430 on: July 13, 2019, 02:57:09 PM »
Last disc of The Art of Grace Bumbry box on DGG:



It would appear this crossover recital was made in the 1990s. Closely miked vocals,  instrumentals and soupy arrangements notwithstanding, this finds Bumbry  in fine vocal fettle, the mid and lower ranges rock solid and the expression nicely world-weary, as befits such numbers as Sometimes When We Touch, Was It a Dream, My Way, etc.

I was reminded of another big-voiced, big-hearted soprano, Eileen Farrell, whose string of pop/blues ballad albums on the Reference label make me swoon every time. One could quibble about the inclusion of such stuff in a ‘serious’ homage compilation such as this and think of it as a mere indulgence from an over-the-hill artist. I think Bumbry should be allowed to go for what she does best, pouring her heart and soul into whatever material she fancies. Met diva Helen Traubel was castigated by management for ‘cheapening’ her brand in cabaret and Broadway appearances. She couldn’t care less and kept doing what she felt like doing.

Offline KevinP

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Re: Favorite vocal recitals on CD or DVD
« Reply #431 on: July 14, 2019, 07:08:20 PM »
Last disc of The Art of Grace Bumbry box on DGG:

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I haven't brought myself to listen to this one yet.


Quote
One could quibble about the inclusion of such stuff in a ‘serious’ homage compilation such as this

Maybe, but another way of looking at it is that this disc wouldn't sell enough to warrant a dedicated release. To some extent, I think part of the rationale behind these big boxes is to give home to such releases. Pop crossover LPs and native folksong albums tend to get included if the artist recorded them.

Even without the more 'novelty' discs (which may be an unfair label), a ten-disc box set by an opera singer will get those ten discs into more homes than ten individual releases. (Although that would get some discs into far more homes.) And the presumably small percentage of people who really want the crossover discs will have to splurge on the box set.