GMG Classical Music Forum

The Music Room => Opera and Vocal => Topic started by: knight66 on March 23, 2014, 08:37:59 AM

Title: Currentzis Opera Recordings
Post by: knight66 on March 23, 2014, 08:37:59 AM
Here is what feels to me like an extraordinary and in most ways a superb new Figaro recording from Sony. I heard part on Spotify and what I heard sent me scurrying to buy the set, read all about the performance and ensure the best sound I could get for myself.

Teodor Currentzis prepared and conducts what sounds like the best live performance you will ever hear: but the art is in hiding the painstaking months of long preparation and arrive with something that sounds spontaneous, fizzing and by turn affecting. This company introduces original instrument Mozart to Russia via Perm its most easterly city. There is nothing remotely provincial about the outcome. The whole set up, facilitated by a very enlightened and savvy mayor permits extravagant rehearsals for performances and in this case the recording.

The musicians work in a commune which explores many kinds of 'art' visual, poetry, plays etc, etc and they marinade themselves in many seemingly unrelated works to enrich themselves and their performances.

So, what is distinctive? The rhythms are sprung, no smoothing out of lines in a Romantic style. The score has been spring cleaned of traditional practice and facsimile copies of the original consulted. The results can startle in texture and sometimes sheer ferocity. But this is not a driven fast ride, there are passages of tenderness and many are allowed to breathe. A forte piano is used as continuo and permitted to basically become an additional character throughout. I think this works well, but will not be to everyone's taste. It does not play ad-hoc through all the arias, but there is a lot more continuo here than we are used to.

So...to the singing. Everyone sounds inside their parts and all sing extremely well. There is plenty of characterisation. Only one name is familiar to me, Simone Kermes. She is splendid. But my problem here is that all the female voices sound similar to one another......white.....you will not encounter that distinctive suspension of time as in the Bohm version with voices such as Janowitz and Mathis taking you to another place. Even the mezzo Cherubino sounds like a soprano to me. The women are very clearly engaged, there is lots of expression within the phrasing, they sing prettily, there is charm a'plenty but with minimal vibrato used there is no colour. Whereas the orchestra is released from any confines of polite Mozart tradition, these women are caged into a pale sound-world where a long note is NOT developed, there is not coolness, but there is not warmth.  The men suffer much less and their voices are more distinct.

So, I have one major reservation, but it does not prevent me from urging people to hear all the remarkable things here.

The presentation is beyond lavish and my version, including a hard backed book with over 300 pages, also provided a bluray disc containing the performance. The essays are fascinating and we are promised the other two da Ponte operas over the next 18 months. I predict this conductor will not be changing this sound-world in any particular, we will get the same vocal qualities as well as what for me is that one major deficit.

So, 10 out of 10 for everything except the choice of female singers where I give 10 for skill and 7 for pleasure.

To end on one of the positives: a key passage is the moment when the count asks his wife for forgiveness and the then reconciliation. That is as tender and affecting as I have ever heard. I believe this will become a classic account, give it a go.

Mike
Title: Re: Mozart Marriage of Figaro from Perm
Post by: Marc on April 12, 2014, 12:08:51 AM
Thanks for the review!

[....]
Even the mezzo Cherubino sounds like a soprano to me.
[....]

That would be very HIP then, because the first Cherubino, Dorotea Bussani, was a soprano, and the vocal lines and tessitura of the Cherubino part is rather soprano-like, too. Somehow people (and directors & conductors) seem to think that a mezzo sounds more boyish, which, IMHO, is nonsense.
Also, in Mozart's days, the 'voice break' of teenage boys occured at a later age.

I do agree btw that the voices of the three leading 'ladies' should not have the same timbre. But one has to bear in mind that Contessa Rosina is still a young woman and that she and her husband are almost of the same age as (Susanna and) Figaro, as the first part of Beaumarchais trilogy (AKA Le barbier de Séville) clearly indicates.
Title: Re: Mozart Marriage of Figaro from Perm
Post by: knight66 on April 12, 2014, 08:07:41 AM
Interesting context, thanks.

Mike
Title: Re: Mozart Marriage of Figaro from Perm
Post by: jochanaan on April 14, 2014, 09:39:37 AM
...but the art is in hiding the painstaking months of long preparation and arrive with something that sounds spontaneous, fizzing and by turn affecting...
That sounds a lot like my favorite recording, the 1950s one by Erich Kleiber, the Vienna Philharmonic and an all-star cast.  That one too is lively, seemingly spontaneous-sounding but actually at the height of Mozartean perfection.
Title: Re: Mozart Marriage of Figaro from Perm
Post by: Marc on April 14, 2014, 11:55:26 AM
That sounds a lot like my favorite recording, the 1950s one by Erich Kleiber, the Vienna Philharmonic and an all-star cast.  That one too is lively, seemingly spontaneous-sounding but actually at the height of Mozartean perfection.

If allowed, may I, after reading this and recognizing the general impression, add my own personal favourite?

The Solti studio recording for Decca with a.o. Samuel Ramey, Lucia Popp, Thomas Allen, Kiri te Kanawa and Frederica von Stade. Another all-star cast (anno 1980), and they all sing and act as if spontaneously inspired by the maestro's folle journée drive.
Title: Re: Mozart Marriage of Figaro from Perm
Post by: Marc on April 16, 2014, 03:52:23 AM
Just listening to the first Act of the Perm/Currentzis performance and I'm truly enjoying it.
The fortepiano continuo is worth mentioning, too.
Title: Re: Mozart Marriage of Figaro from Perm
Post by: knight66 on April 16, 2014, 04:24:39 AM
Ah, good Marc, let me know how it works for you overall.

Mike
Title: Re: Mozart Marriage of Figaro from Perm
Post by: Marc on April 16, 2014, 10:30:54 AM
Ah, good Marc, let me know how it works for you overall.

Mike

Well, I think I 'suffer' less from the 'white' (and more or less indistinguishable) character of the female voices. Cherubino surely sounds more boyish than the other two (Mary-Ellen Nesi is doing a great job) and the Contessa is, as you said, beautifully characterized by Simone Kermes. The 'weakest link' with the ladies for me is Fanie Antonelou's Susanna, but it's probably unfair to compare her with Lucia Popp, Mirella Freni or Anna Moffo.
I absolutely like the strong continuo part. Vocally the conductor allows his cast to sing with quite a lot of vocal improvisations which might not be everyone's cup of tea. Personally, I don't need these appoggiaturas, but they don't bother me either. There are already more than enough 'straightforward' Figaro's in that matter. I'm very happy with the (very nice priced) purchase, no doubt, so thanks again for your positive review.
Title: Re: Mozart Marriage of Figaro from Perm
Post by: knight66 on April 16, 2014, 10:54:32 AM
Thanks Marc. I don't think it would be the set I would save from a house fire....Solti, Bohm, Davis all come ahead for the sheer vocal beauty. But is is one I will go to if I want to be cheered up.

Mike
Title: Re: Mozart Marriage of Figaro from Perm
Post by: Brian on April 18, 2014, 02:08:50 PM
ClassicsToday.com just named this album a "CD from Hell". I don't have access to read the review, but Robert Levine, their resident opera critic, seems to have hated it.
Title: Re: Mozart Marriage of Figaro from Perm
Post by: knight66 on April 18, 2014, 05:58:13 PM
I can imagine it being a Marmite album. People being polarised.

Mike

Edit: I had not read any reviews of this recording, so went looking. The Financial Times critic loved it. The NY Times article discusses it within a long piece on spontaneity in music. The author admires a lot of things, but thinks he finds signs of over rehearsal. What gets up his nose is the conductor's claims that he is right and everyone else is a slacker. And the conductor does come across as highly opinionated, but lots of great artists only have space for their own vision.

The Guardian likes it a lot, the Sunday Times made it disc of the week, but did not like the female singers much.

M
Title: Re: Mozart Marriage of Figaro from Perm
Post by: Wendell_E on April 19, 2014, 02:07:19 AM
According to Nigel, who used to post here, here's what Opéra Magazine said in their April issue:

Quote
Currentzis’ version of Le Nozze rates 3 out of 5. “A pity that vocally it remains constantly at a level beneath that of the conducting”.

and completely off-topic, but just for the fun of it:

Quote
La Sonnambula, from Stuttgart, rates 1 out of 5 with Ana Durlovski at times sounding “like a cat having its tail cut off”, a “harmless schoolboy tenor”, and a Rodolfo “as voiceless as the viewer is speechless” before this DVD.

Back to the Figaro, it first caught my eye in the mdt.co.uk listings because there a 6(!)-LP version available as well.  Six?  Back in the day, it only took four, three if you ditched the Marcellina and Basilio arias and cut some recitatives.  Maybe the LPs in the new recording are one-sided?   Or maybe mdt's mistaken, but it's been listed that way for several months now.
Title: Re: Mozart Marriage of Figaro from Perm
Post by: knight66 on April 19, 2014, 02:29:54 AM
Back in the day you got Götterdämmerung on six LPs. The Perm Figaro has opened out some cuts, so all the arias for secondary characters are there, but I don't think he has managed to bloat it to Wagnerian proportions. It is on three CDs.

Mike
Title: Re: Mozart Marriage of Figaro from Perm
Post by: Sergeant Rock on April 19, 2014, 03:33:13 AM
Edit: I had not read any reviews of this recording, so went looking. The Financial Times critic loved it. The NY Times article discusses it within a long piece on spontaneity in music. The author admires a lot of things, but thinks he finds signs of over rehearsal. What gets up his nose is the conductor's claims that he is right and everyone else is a slacker. And the conductor does come across as highly opinionated, but lots of great artists only have space for their own vision.

The Guardian likes it a lot, the Sunday Times made it disc of the week, but did not like the female singers much.

M

Classics Today (Robert Levine in an Insider review) has named it a "CD from Hell (or Siberia)" and gives it a 5/10 rating. The actual review though isn't entirely negative but continually flip flops from negative criticism and sarcasm to admiration:

"Here we get an almost constant commentary from the fortepianist[...]often riffing and writing new melodic or harmonic parts for Mozart, who had clearly overlooked them."

"The good news, if you can get past the weirdness and self-satisfaction, is that the performance overflows with excitement and energy; the overture itself, coming in at 3:59, is staggering and gets the blood boiling."

Like some other reviewers, he doesn't think much of the main female singers:

"Kermes is here woefully miscast; like some of the others, her Italian is stilted and she insists on whispering."

"...one of the few Susannas I’ve heard who never takes control—her “straight” tone too often sounds like a whine."

"Mary Ellen Nesi, another fine Baroque singer, is a vocally uncomfortable Cherubino"

"Here’s the punchline: This is a Figaro you can’t take your ears off; it’s too endlessly surprising. But it’s a classroom or laboratory Figaro. It’s an argument in a petri dish, not an operatic experience to savor."

The review, along with yours, Mike, actually makes me want to hear it. It sounds like a fascinating performance.

Sarge
Title: Re: Mozart Marriage of Figaro from Perm
Post by: Marc on April 19, 2014, 05:23:37 AM
Back in the day you got Götterdämmerung on six LPs. The Perm Figaro has opened out some cuts, so all the arias for secondary characters are there, but I don't think he has managed to bloat it to Wagnerian proportions. It is on three CDs.

Mike

From the late 1970s on, most (studio) recordings of Figaro contain the 2nd character arias, and f.i. the Solti recording was on 4 LPs.
Maybe the modern (higher quality) pressing has caused the larger amount of discs, with a.o. deeper and broader grooves, which leads to a smaller amount of music on each LP side. But I'm not sure, because I ain't no HiFi technician.

About the critics: not only Kermes is 'whispering', there is much more voice acting around, also by the male characters. And yes, the continuo is made very important, but Currentzis is explaining most of this in the booklet.
Really, if the (professional?) critics have read this booklet, then I want to be a professional critic, too. Very easy moneymaking.

Examples of such 'professional' (?) criticism:

Booklet: we opted for another pitch, for reasons this and that.
Critic: OMG, it sounds as if they're playing in another pitch!

Booklet: from sources we understood that the continuo was a leading factor in operas during the composer's lifetime.
Critic: OMG, the fortepiano is very prominent!

Booklet: we know that the composer also made very attractive ornamentations for other composer's operas, and from that we suggested that such decoration was common in his lifetime.
Critic: OMG, all those ornamentations!

:P

I like Giulini, Böhm, Von Karajan, Solti, Gardiner, Mackerras, Jacobs and Currentzis in this opera.
And I'm quite convinced that all these conductors were/are each quite convinced that they offer the best solution. Currentzis isn't an exception here. Yes, in the story Susanna is the one in control (mostly), but for the musical production, in the end the conductor has to take control. And Currentzis apparently did. With many good and some less good results, but as a whole this recording is a recommended choice to add to one's Figaro collection.

Just my tuppence worth, of course.
Title: Re: Mozart Marriage of Figaro from Perm
Post by: knight66 on April 19, 2014, 05:31:41 AM
Very good comment there Marc. I agree with it all, including almost all the sets you mention: I have not heard the Giulini and detested the Jacobs. But at least no one finds the set boring.

Sarge, I look forward to your findings if you do take the plunge.

Mike
Title: Re: Mozart Marriage of Figaro from Perm
Post by: Marc on April 19, 2014, 05:48:42 AM
Classics Today (Robert Levine in an Insider review) has named it a "CD from Hell (or Siberia)" and gives it a 5/10 rating. The actual review though isn't entirely negative but continually flip flops from negative criticism and sarcasm to admiration:

"Here we get an almost constant commentary from the fortepianist[...]often riffing and writing new melodic or harmonic parts for Mozart, who had clearly overlooked them."

Or Mozart himself was known for adding improvisation to the continuo? Check the booklet, Mr. critic.

Quote
"The good news, if you can get past the weirdness and self-satisfaction, is that the performance overflows with excitement and energy; the overture itself, coming in at 3:59, is staggering and gets the blood boiling."

I don't understand this. It seems as if the most recent Figaro recording that the 'insider reviewer' has heard was some obscure mono recording from the Spätromantik area. If he had listened to f.i. Mackerras and Jacobs beforehand, he could never have called this particular one 'weird'.

Quote
Like some other reviewers, he doesn't think much of the main female singers:

"Kermes is here woefully miscast; like some of the others, her Italian is stilted and she insists on whispering."

"...one of the few Susannas I’ve heard who never takes control—her “straight” tone too often sounds like a whine."

"Mary Ellen Nesi, another fine Baroque singer, is a vocally uncomfortable Cherubino"

Agreement on Susanna, she's rather shallow. Full disagreement with the other two, though. Kermes is very good, and Mary Ellen Nesi isn't vocally uncomfortable at all. But I guess it's a different experience if an opera lover or critic listens to Mozart when used to listen to mainly 19th century operas, instead of (for instance) recent recordings of Purcell, Rameau and Händel. Maybe the reviewer prefers a voice like Agnes Baltsa (who sang the Cheribuno part for Marriner), who's also a celebrated Carmen. I love Baltsa's voice, don't get me wrong, but to me she doesn't sound at all like a 18th century naughty horny little adolescent page.

Quote
"Here’s the punchline: This is a Figaro you can’t take your ears off; it’s too endlessly surprising. But it’s a classroom or laboratory Figaro. It’s an argument in a petri dish, not an operatic experience to savor."

English isn't my mother tongue. But this punchline sounds like a true contradictio in terminis. We can't take our ears of it, it's endlessly surprising AND it's laboratory, it's a classroom performance? Come on.

Quote
The review, along with yours, Mike, actually makes me want to hear it. It sounds like a fascinating performance.

Yeah, Sarge, buy it. I purchased it for 29 euro. In a common record shop. A steal.
Title: Re: Mozart Marriage of Figaro from Perm
Post by: knight66 on April 19, 2014, 06:13:51 AM
So good to get a bit of a conversation going on this one, I had thought it had fallen down the well, like my Oedipus Rex review has.

I did get the petri dish analogy, it is an experiment and an exploration. But whereas the critic seems schizoid in that it must be heard, but should be kept in the laboratory: for me the palpable sense of exploration is exactly why it should be heard.

Mike
Title: Re: Mozart Marriage of Figaro from Perm
Post by: k a rl h e nn i ng on April 19, 2014, 06:19:53 AM
"...one of the few Susannas I’ve heard who never takes control—her “straight” tone too often sounds like a whine."

"There needs to be more whining in opera." ~ no one, ever   8)
Title: Re: Mozart Marriage of Figaro from Perm
Post by: Mandryka on April 19, 2014, 10:55:24 AM
I'm a great fan of Currentzis's life affirming Shostakovich 14, so I'm quite curious about this Figaro. I'm listening to Act 1 now as I type, and I can confirm thay you can't take your ears off it and it 's full of surprises and probably it's an experiment and the sense of excitement is palpable. I'm using spotify, and so haven't got the booklet, which is a shame if Currentzis talks about his ideas.

Sarge - buy it. And try the Shostakovich while you're at it.
Title: Re: Mozart Marriage of Figaro from Perm
Post by: Sergeant Rock on April 19, 2014, 11:10:56 AM
Sarge - buy it. And try the Shostakovich while you're at it.

I already have his Shostakovich 14 and the Piano Concertos, and his great Dido. Definitely a conductor to collect.

Sarge
Title: Re: Mozart Marriage of Figaro from Perm
Post by: ritter on April 19, 2014, 11:54:10 AM
I must confess I'm tempted by this Figaro, since I think it should be interesting to listen to a fresh (and apparently well-rehearsed and researched) take on the opera from our days...but, then again, my only experience with Currentzis live was quite a disappointment. It was an all-Mahler program, with the Teatro Real's pit orchestra, the Sinfónica de Madrid, about a year and a half ago. We had several Wunderhorn-Lieder (beautifully sung by Matthias Goerne  :) ), and then the First Symphony; the latter piece was really not that good. The orchestra (which had improved tremendously during Gerard Mortier's tenure as artistic director) seemed to be having an off day (the trumpets in particular verged on the disastrous  :-[ ), but Curentzis's approach to the piece struck me as "vulgar"....Granted, there is an inherent "vulgarity" to Mahler's music (and this is one of the many components that united make his symphonies so unique), but here everything sounded coarse, even when it shouldn't. There was no mystery in the "Wie ein Naturlaut" opening bars, the tempo fluctuations sounded capricious, and the dynamic contrasts were sometimes too extreme (IMHO)...by no means a memorable concert. But one shouldn't assess an artist by one single performance, and perhaps this Figaro gives a different, better picture... And, yes, the way this set is presented adds to its allure; these days, you don's see that many CD sets with such high presentation standards . It actually looks like something from the good old LP days... ;)
Title: Re: Mozart Marriage of Figaro from Perm
Post by: Mandryka on April 19, 2014, 12:34:27 PM
I already have his Shostakovich 14 and the Piano Concertos, and his great Dido. Definitely a conductor to collect.

Sarge

Oh yes -- I forgot about that extraordinary Dido. I haven't heard the concertos.
Title: Re: Mozart Marriage of Figaro from Perm
Post by: Moonfish on April 19, 2014, 12:49:18 PM
Oh yes -- I forgot about that extraordinary Dido. I haven't heard the concertos.

The "Dido" performance seems very good. It seems challenging for new performers and ensembles to become established in the recorded repertoire....
Title: Re: Mozart Marriage of Figaro from Perm
Post by: knight66 on April 19, 2014, 09:35:49 PM
I have found the Dido on Spotify and have just started it. The overture sounds like Rebel's Chaos!

Mike

Edit: Oh well, that's that ordered now. Amazing music making.
Title: Re: Mozart Marriage of Figaro from Perm
Post by: Moonfish on April 20, 2014, 10:20:54 AM
I have found the Dido on Spotify and have just started it. The overture sounds like Rebel's Chaos!

Mike

Edit: Oh well, that's that ordered now. Amazing music making.

Same here. Resistance is futile.....     
Title: Re: Mozart Marriage of Figaro from Perm
Post by: knight66 on April 20, 2014, 10:43:28 AM
 
Same here. Resistance is futile.....   


 >:D

Mike
Title: Re: Mozart Marriage of Figaro from Perm
Post by: Mandryka on April 20, 2014, 09:03:04 PM
Here's the press release about the Mozaty Operas cucle

http://theatre.perm.ru/en/about/news/news/show/1022


News
Sony Classical announces a major new Mozart opera project with Teodor Currentzis and musicAeterna

    CONDUCTOR TEODOR CURRENTZIS, WITH HIS ORCHESTRA & CHOIR ”MUSICAETERNA”, IS MAKING A NO-COMPROMISE STUDIO RECORDING CYCLE OF MOZART’S THREE DA PONTE OPERAS

    LIVING IN A UNIQUE ARTISTIC COMMUNITY ESTABLISHED ON THE EDGE OF URAL, THESE MUSICIANS WORK AND RECORD UNDER IDEAL CONDITIONS

    CURRENTZIS’ STATED GOAL WITH THIS PROJECT IS ”TO SHOW WHAT CAN BE ACHIEVED IF YOU AVOID THE FACTORY APPROACH OF THE CLASSICAL MUSIC MAINSTREAM”

    THE RECORDINGS REPRESENT AN UNPRECEDENTED COMMITMENT BY THE ARTISTS IN TERMS OF PREPARATION, SESSION & POSTPRODUCTION TIME, QUEST FOR BEST POSSIBLE SOUND

    THE RECORDINGS EMBODY A RADICAL NEW APPROACH TO ORCHESTRAL VIRTUOSITY AS WELL AS TO SCORE FIDELITY, VOCAL STYLE AND PERFORMANCE PRACTICE

    SONY CLASSICAL TO LAUNCH THE SERIES WITH ”LE NOZZE DI FIGARO” IN FEBRUARY 2014; ”COSÌ FAN TUTTE” TO FOLLOW IN AUTUMN OF 2014 AND ”DON GIOVANNI” TO COMPLETE THE CYCLE IN AUTUMN OF 2015

    IN ADDITION TO THE CD AND ALL DIGITAL FORMATS, THE OPERAS WILL ALSO BE AVAILABLE AS HIGH RESOLUTION BLU-RAY AUDIO AND ON VINYL

Fourteen hundred kilometres east ofMoscow, in the Russian city ofPerm, the charismatic and provocative conductor Teodor Currentzis and MusicAeterna, the orchestra and choir he created, are recording Mozart’s Da Ponte operas. These no-compromise studio recordings are the fruit of a unique way of living and working which Currentzis has established in this remote, formerly closed city which was dedicated to arms manufacturing in Soviet times.

In 2011, when invited to the post of Artistic Director at Perm’s opera house, Currentzis negotiated unheard-of conditions: unlimited rehearsal time; the freedom to schedule performances depending on the quality reached in rehearsals; the necessary resources to explore with his musicians anything deemed necessary for a fuller understanding of the repertoire, from Baroque dance steps to 20th-century poetry and avant-garde cinema.

The orchestra and choir emphatically embrace a non-establishment attitude, constantly putting themselves in question and striving for perfection. As important as their musical prowess (many members are laureates of international competitions) is their willingness to undergo exceptional rigours to reach the shared artistic goals. Figaro was recorded in sessions of up to fourteen hours over eleven straight days and nights. It is an accepted part of these musicians’ daily routine to spend a whole night of work and discussion about its progress at the opera house if necessary – or to devote a full rehearsal to shaping one single chord to perfection. Currentzis has tried to create an environment for those who search for what he calls ”a real life in music.” Since the founding of MusicAeterna, Currentzis and the ensemble have been awarded 4 Golden Masks –Russia’s top performing arts award.

Born in Athensin 1972, Teodor Currentzis moved to St. Petersburgin 1994 to study conducting with legendary teacher Ilya Musin, who has, among others, also trained Valery Gergiev and Semyon Bychkov. While music director of the Novosibirskopera from 2004, Currentzis founded MusicAeterna. After making headlines with various productions, including the controversial so-called ”Chechnya Aida” directed by Dmitry Tcherniakov, Currentzis soon gained recognition beyond the Russian scene. One of Germany’s leading newspapers, the Süddeutsche Zeitung, recently described Currentzis as ”a hugely talented individual who has proven a sensation on the international stage... Everything about him exudes power and intensity.” Peter Culshaw, writing in the London Telegraph, said: ”Currentzis could be one of those rare artists capable of shifting the ground of his chosen art, and pulling off something extraordinary –  perhaps even miraculous.”

Currentzis’ approach to the Mozart scores is based on the conviction that it is virtually impossible today to hear them performed precisely and in full. His stated intention is to undo what he considers the effects of 20th-century operatic tradition focused on simplification and vocal volume at all cost. For Currentzis, these recordings represent the culmination of a decade-long research project dedicated to the discrepancies between the composer’s will and what our ears have become used to. About his Figaro, he says:

”The radicality of this recording is its precision. It is through strictest discipline that you unlock the perfume, bring the composer’s text into real life, create all these colours that are impossible on the stage. This is why we spent such a significant amount of time in the studio – because we were pushing to reach our limits, to jump above our limit and reach a new understanding of this music. That is the privilege of a no-compromise studio recording. There are so many recordings which convey the general spirit of Mozart’s music. The only point in making a new one is to give the audience a chance to hear and learn about all the magic which this score holds. I made this recording because I wanted to show what can be achieved if you avoid the factory approach of the classical-music mainstream. My credo is that every performance you give has to be like a pregnancy. You have to dream and you have to wait until the time comes when you see the miracle happening. If you’re not like that in music, you lose the central idea of music. Music is not a profession and it’s not about reproduction. It’s a mission.”

Currentzis’ rigorous approach extends to all stages of the recording set-up as well as to the post-production sequence. The editing and mixing of Figaro inParis was a process of several weeks in which every single decision was made and its execution supervised by the conductor. Currentzis, a diehard devotee of high-end audio equipment, took particular care in the shaping of the overall soundscape for these recordings.

While period instruments are being used in this cycle, no dogmatic ”authentic performance” claim is made. Currentzis chooses the orchestra’s instruments depending on repertoire. For the Da Ponte cycle, historic instruments were chosen because, as Currentzis explains:

”They give me the vibrancy, the speed, the taut, tight, crisp sound which fully delivers the thrill of this music. I use them because they sound better. If I thought this music sounded better on electric guitars, I would perform it on electric guitars.”

The soloists’ vocal technique is also markedly different to modern operatic interpretation, with a focus on intimacy and clarity, a use of vibrato remarkably restrictive even by today’s ”period practice” standards as well as an approach to melodic ornamentation derived from historical sources which cannot be heard in other performances of these works.

A LONG-TERM EXCLUSIVE CONTRACT WITH SONY CLASSICAL

In 2012 Sony Classical signed an exclusive long-term agreement with Currentzis under which all of his recordings will be made with MusicAeterna. The first two opera recordings, already finished, were Mozart’s Figaro and Così. Don Giovanni will be recorded in October 2014.

The lead soloists appearing in Le nozze di Figaro are Andrei Bondarenko as Count Almaviva, Simone Kermes as Countess Almaviva, Christian Van Horn as Figaro and Fanie Antonelou as Susanna. The Così fan tutte lead soloists are Simone Kermes as Fiordiligi, Malena Ernman as Dorabella, Christopher Maltman as Guglielmo, Kenneth Tarver as Ferrando, Konstantin Wolff as Don Alfonso, and Anna Kasyan as Despina.

Sony Classical will release Le nozze di Figaro first in February 2014. Così fan tutte will follow in autumn 2014 and the cycle will be completed with Don Giovanni in the autumn of 2015.

Le nozze di Figaro will be available internationally on February 17, 2014:

    on CD in a limited edition deluxe book;
    on high-resolution Blu-ray;
    on vinyl LP; and
    in all popular digital formats including Mastered for iTunes.
Title: Re: Mozart Marriage of Figaro from Perm
Post by: Mandryka on April 20, 2014, 09:23:44 PM
And this is the review of Dido by John Culshaw

 http://tiny.cc/wy3ccw

Vugarity, to the point of hilarity, is definitely a trait of what he does. Like at the end of this performance of the Lacrimosa from Mozart's requiem

http://www.youtube.com/v/gAyKJz7IjkQ

Unfortunately I can't find the requiem recording on spotify so I can't hear the rest.





Title: Re: Mozart Marriage of Figaro from Perm
Post by: knight66 on April 20, 2014, 09:32:23 PM
He does sound like he can be deeply irritating. But clearly he inspires his musicians. Quite a chunk of his previous orchestra and chorus upped and moved with their families to Perm. He negotiated good salaries for them and is often very kind. I read a long post on a discussion about him by one of his soloist singers in the Figaro. She said he could be maddening and frustrating: but he made her find new things in the music and produced the most inspirational rehearsals and performances that she had been involved in.

Elsewhere I wrote of a Bryn Terfel disc that his way of whispering alternating with blasting had tipped over into an empty show. I wonder that a bit with this man where he drives the tempi or luxuriates in it. I have ordered the Purcell because it sounds so alive, but he does this push-pull with the speeds a lot and perhaps we will tire of it if this is simply a knee jerk technique to provide contrast and novelty.

What is linked to above is a very good interview with a nice judgement at the end, let's hope his ego does not overtake his talent.
Mike
Title: Re: Mozart Marriage of Figaro from Perm
Post by: Moonfish on April 20, 2014, 09:42:05 PM

Unfortunately I can't find the requiem recording on spotify so I can't hear the rest.

Thanks for the review Mandryka!

Here is the requiem link on Spotify:

https://play.spotify.com/album/2Xmv8i4sclEB696PwW9Wdq (https://play.spotify.com/album/2Xmv8i4sclEB696PwW9Wdq)
Title: Re: Mozart Marriage of Figaro from Perm
Post by: Mandryka on April 20, 2014, 09:50:56 PM
Thanks for the review Mandryka!

Here is the requiem link on Spotify:

https://play.spotify.com/album/2Xmv8i4sclEB696PwW9Wdq (https://play.spotify.com/album/2Xmv8i4sclEB696PwW9Wdq)

Not available in the UK
Title: Re: Mozart Marriage of Figaro from Perm
Post by: knight66 on April 20, 2014, 09:53:54 PM
Thanks for the review Mandryka!

Here is the requiem link on Spotify:

https://play.spotify.com/album/2Xmv8i4sclEB696PwW9Wdq (https://play.spotify.com/album/2Xmv8i4sclEB696PwW9Wdq)

Interesting, it does not matter what search terms I put in, Spotify will not disgorge this recording. Nor will it do other than buffer when I use your links. I wonder if we can't all access the same library of recordings from different countries. I am in the UK. I find the Spotify search facility generally frustrating, you often have to know a recording is there to find it by obscure search terms. So I still don't know whether this Mozart Requiem is mad or compulsive.

Mike
Title: Re: Mozart Marriage of Figaro from Perm
Post by: Moonfish on April 20, 2014, 10:01:54 PM
Not available in the UK

It makes sense that there are different availability in different countries. I didn't consider that factor.   :(


I did find an interview in English with Currentzis (perhaps it was posted earlier - didn't check). Interesting character for sure....

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eXp9aj-0MyI (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eXp9aj-0MyI)

http://www.youtube.com/v/eXp9aj-0MyI
Title: Re: Mozart Marriage of Figaro from Perm
Post by: jochanaan on April 21, 2014, 06:41:31 AM
Or Mozart himself was known for adding improvisation to the continuo? Check the booklet, Mr. critic...
Yeah.  Everyone added things to the music in Mozart's time.  If you didn't, they questioned your musical ability. :o ;D
Title: Re: Mozart Marriage of Figaro from Perm
Post by: Mandryka on April 22, 2014, 10:35:16 PM
I must confess I'm tempted by this Figaro, since I think it should be interesting to listen to a fresh (and apparently well-rehearsed and researched) take on the opera from our days...but, then again, my only experience with Currentzis live was quite a disappointment. It was an all-Mahler program, with the Teatro Real's pit orchestra, the Sinfónica de Madrid, about a year and a half ago. We had several Wunderhorn-Lieder (beautifully sung by Matthias Goerne  :) ), and then the First Symphony; the latter piece was really not that good. The orchestra (which had improved tremendously during Gerard Mortier's tenure as artistic director) seemed to be having an off day (the trumpets in particular verged on the disastrous  :-[ ), but Curentzis's approach to the piece struck me as "vulgar"....Granted, there is an inherent "vulgarity" to Mahler's music (and this is one of the many components that united make his symphonies so unique), but here everything sounded coarse, even when it shouldn't. There was no mystery in the "Wie ein Naturlaut" opening bars, the tempo fluctuations sounded capricious, and the dynamic contrasts were sometimes too extreme (IMHO)...by no means a memorable concert. But one shouldn't assess an artist by one single performance, and perhaps this Figaro gives a different, better picture... And, yes, the way this set is presented adds to its allure; these days, you don's see that many CD sets with such high presentation standards . It actually looks like something from the good old LP days... ;)

I have a recording of him playing Mahler 1, from 2010, I'm not sure where. I've uploaded it to symphonyshare. If anyone wants it and can't get it from there, they can PM me for the file.
Title: Re: Mozart Marriage of Figaro from Perm
Post by: Moonfish on April 28, 2014, 01:36:11 PM
Here is what feels to me like an extraordinary and in most ways a superb new Figaro recording from Sony. I heard part on Spotify and what I heard sent me scurrying to buy the set, read all about the performance and ensure the best sound I could get for myself.


Mike

Thanks for starting this thread Mike!  :)
First of all it made me aware of Currentzis and at this point I have thoroughly enjoyed his 'Dido & Aeneas". After rereading your first post I think I am ready to thoroughly sample his rendition of Mozart's 'Figaro'. Has any other GMG member listened to this "Figaro" over the last two weeks?

So it seems like Currentzis is gravitating between all types of repertoire (from baroque to modern)....  Does he specialize in any specific repertoire at all?
Title: Re: Mozart Marriage of Figaro from Perm
Post by: knight66 on April 28, 2014, 07:24:39 PM
Thanks Moonfish, I am waiting on the Dido. I heard some snippets on Spotify and have resisted listening to it all. Like you, I am now actively looking for his work.

Mike
Title: Re: Mozart Marriage of Figaro from Perm
Post by: Moonfish on April 28, 2014, 08:56:58 PM
Currentzis conducts Verdi's Macbeth in a 2000 performance in this DVD set. Does anybody know anything about that specific performance (or the other two for that matter)? The reviews on Amazon seem to point to these being pretty much Eurotrash in terms of the staging..    :'( :'(



Also available separately as

Title: Re: Mozart Marriage of Figaro from Perm
Post by: ritter on April 30, 2014, 05:38:24 AM
So it seems like Currentzis is gravitating between all types of repertoire (from baroque to modern)....  Does he specialize in any specific repertoire at all?
I think that Currentzis is an example of a relatively new phenomenon:  conductors who find themselves at ease in different repertoires, different styles and different performing practices. One day they will do a HIP baroque interpretation, the next "big band" Beethoven with an established symphony orchestra,  the day after that  Stockhausen with a group specialising in 20/21st century music, and finally Turandot at a traditional opera house. Another example that springs to mind is my fellow countryman Pablo Heras-Casado  :).

Some friends of mine take exception to this "trend", saying it's just a symptom of the increasing homogenisation of musical practice across time and space ("everything sounds the same, everywhere", they'll say  ::) ). I, for one,  think it is just fantastic that young conductors can absorb the legacy of previous generations and be fluent in different idioms and repertoires. It's our gain as music lovers!
Title: Re: Mozart Marriage of Figaro from Perm
Post by: jochanaan on May 01, 2014, 09:32:23 AM
I think that Currentzis is an example of a relatively new phenomenon:  conductors who find themselves at ease in different repertoires, different styles and different performing practices...
Actually, that was the way of the old music directors.  They had to do everything.  Of course, you got specialists, but by and large, the resident conductors actually conducted just about everything the orchestras played.  That changed with the jet age.  But now I'm glad the younger musicians are becoming multi-specialists again. 8)
Title: Re: Mozart Marriage of Figaro from Perm
Post by: zeplin on May 20, 2014, 09:37:22 AM
Thank you so much for the review and suggestion. I am going to go on my spofity and possibly singist account (https://www.singist.com) right now and listen to it. I :)
Title: Re: Mozart Marriage of Figaro from Perm
Post by: king ubu on May 27, 2014, 02:48:16 PM
Just read through this thread ... initially, I was very sceptical: Kermes as countess - does the world need that? But then I had kinda written her off, as the "ulknudel" she used to be and was not aware she was moving away from that image. So yes, she's surprisingly good to me!

In can kind of relate to that laboratory comment though. To me, the entire performance sounds a bit too controlled, somewhat too even. Musically, it's very good, the orchestra is fine - but somehow I'm missing the real highlights a bit. Maybe that's the price you got to pay for such an even performance though, I don't know. Anyway, I'm certainly intrigued enough that I plan to give it a second spin very soon (only got the recording - on CD - a couple of weeks ago).

As for favourite recordings, I'd go with Kleiber ahead of Giulini and Böhm. But that's only an intermediate result, as I've not really delved into Gardiner (whose "Zauberflöte" and "Così fan tutte" I love very much, so I have high hopes here, too), Jacobs (Gens should be great!) nor Furtwängler ... I have a few other unplayed recordings around where I have smaller hopes (Klemperer, Colin Davis - did Klemp botch this, too? His "Zauberflöte" has so many great moments from the singers, best queen of the night ever - at least next to Wilma Lipp - but what's the use if the piece don't work?), and I'm not too big on Karajan (I've no memories of his recording, though I know for a fact I've listened to it).
Title: Re: Mozart Marriage of Figaro from Perm
Post by: ritter on September 20, 2014, 02:43:08 AM
The cycle continues   :) :

(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51RBqHg2NQL._SP160,160,0,T_.jpg)

To be released in early November...
Title: Re: Mozart Marriage of Figaro from Perm
Post by: Wanderer on September 20, 2014, 03:35:58 AM
The cycle continues   :) :

(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51RBqHg2NQL._SP160,160,0,T_.jpg)

To be released in early November...

Can't wait.

For the record, here's my initial reaction to their thrilling Nozze di Figaro:
.



Superb, splendid, magnificent, dazzling, quintessential Mozart. Add whichever superlatives suit you. That's how good this is.
Title: Re: Mozart Marriage of Figaro from Perm
Post by: Moonfish on September 20, 2014, 09:59:24 AM
The cycle continues   :) :

(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51RBqHg2NQL._SP160,160,0,T_.jpg)

To be released in early November...

Enticing....!  :)
Title: Re: Mozart Marriage of Figaro from Perm
Post by: mc ukrneal on December 10, 2014, 06:32:02 PM
I've now had a chance to listen to this (Marriage of Figaro). And I am not surprised that those that liked Jacobs liked this. It's better than Jacobs, but I'd take many other versions over this. The singing is mixed, from reasonably good (if too prettified) to pretty bad (Countess was horrible - a real blight on this set, while Susanna is ok as long as she is singing without weight, but the minute more oompf is needed, a let down). The orchestra is simply marvelous (if underpowered in terms of brass some of the time). Too often the orchestra is moving intently (with drive and energy, as well as character), but the singing simply does not keep up with the quality. There is also too much acting at times instead of singing. This simply detracts from the story and the drama. The continuo (or fortepiano, or whatever it is) can be irritating at times, but is thankfully unnoticed in most of the set pieces (a direct comparion with Jacobs and Jacobs is much superior here).

My ultimate impression is some excellent orchestral playing let down by gimmicks (presumably to hide the defects of the singers). This is fine in a live performance, and even necessary, but not good enough for an opera recording I'd like to return to over and over.

EDIT: Incidentally, if you are looking for a good review that accurately identifies its qualities and deficencies, I'd recommend this one:
http://www.amazon.com/review/ROLCC5GEC6LN1/ref=cm_cr_dp_cmt?ie=UTF8&ASIN=B00CE26AU6&nodeID=5174&store=music#wasThisHelpful (http://www.amazon.com/review/ROLCC5GEC6LN1/ref=cm_cr_dp_cmt?ie=UTF8&ASIN=B00CE26AU6&nodeID=5174&store=music#wasThisHelpful). I think the importance of the singing isn't as weighted as much as I would, which is perhaps why he comes to a happier conclusion.
Title: Re: Mozart Marriage of Figaro from Perm
Post by: Mandryka on December 11, 2014, 08:53:05 AM
I've now had a chance to listen to this (Marriage of Figaro). And I am not surprised that those that liked Jacobs liked this. It's better than Jacobs, but I'd take many other versions over this. The singing is mixed, from reasonably good (if too prettified) to pretty bad (Countess was horrible - a real blight on this set, while Susanna is ok as long as she is singing without weight, but the minute more oompf is needed, a let down). The orchestra is simply marvelous (if underpowered in terms of brass some of the time). Too often the orchestra is moving intently (with drive and energy, as well as character), but the singing simply does not keep up with the quality. There is also too much acting at times instead of singing. This simply detracts from the story and the drama. The continuo (or fortepiano, or whatever it is) can be irritating at times, but is thankfully unnoticed in most of the set pieces (a direct comparion with Jacobs and Jacobs is much superior here).

My ultimate impression is some excellent orchestral playing let down by gimmicks (presumably to hide the defects of the singers). This is fine in a live performance, and even necessary, but not good enough for an opera recording I'd like to return to over and over.

EDIT: Incidentally, if you are looking for a good review that accurately identifies its qualities and deficencies, I'd recommend this one:
http://www.amazon.com/review/ROLCC5GEC6LN1/ref=cm_cr_dp_cmt?ie=UTF8&ASIN=B00CE26AU6&nodeID=5174&store=music#wasThisHelpful (http://www.amazon.com/review/ROLCC5GEC6LN1/ref=cm_cr_dp_cmt?ie=UTF8&ASIN=B00CE26AU6&nodeID=5174&store=music#wasThisHelpful). I think the importance of the singing isn't as weighted as much as I would, which is perhaps why he comes to a happier conclusion.

What do you mean?
Title: Re: Mozart Marriage of Figaro from Perm
Post by: Cosi bel do on December 11, 2014, 09:20:28 AM
I think in this kind of success, half the credit actually goes to the engineering and artistic direction. It's not surprising that Nicolas Bartholomée supervised these recordings, they have his signature all over.
Actually, the impact of a few engineers/producers on many recordings is widely known but not really acknowledged. It is clear that Walter Legge, Wolf Erichson, Nicolas Bartholomée were as important in some discographic successes as conductors and other artists. But you don't see their names in big letters on the covers...
Title: Re: Mozart Marriage of Figaro from Perm
Post by: mc ukrneal on December 11, 2014, 10:03:15 AM
What do you mean?
I mean that there is a lot of declaration and emotion when instead the singer should be singing. So it interrupts the singing somewhat, presumably to show some sort of action/emotion on stage. I think they should do this through the singing of the song rather than constant declamations (and I am not referring to the recitatives where this is more appropriate).
Title: Re: Currentzis Opera Recodrings
Post by: knight66 on November 05, 2016, 09:24:50 AM
I am bumping this thread and have renamed it. The final of the three da Ponte operas from Currentzis has just been issued. I reviewed the Figaro and my misgivings were mainly around the females soloists. For that very reason I did not buy Cosi. However, the Giovanni has a different cast of female singers and I much prefer them.

This is Currentzis second complete recording of Don Giovanni. His first was completed in 2014. But the conductor binned it, he did not think that the chemistry between the singers worked. Yes, he has that kind of artistic pull. The cast is all new to me and I am happy with them all. The whole thing is a fizzing and energetic as with the Figaro, but add danger and drama, ultra drama. When Giovanni is taken to Hell, I had goose flesh on my arms. The playing is spot on, pointed and individual with lots of colours. On occasion they do sound like they are being tested to destruction. I was not sure about this group's Dido and Aneas with everything either tearingly fast or very slow; was that going to become a mannerism? But although there are many fast, some driven, stretches, the relaxations don't sound exagerated to me. Places where I want space, such as the Mask Trio near the end of Act 1, work very effectively, floated as it ought to be.

This opera most suits Currentzis approach to the three Mozart masterpieces. I think it is a great set which will sweep away doubt that surfaced on the previous two sets.

Mike
Title: Re: Currentzis Opera Recodrings
Post by: ritter on November 06, 2016, 03:06:48 AM
Thanks for the coments on the new Don Giovanni, Mike. :) I enjoyed the Figaro very much, but not the Così, I must confess. It all sounded hurried and contrived to me, and blandly sung to boot (but I should give the recording a second chance).

A review of the Don Giovanni appears in today's Guardian:

Quote from: Nicholas Kenyon in The Guardian
On the evidence of this disorientating and sometimes shocking Don Giovanni, Teodor Currentzis is to Mozart what Emma Rice is to Shakespeare: sceptical, questioning, reinventing with bright lights and vividly colourful insights. Currentzis’s Russian orchestra steals the show with its incisive approach (but sack the clever-clever fortepianist). The ensemble is superbly tight, though some of the little-known cast work better than others, with Vito Priante’s Leporello far more grabbing than Dimitris Tiliakos as Giovanni. Là ci darem la mano is reimagined as a pastoral musette, while the Serenade sounds like a ukulele ensemble; the finale is brutal, and achieves the “cold, pitiless majesty” that Hermann Abert heard in this tremendous score.

https://www.theguardian.com/music/2016/nov/06/mozart-don-giovanni-musicaeterna-teodor-currentzis-review
Title: Re: Currentzis Opera Recodrings
Post by: knight66 on November 06, 2016, 10:05:07 AM
Thanks for the link. I can see where the Guardian critic has problems with the interpretation, though I think the Giovanni is full of character. One of the strengths is the vigor of the recits, tossed off with bags of expression.

I hope the mooted Tristan comes off.

Mike
Title: Re: Currentzis Opera Recodrings
Post by: Mandryka on November 16, 2016, 11:59:47 AM
One thing I liked more than I expected in the Don was the piano. I've not finished the whole recording yet.
Title: Re: Currentzis Opera Recodrings
Post by: ritter on November 17, 2016, 01:00:51 AM

I hope the mooted Tristan comes off.

Mike
Currentzis was supposed to conduct Tristan here in Madrid a couple of seasons ago (in the Peter Sellars / Bill Viola production form LA and Paris), but pulled out in the last minute, and was substituted by Marc Piollet.

I really am looking forward to listening to the new Don Giovanni (after the relative letdown of the same forces' Così recording)...
Title: Re: Currentzis Opera Recodrings
Post by: king ubu on November 30, 2016, 02:18:27 PM
I really am looking forward to listening to the new Don Giovanni (after the relative letdown of the same forces' Così recording)...

Same here - it's been on the pile for a couple of weeks, but it will have to wait some more, no time next weekend either.