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Favorite vocal recitals on CD or DVD

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Returning to this fascinating set with Disc 4, which is made up of excerpts from Nabucco (Nazzareno de Angelis, Ines de Frate and Carlo Galeffi) and La Fora del Destino (Gina Cigna, Celestina Bonisegna, Dusolina Giannini, Ivar Andresen and Meta Seinemeyer, Pinza and Ponselle, Francesco Merli, Caruso and Antonio Scotti, Heinrich Schlusnus, Gino Bechi and Lauri-Volpi, Salomea Kruszelnicka, Milanov and finishing up with the final trio featuring Pinza, Ponselle and Martinelli).

Not all are faultless (De Angelis and Cigna both display a tendency to aspirate) and not all are equally imaginative, but what magnificent voices. You really don't hear Verdi sung like this anymore.



Charles Ives 1874-1954
The Unanswered Question

Rachel Portman b.1960
The First Morning of the World*

Gustav Mahler 1860-1911
“Ich atmet’ einen linden Duft!”

Biagio Marini 1594-1663
Scherzi e canzone Op.5
“Con le stelle in ciel che mai”

Josef Mysliveček 1737–1781
Oratorio Adamo ed Eva (Part II)
Aria: “Toglierò le sponde al mare” (Angelo di giustizia)

Aaron Copland 1900-1990
8 Poems of Emily Dickinson for voice and chamber orchestra
Nature, the gentlest mother

Giovanni Valentini c.1582–1649
Sonata enharmonica

Francesco Cavalli 1602–1676
Opera La Calisto (Act I, Scene 14)
Aria: “Piante ombrose” (Calisto)

Christoph Willibald Gluck 1714–1787
Opera Orfeo ed Euridice Wq. 30
Danza degli spettri e delle furie. Allegro non troppo

Christoph Willibald Gluck 1714–1787
Scena ed aria Misera, dove son! From Ezio Wq. 15 (Fulvia)
Scena: “Misera, dove son!… ”
Aria: “Ah! non son io che parlo…”

George Frideric Handel 1685–1759
Dramatic oratorio Theodora HWV 68 (Part I)
Aria: “As with Rosy steps the morn” (Irene)

Gustav Mahler
“Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen”

Richard Wagner 1813–1883
5 Gedichte für eine Frauenstimme WWV 91 (Wesendonck Lieder)

George Frideric Handel
Opera Serse HWV 40 (Act I, Scene 1)
Recitativo: “Frondi tenere e belle”
Aria: “Ombra mai fù” (Serse)

*World-premiere recording

Joyce DiDonato’s new album could probably best be described as a concept album and, despite one or two less than smooth transitions, is best listened to in one sitting and in the order she has set out.

At present DiDonato is in the middle of a twelve city tour, taking in both Europe and the USA and I am very much looking forward to seeing her perform at the Barbican in April. Looking at the photographs from some of the concerts she has already done, DiDonato is using to redefine the the recital format. Apparently every audience member is to receive a seed to plant as they’re asked: ‘In this time of upheaval, which seed will you plant today?’

“With each passing day,” writes DiDonato, “I trust more and more in the perfect balance, astonishing mystery and guiding force of the natural world around us, how much Mother Nature has to teach us. EDEN is an invitation to return to our roots and to explore whether or not we are connecting as profoundly as we can to the pure essence of our being, to create a new EDEN from within and plant seeds of hope for the future.”

As on the album, she is accompanied by her regular collaborators Il Pomo d’Oro under Maxim Emelyanchev.

The programme ranges wide, from the 17th to the 21st century and at least one change, when we go from the 21st century to the 17th strikes me as a little jarring, but for the most part the choices are sensible and the journey well thought out.

The album starts with an absolutely haunting performance of Ives’ The Unanswered Question, in which DiDonato wordlessly sings the trumpet part. This segues into a commission from the Academy Award winning composer Rachel Portman, entitled The First Morning of the World, to a text by American writer Gene Scheer. This is a wonderfully evocative piece, full of sweeping lyricsm and gorgeous harmonies. Portman surely could not have hoped for a more beautiful performance. This is followed by a lovely performance of Mahler’s Ich atmet einen Linden Duft, though we miss the richness of Mahler’s original orchestra in this chamber re-orchestration.

The first slightly incongruous transition happens here with Biagio Marini’s Con le stelle in ciel che mai, though there is nothing wrong with its execution and, once I’d got used to being plunged into an entirely different sound world I enjoyed it and the Mysliveček aria from his orotorio, Adamo ed Eva, which follows.

This first part of the recital finishes with a masterful performance of Nature, the Gentlest Mother from Aaron Copland’s 8 Poems of Emily Dickinson, beautifully played by Il Pomo d’Oro and in which DiDonato sings with excellent diction without compromising her legato line.

It is followed by one of two purely orchestral tracks, the Sonata enharmonica by Giuseppe Valentini. The other is Gluck’s Dance of the Spirits and Furies from Orfeo ed Euridice.

DoDonato is known to us as a great Handel singer and one of the highlights of the album is Irene’s As with rosy steps the morn from Theodora, which is deeply felt, even if ultimately for me it doesn’t quite erase memories of Lorraine Hunt Lieberson in the same music. Handel is also reserved for the final piece, which comes after Mahler and Wagner, leaving us to bask in the peace and calm of his Ombra mai fu.

DiDonato is in fine voice throughout, her fast flicker vibrato, which can sometimes be intrusive, hardly in evidence at all. I must say that I rather like this “concept” and I have no hesitation recommending this album, and I would urge you to listen to it in one sitting. If I have sometimes had reservations about DiDonato’s ability to convey personality and individuality in the studio, I have no such reservations here and would recommend this album unreservedly.

Cross-posted from the WAYLTN thread:

--- Quote from: ritter on April 06, 2022, 06:05:04 AM ---Listening to the compilation of live recordings by Suzanne Danco:

Mme. Danco’s unusual voice and refined artistry are growing on me (even if I’ve known her since, well, ever: her recordings of Donna Anna in Don Giovanni under Krips and Cherubino in Le Nozze di Figaro under Kleiber were in my parents’ collection since before I was born).

Here we get the rarity of Darius Milhaud conducting Satie’s Socrate. I still haven’t made up my mind as to whether this is a refined, delicate score, or just an utterly boring one.  ;D. Milhaud and Danco make a strong case for the piece (even if the work may gain from having different singers for the different “characters” —as is the case in the Dervaux recording on EMI). I’ll probably revisit this sometime soon.

Then we get three long extracts from Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande, with Danco, Camille Maurane, and conducted by Inghelbrecht. Danco’s Mélisande is a well-known quantity, and justly famous,as is the case of Maurane’s Pelléas (I actually have both of them together, also conducted by Inghelbrecht, in a BBC broadcast on Testament). These extracts were pure delight, with everyone in great form. But what is jaw-dropping is Maurane: it’s as if he were whispering in your ear, every word perfectly intelligible. Not a beautiful voice as such, but one used with supreme artistry.

The disc ends with a perfectly fine rendition of Ravel’s Shéhérazade, conducted by no less than Charles Munch. I already knew Danco in this music from her famous recording under Ansermet, and must admit I prefer other singers to her in this particular piece (e.g. Heather Harper under Boulez, Christiane Karg, etc.).

In any case, an excellent CD showcasing the great talents of this versatile singer.

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This set was originally issued on three LPs back in 1984, and later condensed into two very well filled CDs and is still available as a download. As such, it is an excellent way of collecting all Ravel’s song settings, the singers all being well chosen for the songs they are allocated. It also has Michel Plasson in charge of the orchestral and chamber accompanied songs and that master accompanist, Dalton Baldwin, at the piano.

We start with Teresa Berganza singing Shéhérazade, orchestrally fine and well sung, but Berganza is just a little anonymous and the performance doesn’t stay in the memory as do those by, say, Crespin, Hendricks or Baker, all of whom are more vivid storytellers. The orchestral contribution by Plasson and his Toulouse orchestra is splendid. This is followed by the Vocalise en forme de Habanera and Chanson espagnole, ideal performances in which Berganza finds the erotic sensuality that had eluded her in Shéhérazade.

Next up is Gabriel Bacquier, who is entrusted with Histoires naturelles, Sur l’herbe and Chanson française. These are superb performances, Bacquier finding just the right sense of ironic derachment for the Renard settings, his enunciation of the text so clear you can all but taste the words.

Mady Mesplé’s clear, bright, very French soprano with its characteristic flutter vibrato is not to everyone’s taste, but I like her, and she is absolutey charming in the Greek songs, including the less regularly performed Tripatos. She also gives us lovely performances of three rarities, Ballade de la reine morte d’aimer, Manteau de fleurs and Rêves. José Van Dam gets the Hebrew settings, Don Quichotte à Dulcinée and five more songs, of which Les grands vents venus d’outre-mer is especially notable. To all he contributes the sterling virtues of his beautiful, firm bass-baritone, coupled to sensitive treatment of the text.

Felicity Lott, charming in the Noël des jouets and Chanson écossaise, also has the Mallarmé poems, in which she is suitably languid, if a little diffident. She is also good in the two Clément Marot settings, but Maggie Teyte gets more out of the words on her recording. Jessye Norman brings the collection to a close with the Chansons madécasses, as well as Chanson du rouet and Si morne. As usual, Norman is never less than involved, but as so often I find she sings with an all-purpose generosity, and I’d have welcomed a little more of Janet Baker specificity. Still this is nitpicking, and hers are still among the best versions of these wonderful songs. Throughout the piano accompanied songs Dalton Baldwin provides superbly idiomatic playing, with the Ensemble de Chambre de l’orchestre de Paris providing the accompaniment for the Mallarmé settings and Michel Debost on flute and Renaud Fontanarosa on cello in the Madegascan songs.

Altogether, this is a wonderfully rewarding set and, if individual performances have been bettered elsewhere, all are more than adequate and many a great deal more than that, though, on this occasion, it is the gentlemen who take the palm. Warmly recommended.

Cross-posted from the WAYLTN thread:

--- Quote from: ritter on April 15, 2022, 11:56:59 AM ---…

Wow! WOW!
Irène Joachim was the female lead in the legendary wartime recording of Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande under Désormière (one of the greatest opera recordings ever), but otherwise her discography is rather scant. Here we have a well selected programme of the well-known and the obscure, from three live or radio recitals of the 1950s. What made Joachim so endearing as Mélisande applies just as well to what we hear on this CD: a smallish —almost childlike— and clear voice, but one that is perfectly managed and projected, a clarity of enunciation as I’ve seldom come across (both in French and in German), and a feeling of strong but reined-in emotion (no flashiness here) that is of impeccable taste. She shines in everything: the Berg 4 Lieder op. 2 are stunning, Maurice Jaubert’s Chanson de Tessa is delightful —even if it’s almost more a chanson than a mélodie—, Koechlin’s Berceuse phoque —an earlier version of what would later become a part of The Jungle Book— is charming. A real jewel is her Trois chansons de Bilitis; I have Mme. Joachim in an earlier recording of these pieces (accompanied by Jane Bathori, who plays the piano in other pieces on this CD, including the Koechlin songs), but today these songs (perennial favourites of mine) sounded so fresh and wonderful. A desert island CD I must say (pity the sound deteriorates a bit in the Koechlin songs). The complete contents can be found here.

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