Presto News - 20th August 2012

Carmen from Berlin with Kaufmann and Kožená

Magdalena Kožená as Carmen? Really? Like her husband Sir Simon Rattle, I first fell in love with the Czech mezzo’s crisp, light voice after hearing her in Mozart, and whilst I had enjoyed her French Arias disc hugely, she’s not a singer I ever expected to hear as Bizet’s visceral gypsy in a complete performance.

The role can take any number of vocal approaches and sizes: as Kožená says in an insightful interview on the Berlin Phil’s ‘digital concert hall’, the first Carmen was a comic actress with a classic soubrette voice, and Rattle explains that his mission was to present the score in its original ‘opera comique’ incarnation rather than as grand opera. (Spoken dialogue is retained rather than the recitatives which were added by later hands, though the orchestral forces don’t appear to be significantly reduced: the opera comique feel comes from Rattle’s springy tempi and transparent textures.)

Magdalena Kožená
Magdalena Kožená

What still seemed odd, though, was the decision to cast such a slim-voiced singer opposite one of the heftiest tenors around: chalk and cheese, surely? The first time I listened to the set, the pairing seemed outlandishly incongruous – and indeed it is – but the second time round it struck me that no other recording brings out the crazily mismatched chemistry of the lovers to the same degree: it sounds as if the protagonists from an opera comique and a grand opera have been thrown together by some twist of fate.

Carmen herself raises two fingers to tradition and does everything on her own terms, and that is precisely what Kožená’s cliché-free interpretation does. If you’re looking for a gypsy with a smouldering chest-voice and blazing vocal charisma then Kožená is (as she cheerfully admits in interview) not your woman, but she brings out elements of the role which are often submerged: there’s a laissez-faire quality to her singing which is disconcerting at first but strangely appropriate for a character who is capable of cool detachment as well as passion. Unlike most other Carmens, Kožená’s stronger on the former than the latter and so some of the big set-pieces (where Carmen herself is playing to the gallery) go for relatively little, but she’s at her best in the intimate moments: the quiet resignation in the Card scene comes off beautifully, and she’s chillingly matter-of-fact when bursting José’s romantic bubble after the Flower-Song with a toneless ‘Non - tu ne m’aimes pas’.

Jonas Kaufmann
Jonas Kaufmann

Kaufmann’s Don José is more of a known quantity: he has sung the role all over Europe, and his already-legendary performance in the ROH’s 2007 production is preserved on DVD. He’s made successful forays into heavier German repertoire in the interim, and his dark-hued dramatic tenor is now virtually bursting out of the part, but it’s all to the good: one of his most precious qualities is his ability to scale the voice down without any loss in intensity. His journey from Nice Young Man to obsessive psychopath is even more frighteningly realised than before: listen to the switch from sad incomprehension to homicidal fury as he repeats ‘Tu ne m’aimes donc plus?’ in the terrifying final scene, and shudder!

Kostas Smoriginas’s Toreador has a bluff charisma, but some of the finest singing on the set comes from Genia Kuhmeier’s clean-sounding but full-bodied Micaëla, neither matronly nor winsomely girlish. The smaller roles are lightly cast in accordance with the opera comique ethos, and the fizzy, conspiratorial Act Two quintet is a highlight.

Kaufmann’s legion of fans will need no encouragement here; all others can ‘test-drive’ via the sound samples and see how you warm to Kožená’s Carmen-lite. If you can put aside any preconceptions as to how the title role ‘should’ sound, I’ll warrant you’ll find it a refreshing, unhackneyed take on an opera which has been weighed down with clichés over the decades. Oh, and the orchestral interludes are a knock-out.

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Bizet: Carmen

Magdalena Kožená (Carmen), Jonas Kaufmann (Don José), Genia Kühmeier (Micaëla), Kostas Smoriginas (Escamillo), Christian van Horn (Zuniga), Andrè Schuen (Moralès), Christina Landshammer (Frasquita), Rachel Frenkel (Mercédès), Jean-Paul Fouchécourt (Remendado) & Simone del Savio (Dancairo)

Chor der Deutschen Staatsoper Berlin & Berliner Philharmoniker, Sir Simon Rattle

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Katherine Cooper - katherine.cooper@prestoclassical.co.uk

New Releases

20th August 2012

This is just the pick of the recent releases. The New Releases and Future Releases pages are always available for browsing all the new and forthcoming releases.

Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 2 in C minor, Op. 17 'Little Russian'

Russian National Orchestra, Mikhail Pletnev

This CD continues PentaTone’s very successful Tchaikovsky cycle, which has received critical acclaim. Symphony No. 5 (PTC5186385) was CD Choice of the Month in the BBC Music Magazine. This is the fifth release in this very well received Tchaikovsky cycle. It includes the original first movement from 1872.

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Liszt & Messiaen: Piano Music

Fredrik Ullén (piano)

In this imaginatively constructed programme, the Swedish pianist Fredrik Ullén juxtaposes music by Liszt and Messiaen, showing that there are closer parallels between them than might be expected.

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Vaughan Williams: Concerto for Two Pianos

Tal-Groethuysen Duo, Musikkollegium Winterthur, Douglas Boyd

Tal & Groethuysen are without doubt on of the world’s best piano duos and have received numerous international music awards for their recordings.

Ralph Vaughan Williams himself had arranged this version of his piano concerto for two pianos and orchestra and thus created an extraordinary colourful and impressive work as can be heard in Tal & Groethuysen's outstanding interpretation. They are accompanied by the Musikkollegium Winterthur who also shine with their interpretation of Vaughan Williams’ Symphony No. 5.

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Amoretti - Arias by Mozart, Gluck and Gretry

Christiane Karg (soprano), Arcangelo, Jonathan Cohen

On this CD love is examined in all its facets. Alongside arias by Mozart and Gluck, there are two lesser-known ones by their French contemporary André Ernest Modeste Gretry, one of which is presented on CD for the first time! With this compilation Christiane takes the listener on an emotional roller coaster ride that begins with a tender plea and leads via yearning, tenderness, pain, and despair to the final Adieu.

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Lekeu: Piano Trio & Quartet

Trio Hochelaga, with Teng Li (viola)

Belgian composer Guillaume Lekeu had a tragically short life but, as composer Paul Dukas noted, in these few brief years Lekeu developed “an extraordinary maturity of thought and technique that many older composers would envy”. He cultivated these qualities with the assistance of his teachers Cesar Franck and then Vincent d’Indy. Both championed chamber music, a sphere in which Lekeu produced some of his finest works, including the two pieces that appear on this new ATMA recording.

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Schein: Israels Brünnlein

Dresdner Kammerchor, Hans-Christoph Rademann

This complete recording of Schein’s Israelsbrünnlein celebrates the 800th anniversary of the Schola Thomana Leipzig. Schein was the most important Thomaskantor before Bach. Most of the pieces are based on Old Testament text.

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Decca Opera Series

Another 20 re-issues

The latest batch of Decca Opera re-issues includes Jessye Norman as Leonore and Carmen, Tebaldi and Bergonzi’s wonderful Madama Butterfly, Cecilia Bartoli in Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia, the classic Solti Eugene Onegin, Sutherland and Pavarotti in La Traviata, as well as a number of recordings which have been out of the catalogue for some time.

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5 new Eloquence releases

Included this month are recordings from Ashkenazy either long-deleted or on CD internationally for the first time, the much sought-after Jörg Demus recording of Diabelli Variations (not just Beethoven, but a host of composers including the very young Liszt, Mozart’s son and others all but forgotten), and Hans Richter-Haaser’s complete Beethoven recordings for Philips.

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16-Apr-2012 -Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique from Ticciati and the SCO
09-Apr-2012 -New and forthcoming Opera DVDs
02-Apr-2012 -Claude Debussy
26-Mar-2012 -Wagner - Klaus Florian Vogt and a new Parsifal
19-Mar-2012 -Haydn from Thomas Fey and the Heidelberger Sinfoniker
12-Mar-2012 -Jules Massenet - Werther & Don Quichotte
05-Mar-2012 -Brahms choral discs from Gardiner and Herreweghe
27-Feb-2012 -Vivaldi: Sacred vocal works and concertos
20-Feb-2012 -Aleksandra Kurzak and Renée Fleming
13-Feb-2012 -Schoenberg and Berg
06-Feb-2012 -Alison Balsom
30-Jan-2012 -Britten Violin Concerto
23-Jan-2012 -Beethoven Symphonies from Thielemann and Chailly
16-Jan-2012 -New Year’s Concert from Vienna
09-Jan-2012 -Mariusz Kwiecień
02-Jan-2012 -Fritz Kreisler
26-Dec-2011 -The year ahead and our latest new development
19-Dec-2011 -Two legendary performances
12-Dec-2011 -Maurizio Pollini plays Chopin
05-Dec-2011 -Christmas roundup
28-Nov-2011 -Havergal Brian’s Gothic Symphony
21-Nov-2011 -Duetti da Camera: Philippe Jaroussky & Max Emanuel Cencic
14-Nov-2011 -Bruckner and Mahler from Haitink and Pappano
07-Nov-2011 -Haydn from the Takács Quartet
31-Oct-2011 -Sublime Schubert from Paul Lewis
24-Oct-2011 -Franz Liszt
17-Oct-2011 -The Decca Sound
10-Oct-2011 -Pavel Haas Quartet the big winners at the Gramophone Awards
03-Oct-2011 -Berlioz's Grande Messe des Morts from Paul McCreesh
26-Sep-2011 -Handel – Agrippina & Germanico
19-Sep-2011 -Wagner’s Flying Dutchman starts PentaTone’s 10th anniversary celebrations
12-Sep-2011 -Schubert's Schwanengesang from Padmore and Lewis
05-Sep-2011 -Gergiev and the LSO conclude their Mahler cycle
29-Aug-2011 -BIS - Maxim Rysanov, Sibelius and a special offer
22-Aug-2011 -Sublime Ravel from Ibragimova and Tiberghien
15-Aug-2011 -Gustavo Dudamel
08-Aug-2011 -Brahms/Schoenberg from Rattle and the Berliner Philharmoniker
01-Aug-2011 -Lucia from the Mariinsky
25-Jul-2011 -Bayreuther Festspiele
18-Jul-2011 -Benjamin Grosvenor
11-Jul-2011 -Rossini’s William Tell
04-Jul-2011 -Bach Motets from Herreweghe
27-Jun-2011 -Sublime Vivaldi from Nathalie Stutzmann
20-Jun-2011 -Beethoven’s Fidelio from Abbado and Kaufmann
13-Jun-2011 -Byrd’s Complete Consort Music
06-Jun-2011 -Vaughan Williams’s The Garden of Proserpine
30-May-2011 -Beethoven's Diabelli Variations from Paul Lewis
23-May-2011 -New DVDs from Glyndebourne
16-May-2011 -Martha Argerich
09-May-2011 -Handel's Ariodante
02-May-2011 -Daniel Barenboim plays Chopin and conducts Tchaikovsky
25-Apr-2011 -Fliter and Ibragimova excel in Beethoven
18-Apr-2011 -Julia Lezhneva sings Rossini
11-Apr-2011 -Lully’s Bellérophon
04-Apr-2011 -Mining the archives
28-Mar-2011 -Rachmaninov's Second Symphony
21-Mar-2011 -Suk's Asrael Symphony
14-Mar-2011 -Pergolesi's Stabat Mater
07-Mar-2011 -Striggio: Mass in 40 Parts
28-Feb-2011 -Tomás Luis de Victoria
21-Feb-2011 -Lisa Batiashvili - Echoes of Time
14-Feb-2011 -Kate Royal: A Lesson in Love
07-Feb-2011 -Simon Rattle's new Mahler 2
31-Jan-2011 -Percy Grainger
24-Jan-2011 -Arne: Artaxerxes
17-Jan-2011 -Handel and Strauss from Dessay and Damrau
10-Jan-2011 -Nielsen Symphonies from Colin Davis and the LSO
03-Jan-2011 -The Genius of Mozart
27-Dec-2010 -The year ahead
20-Dec-2010 -Sheet Music now online, and other recent developments
13-Dec-2010 -Robert Schumann
06-Dec-2010 -Vivaldi Operas - Ottone in Villa and Ercole
29-Nov-2010 -Christmas Releases
22-Nov-2010 -Bach Cantatas - the Gardiner pilgrimage
15-Nov-2010 -Henryk Mikolaj Górecki
08-Nov-2010 -Schubert: Piano Duets
01-Nov-2010 -Verdi's Otello from the LSO and Colin Davis
25-Oct-2010 -The Three Baroque Tenors
18-Oct-2010 -Dame Joan Sutherland
11-Oct-2010 -Bach's Violin Concertos from Rachel Podger and Brecon Baroque
04-Oct-2010 -Gramophone Awards announced last Friday
27-Sep-2010 -Jonas Kaufmann: Verismo Arias
20-Sep-2010 -Wagner's Parsifal from the Mariinsky and Gergiev
13-Sep-2010 -Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte from René Jacobs
06-Sep-2010 -Puccini's forgotten masterpiece - La Rondine
30-Aug-2010 -Santiago a cappella
23-Aug-2010 -Elīna Garanča goes Spanish
16-Aug-2010 -Rued Langgaard - Music of the Spheres
09-Aug-2010 -Gramophone Awards - The Finalists
02-Aug-2010 -50 Years of the Grosses Festspielhaus Salzburg
26-Jul-2010 -Gustav Mahler
19-Jul-2010 -Sir Charles Mackerras
12-Jul-2010 -Beethoven - Paul Lewis and the BBC Proms
05-Jul-2010 -A Russian Sibelius cycle
28-Jun-2010 -Ronald Brautigam's Beethoven
21-Jun-2010 -Carlos Kleiber
14-Jun-2010 -Handel's Berenice
07-Jun-2010 -Channel Classics
31-May-2010 -Alfredo Casella
24-May-2010 -Shostakovich Preludes & Fugues from Melnikov
17-May-2010 -The multi-talented Julia Fischer
10-May-2010 -Nimbus
03-May-2010 -Leonard Bernstein's Omnibus Broadcasts
26-Apr-2010 -Frédéric Chopin
19-Apr-2010 -Wagner Lohengrin - BBC Awards
12-Apr-2010 -Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique
05-Apr-2010 -Rossini: Il barbiere di Siviglia and Joyce DiDonato
29-Mar-2010 -Romantic Piano Concertos
22-Mar-2010 -Robin Ticciati and Brahms' Choral Works
15-Mar-2010 -Mozart Symphonies from Mackerras - Volume 2
08-Mar-2010 -Bernard Coutaz and Harmonia Mundi
01-Mar-2010 -Thomas Adès
22-Feb-2010 -Strauss: Alpine Symphony
15-Feb-2010 -Handel: Giulio Cesare and the Brockes Passion
08-Feb-2010 -Debussy and the Prix de Rome
01-Feb-2010 -Testament
25-Jan-2010 -BBC Music Magazine Awards Shortlist
18-Jan-2010 -Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet
11-Jan-2010 -Bach for Violin and Voice
04-Jan-2010 -A Ring cycle for the 21st Century
28-Dec-2009 -Anniversaries - 2009 and 2010
21-Dec-2009 -Richard Farrell
14-Dec-2009 -Thomas Tallis's Secret Garden
07-Dec-2009 -El Sistema
30-Nov-2009 -Christmas Releases
23-Nov-2009 -Kirsten Flagstad
16-Nov-2009 -Nikolaus Harnoncourt
09-Nov-2009 -Two important Elgar rarities
02-Nov-2009 -Felix Mendelssohn
26-Oct-2009 -Cecilia Bartoli and the world of Castratos
19-Oct-2009 -Winterreise from Padmore and Lewis
12-Oct-2009 -Tchaikovsky's Moscow Cantata
05-Oct-2009 -The Quatuor Ebène and the Gramophone Awards
28-Sep-2009 -Unknown Britten
21-Sep-2009 -Australian Eloquence
14-Sep-2009 -Julia Fischer plays Schubert
07-Sep-2009 -Bach Cantata bargain of the year
31-Aug-2009 -Rattle conducts Brahms
24-Aug-2009 -Bruckner from the Concertgebouw
17-Aug-2009 -Gramophone Awards 2009 - Finalists
10-Aug-2009 -Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle
03-Aug-2009 -The Vivaldi Edition
27-Jul-2009 -Diaghilev and The Ballets Russes
20-Jul-2009 -Sir Edward Downes
13-Jul-2009 -Brilliant Classics
06-Jul-2009 -Tomás Luis de Victoria
29-Jun-2009 -Britten's homage to Purcell
22-Jun-2009 -The Three Tenors
15-Jun-2009 -Penguin Rosettes and Building a Library
08-Jun-2009 -Masterclasses
01-Jun-2009 -Gergiev at the Mariinsky
25-May-2009 -Two recent re-discoveries light up Martinu year
18-May-2009 -Idomeneo from René Jacobs
11-May-2009 -A&R and Kate Royal's Midsummer Night
04-May-2009 -Chandos Records - 30 years young
27-Apr-2009 -Rachmaninov Preludes
20-Apr-2009 -20 Years of NMC
13-Apr-2009 -BBC Music Magazine Awards
06-Apr-2009 -Shostakovich 11 from the RLPO
30-Mar-2009 -BIS and the Sibelius Edition
23-Mar-2009 -Haydn - 'The Father of the Symphony'
16-Mar-2009 -George Frederic Handel
09-Mar-2009 -Bach's Brandenburg Concertos
02-Mar-2009 -Angela Gheorghiu in Puccini's Madama Butterfly
23-Feb-2009 -The world's most celebrated violins
16-Feb-2009 -Copyright to be extended
09-Feb-2009 -A feast of Early Music
02-Feb-2009 -Sarah Connolly gets Purcell year off to a flier
26-Jan-2009 -Monteverdi as you've never heard it before!
19-Jan-2009 -Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin put Platti firmly on the map
12-Jan-2009 -Hamelin proves his real class with Chopin
05-Jan-2009 -Lindsays lead the bargains
29-Dec-2008 -Jerusalem - in search of peace
22-Dec-2008 -Looking ahead - Handel, Haydn and more
15-Dec-2008 -2008 - A great year for DVDs
08-Dec-2008 -Top new Christmas recommendations
01-Dec-2008 -Richard Hickox
24-Nov-2008 -The World's Great Orchestras, and Euros and US Dollars now accepted
17-Nov-2008 -Lost manuscripts continue to be found
10-Nov-2008 -Haydn's String Quartets
03-Nov-2008 -Tchaikovsky's Manfred Symphony
27-Oct-2008 -Contemporary Music
20-Oct-2008 -Sir Peter Moores
13-Oct-2008 -Vivaldi in a new light
06-Oct-2008 -Americans in Pyongyang
29-Sep-2008 -Paul Lewis and the Gramophone Awards 2008
22-Sep-2008 -Songs her mother taught her
15-Sep-2008 -Vernon Handley
08-Sep-2008 -Zig Zag and the Atrium Quartet
01-Sep-2008 -Gramophone Awards nominations
25-Aug-2008 -Beautiful Messiah and Exquisite Morales
18-Aug-2008 -Great Pianists of the Past
11-Aug-2008 -Classical Television Broadcasts on the Internet
04-Aug-2008 -Chloë Hanslip and the unfamiliar
28-Jul-2008 -Leopold Godowsky and the virtuoso pianist
21-Jul-2008 -Linn Records
14-Jul-2008 -Vaughan Williams
07-Jul-2008 -Olivier Messiaen
30-Jun-2008 -Reginald Goodall's revelatory 'Mastersingers'
23-Jun-2008 -The French Baroque - 200 Years of Versailles
16-Jun-2008 -Bach Fugues from Onyx and the Emersons
09-Jun-2008 -New DVD page and Special Offer
02-Jun-2008 -Time to re-evaluate Miaskovsky
26-May-2008 -Superb Scholl sings Dowland and his circle
19-May-2008 -Fiesta! - Dudamel and the Venezuelans
12-May-2008 -The Guarneri Piano Trio and the label Praga
05-May-2008 -A La Bohème for all
28-Apr-2008 -Beethoven and Period Instruments
21-Apr-2008 -The Jerusalem Quartet
14-Apr-2008 -Nigel Kennedy
07-Apr-2008 -Paul Lewis's Beethoven
31-Mar-2008 -Ingrid Fliter
24-Mar-2008 -Mel Bonis
17-Mar-2008 -Stunning new Haydn Creation from Paul McCreesh
10-Mar-2008 -Hilary Hahn plays Schoenberg and Sibelius
03-Mar-2008 -Rattle and Gergiev on Mahler
25-Feb-2008 -Handel Organ Concertos
18-Feb-2008 -Late Mozart Symphonies
11-Feb-2008 -Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Project
04-Feb-2008 -Arvo Pärt's Spiegel im Spiegel
28-Jan-2008 -Undeservedly neglected music - John Marsh and Juan de Araujo
21-Jan-2008 -New Bach Cantatas page
14-Jan-2008 -Composers' Own Recordings
07-Jan-2008 -Francis Xavier and Jordi Savall
31-Dec-2007 -50 Years of Harmonia Mundi
24-Dec-2007 -Last thoughts on 2007, first on 2008
17-Dec-2007 -Discs of the Year
10-Dec-2007 -Stockhausen
03-Dec-2007 -25 Years of the Compact Disc
26-Nov-2007 -Pacini and the importance of first performances
19-Nov-2007 -Christmas music worth hearing
12-Nov-2007 -The forgotten Maria
05-Nov-2007 -Why composers marked repeats
29-Oct-2007 -Bach B minor Mass from Suzuki
22-Oct-2007 -New Mahler 8 from Pierre Boulez
15-Oct-2007 -Lucerne Festival Orchestra
08-Oct-2007 -Julia Fischer and the Gramophone Awards
01-Oct-2007 -Mozart - Don Giovanni from René Jacobs
24-Sep-2007 -Natalie Clein and the Elgar Cello Concerto
17-Sep-2007 -Joshua Bell
10-Sep-2007 -Luciano Pavarotti
03-Sep-2007 -Kate Royal
27-Aug-2007 -Gramophone Awards - finalists revealed
20-Aug-2007 -Exciting new baroque rediscovery - Conti's David
13-Aug-2007 -Venezuelan Youth Orchestra the envy of the world
06-Aug-2007 -Music's Best-kept Secrets
30-Jul-2007 -Haydn - the most underrated great composer
23-Jul-2007 -Beethoven Piano Sonatas
16-Jul-2007 -BBC Proms 2007
09-Jul-2007 -Elin Manahan Thomas
02-Jul-2007 -Open minds and superb Bernarda Fink
25-Jun-2007 -Excited by another batch of re-issues?
18-Jun-2007 -Composer Works lists now published
11-Jun-2007 -Padmore and Bostridge sing Handel
04-Jun-2007 -Elgar's Enigma Variations
28-May-2007 -Still suffering some seventy years on?
21-May-2007 -Buying Opera on CD or DVD
14-May-2007 -Debussy's new champion
07-May-2007 -Schütz's Legacy
30-Apr-2007 -Mstislav Rostropovich
23-Apr-2007 -Missed Opportunities
16-Apr-2007 -BBC Music Magazine Awards
09-Apr-2007 -The way we listen
02-Apr-2007 -Too much Mozart?
26-Mar-2007 -Harpsichord or Piano?
19-Mar-2007 -Strauss's Four Last Songs
12-Mar-2007 -The importance of government support
05-Mar-2007 -Do today's musicians all sound the same?

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