Presto News - 17th March 2014
Decca Most Wanted Recitals
We received a very exciting delivery from Mexico towards the end of last week: fifty great Decca vocal recitals (dating mainly from the 1950s to the early 80s) have been treated to 24-bit/192KHz transfers by Victor Suzan of Universal Music Mexico, who has mined the Philips and Decca archives for treasure and come up with a selection of gems which are sure to appeal to historical opera aficionados and casual listeners alike.
Around three-quarters of this material has never been previously released on CD, or in some instances on any format, and the artists include household names as well as some superb singers of the past who are comparatively elusive on disc these days.
I’ve been dipping into our box of sample-copies most days over the past few weeks, and it’s been an absolute treat to discover artists and repertoire (or unusual combinations of the two!) that I’d never explored in any real detail before.
My first port of call, and still possibly my favourite of the lot, was a rafter-rattling operatic recital by the German dramatic soprano Inge Borkh, captured at her formidable peak in the late 1950s. The strikingly gothic cover-image was what caught my initial attention: where possible, the discs reproduce the sleeve-art of the original LPs, giving a real vintage feel to the series. Most of her current discography consists of complete recordings of her signature-roles (Turandot, Elektra, and Salome), so it’s fabulous to hear her in this wide-ranging collection: she slims her steely sound to a silvery thread for the lyrical arias, but the stand-outs are the powerhouse Verdi selections. There’s surely no more redoubtable Lady Macbeth on record - our social networking feeds indicate that many of you are eagerly anticipating this one, and I can quite understand why!
It’s also a joy to hear José Carreras in his golden-voiced prime, and in the repertoire that best suited his voice, in two recordings from 1980: a glorious disc of early Verdi and dramatic Donizetti arias shows why he deserves to be remembered as so much more than ‘The Other One’ of the Three Tenors, whilst a swashbuckling collection of Neapolitan and Spanish popular songs had us all grinning at its sunny delight on a particular grey February afternoon in the office!
A fair proportion of the recitals are devoted to lighter fare such as musicals and torch-songs, immensely enjoyable and full of surprises: these singers ‘crossed over’ with such panache and comfort in the various idioms that it hardly seems jolting when the charismatic Canadian bass-baritone George London follows ‘Ol’ Man River’ with Wotan’s Farewell! Because the discs are taken from LPs, they generally take the form of a main recital of 40 minutes or thereabouts supplemented by substantial bonus-tracks hand-picked by Mr Suzan – these often reveal a very different side of the singer, and even the most deliciously incongruous of them are every bit as valuable as the main course!
Regular readers will probably be well aware of my enthusiasm for many of the current generation of operatic voices, and I’m usually the first person to take issue with those who lament that “you don’t get singers like this these days”, but exploring this collection made me think that in a sense you really don’t. This is the most wonderful legacy of a golden age in recorded singing - Mr Suzan has accomplished a real labour of love here, and I for one am supremely grateful!
Click here to view full details of the records in this series.
Katherine Cooper - firstname.lastname@example.org
17th March 2014
In 27 Pieces: The Hilary Hahn Encores
Hilary Hahn (Violin), Cory Smythe (Piano)
Although there are hundreds of vintage pieces available to violinists when it comes to choosing encores, Hilary Hahn hatched an idea to restock the old pool with fresh new pieces. This album presents twenty-seven of these commissions, including composers such as Mark-Anthony Turnage, Nico Muhly, and Jennifer Higdon.
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Bartók: Duke Bluebeard's Castle
Sir John Tomlinson (Bluebeard), Michelle DeYoung (Judith), Juliet Stevenson (narrator), Philharmonia Orchestra, Esa-Pekka Salonen
An unforgettable live-concert recording, selected from the Philharmonia Orchestra and Esa- Pekka Salonen’s season of works by Béla Bartók – ‘Infernal Dance’.
The Romantic Cello Concerto, Vol. 4: Pfitzner
Alban Gerhardt (cello), Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin, Sebastian Weigle
Hyperion’s Romantic Cello Concerto series continues to bring new works into the repertoire. Here, Alban Gerhardt performs the three concertos by Hans Pfitzner, a composer remembered most for his opera, Palestrina.
Khachaturian: Violin Concerto in D minor
James Ehnes (violin), Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Mark Wigglesworth
Khachaturian’s 1940 Violin Concerto was composed for and dedicated to David Oistrakh, who gave the premiere in Moscow that year. It is an instantly accessible work, infused with the music of the composer’s native Armenia, with colourful use of the orchestra and dazzling virtuosity.
Schubert: Works for Solo Piano Vol. 1
Barry Douglas (piano)
Barry Douglas embarks on the complete solo piano works by Franz Schubert. This first volume features two large-scale works, the ‘Wanderer’ Fantasy and the Sonata in B flat major, alongside two Schubert songs transcribed by Liszt.
Haydn: String Quartet, Op. 51 'Seven Last Words'
Haydn wrote his 'Seven Last Words' in 1786/87 for Good Friday devotions in Cádiz. This purely instrumental ‘oratorio’ consisting of seven contemplative slow movements was by no means an easy task; but the outcome was a work of sublime nobility, which in Haydn’s own transcription for string quartet has enjoyed unfailing popularity ever since.
Evelina Dobraceva, Ekaterina Siurina (sopranos), Justina Gringyte (mezzo-soprano), Daniil Shtoda (tenor), Andrei Bondarenko, Rodion Pogossov (baritones), Alexander Vinogradov (bass) & Iain Burnside (piano)
This is the first complete recording for 20 years of Rachmaninov’s published song output. All seven singers are native Russian speakers, and every song is performed in the key in which Rachmaninov wrote it, respecting both the specificity of vocal colour and the carefully designed tonal and expressive trajectory within each opus.
Rossini: Le Comte Ory
Javier Camarena (Le Comte Ory), Cecilia Bartoli (La Comtesse Adèle), Rebecca Olvera (Isolier), Carlos Chausson (Le Gouverneur) & Oliver Widmer (Raimbaud), Chorus of the Opernhaus Zürich & Orchestra La Scintilla, Muhai Tang
Cecilia Bartoli stars in this ebullient Zurich Opera House production of Rossini’s first French-language comedy opera, in the acclaimed production by masters of bel canto comedy, Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier. Bartoli reminds us of her comic gifts and her naturalness as a stage actor — as well as her total sympathy with the music of Rossini.
Blu-ray version also available here.
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