Presto News - 10th November 2014
Jos van Immerseel conducts Carmina Burana
It can often be interesting to hear a familiar work interpreted in a new way, and that’s certainly the case with a recording due out next week of Carl Orff’s most famous piece, Carmina Burana, conducted by Jos van Immerseel.
I say ‘familiar’, although I suppose really it’s mostly known for the chorus that opens and closes the work, O Fortuna, made incredibly familiar through its use in countless films and television advertisements. The full work consists of settings of twenty-four medieval poems, mostly in Latin or Middle High German, and frequently on topics of an extremely bawdy, ribald nature!
Jos van Immerseel conducting Anima Eterna
Although the piece is usually the province of huge choral societies, Immerseel here uses the instrumental forces of Anima Eterna Brugge and the vocal talents of Collegium Vocale Gent to present a pared-down version with a choir of just thirty-six singers. As you can see from the image here, the size of the orchestra’s string section is reduced too: Immerseel talks in the booklet notes about the relatively modest role that the strings play in this piece, and how he wanted to focus on the unusual, imaginative wind and brass sonorities that Orff employs throughout the work.
He has attempted as far as possible to use instruments from around the time of the work’s composition in order to get close to the sort of sound that Orff would have had in mind when he wrote the work in the 1930s. It definitely has a striking effect - if you’re used to hearing a massive choir in this piece then the opening of this recording will certainly come as a surprise. With the reduced string size, instruments that normally get a bit lost are heard with ease, and far from creating a lack of impact, the small choral size adds a wonderful clarity throughout the piece, enabling the rhythmic intricacies to come across very well indeed.
As well as the main choir (and indeed a children’s chorus that pops up from time to time), the piece also calls for three soloists. A feature common to all three of these solo parts is the demand placed upon them by Orff in terms of the required singing range, and this is certainly true of the only movement to call for a solo tenor, Olim lacus colueram. It is one of the work’s more bizarre numbers: the tenor is the voice of a swan that is slowly being roasted on a spit, pining for happier days at home on the lake and lamenting his current chargrilled condition.
To help depict the poor creature’s agony, Orff writes at the very extreme of a tenor’s “normal” range, with several high Cs and Ds. Because of this, you sometimes hear it performed by a countertenor, but I think this is cheating, as it then sounds far too comfortable to be the voice of the bird in question. Belgian tenor Yves Saelens is to my mind an ideal soloist - he isn’t afraid to produce a sound that is not always pretty, and combined with an equally stratospheric bassoon solo that is similarly incredibly pained in nature (I mean this in the best possible way!), he gives us the most vividly characterised rendition I can recall of this tale of the sizzling swan.
Saelens is joined by soprano Yeree Suh and baritone Thomas Bauer, who are both on equally fine form. Suh especially is by turns movingly tender in the gorgeously expressive In trutina and appropriately full of euphoric release in the ecstatic cry that is Dulcissime.
So, while not everyone will warm to the chamber-like approach that Immerseel takes, I think this is a fascinating reinterpretation of an old choral war-horse that is extremely well-performed and certainly worth investigating.
Orff: Carmina Burana
Yeree Suh (soprano), Yves Saelens (tenor), Thomas Bauer (baritone), Anima Eterna Brugge, Collegium Vocale Gent & Cantate Domino, Jos van Immerseel
Presto Interview – Arcangelo's Jonathan Cohen on Bach's B minor Mass
Arcangelo ensemble are still relative newcomers on the early music scene, but have released a succession of imaginative and well-received albums that have laid the foundations of a stellar reputation.
Their founder and artistic director Jonathan Cohen talks to David about his new recording of Bach’s mighty Mass in B minor, and how he approached committing such a cornerstone of the repertoire to disc in a new and distinctive way.
You can read the full interview here.
Presto Recommends – Johannes Brahms
James listens to the orchestral and choral works of the German Romantic composer Johannes Brahms – best known for his symphonies and the German Requiem, but also the composer of some smaller-scale works (such as his Serenades and the cantata Rinaldo) that deserve to be heard more widely.
You can browse through all of James’s choices here.
James Longstaffe - email@example.com
10th November 2014
Bach, J S: Orchestral Suites Nos. 1-4, BWV1066-1069
Academy of Ancient Music, Richard Egarr (director & harpsichord)
Towards the end of its 40th anniversary year the Academy of Ancient Music, with its musical director Richard Egarr, releases a new recording of JS Bach’s four Orchestral Suites BWV1066-69, made at low pitch (A=392) along with a reduced orchestra, using just one player per part.
Szymanowski: Symphonies Nos. 1 & 3
Ben Johnson (tenor), BBC Symphony Chorus, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Edward Gardner
Edward Gardner and the BBC Symphony Orchestra present their third disc devoted to the music of Karol Szymanowski. Symphony No. 1 was composed while Szymanowski was still in his twenties, and is heavily influenced by the late-Romantic style of Wagner and Strauss. Symphony No. 3 (Song of the Night) is considered the apex of his middle-period output and one of his finest works.
Schumann: Novelletten & Nachtstücke
Danny Driver (piano)
In this new album Danny Driver brings his impeccable pianism, consummate style and imagination to some of Schumann’s less well-known piano music. Schumann wrote Nachtstücke, a set of four character pieces, upon the death of his brother. The eight pieces of the Novelletten form what is at once the largest and the least known among Schumann’s major piano cycles.
Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker, Op. 71
Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra, Neeme Järvi
This is the concluding recording in Neeme Järvi’s series with the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra devoted to Tchaikovsky’s three great ballets. The Nutcracker relates the dreams of Clara Silberhaus on Christmas Eve, aroused by the nutcracker which her mysterious godfather has given her. Then the guests’ lulling and languishing waltzes take her on a fantastic journey from a mystical snowy forest to the princely kingdom of Confiturembourg.
Hugo Wolf: The Complete Songs Volume 8
Katherine Broderick (soprano), Nicky Spence (tenor), David Stout (baritone), Sholto Kynoch (piano)
This is the eighth volume in the first complete edition of Wolf’s Lieder, recorded live at the Oxford Lieder Festival. These songs, all settings of the poet Eichendorff, are a combination of some of Wolf’s best-known songs and a handful of rarities. They are performed by three prize-winning Lieder singers together with the Festival’s founder and director at the piano, and were recorded at a recital in Oxford in 2013.
Brumel: Missa de beata virgine & motets
The Brabant Ensemble, Stephen Rice
The Brabant Ensemble continues its exploration of hidden gems of the Renaissance with an album of music by Antoine Brumel, famous for his ‘Earthquake’ Mass but otherwise barely known today. Conductor Stephen Rice has assembled an intriguing collection of works including the Missa de beata virgine, a work suffused with plainsong but in which the voices are used almost percussively, making rhythm the driving force of the piece.
Wiener Philharmoniker Edition
A luxurious and authoritative 64-CD orchestral and concerto set, celebrating one of the world’s great orchestras and their 64-year relationship with Decca Classics, featuring distinguished conductors such as Herbert von Karajan, Claudio Abbado, Georg Solti, Erich Kleiber, Karl Böhm and many others.
Bellini: I Capuleti e I Montecchi
Joyce DiDonato (Romeo), Nicole Cabell (Giulietta), Saimir Pirgu (Tebaldo), Eric Owens (Capellio) & Ao Li (Lorenzo), San Francisco Opera Chorus and Orchestra, Riccardo Frizza (conductor)
The cast in this production of Bellini’s bel canto masterpiece is headlined by Joyce DiDonato and Nicole Cabell as the ill-fated lovers Romeo and Giulietta. Directed by Vincent Boussard, this production features stunning costumes by renowned fashion designer Christian Lacroix, a frequent collaborator with Boussard and a prominent fashion icon known for both his couture house and his theatre, ballet and opera costumes.
Blu-ray version also available here.
Copyright © 2002-17 Presto Classical Limited, all rights reserved.