This tale of love, disguised nobility, murder, and love lost may sound like any other opera to some. But Verdi's Luisa Miller is a gem of the verismo genre. The gorgeous staging is surmounted only by a cast which includes Marcelo Alavarez, Leo Nucci, Fiorenca Cedolins, and Giorgio Surian.
Hyperion's Romantic Piano Concerto series reaches its 70th album with this program of three concertos by women. The ongoing success of the series suggests that audiences are ready and waiting for wider repertoire, and pianist Danny Driver and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra under Rebecca Miller deliver a real find here. The Piano Concerto in C sharp minor, Op. 45, of American composer Amy Beach has been performed and recorded, but it's been in search of a recording that captures the autobiographical quality of the work, well sketched out in the booklet notes by Nigel Simeone. Essentially, Beach faced creative repression from her religious mother and to a lesser extent from her husband, who allowed her to compose, but only rarely to perform. These experiences, it may be said, poured out in this towering Brahmsian, four-movement piano concerto, which sets up an unusual quality of struggle between soloists and orchestra. It's this dynamic that's so well captured by Driver and Miller (who happen to be married to each other). Sample the opening movement, which has lacked this quality in earlier performances.
The title ‘1828’ refers to Schubert’s final and astoundingly productive year, which brought forth the three duets and solo sonata featured on this disc. In Philippe Cassard’s hands, the declamatory dynamism of the D959 A major Sonata’s first-movement exposition takes a back seat, with an emphasis on shapely soft playing that ravishingly comes to roost throughout the movement’s development section. The pianist’s eloquent legato holds attention in the Andantino’s outer sections, yet he downplays the harrowing chromatic climax. He similarly understates the Scherzo’s explosive descending minor scales, yet his delicate, witty arpeggiation of the main theme’s leaping chords delights. While the Rondo gains assurance and momentum as it progresses, I prefer Pollini’s firmer left-hand projection in the explosive central minor episode and the intelligent architecture of his dynamics.
A mysteroius childlike woman, a murder by jealousy, an orphan: Debussy’s Pelléas et Méllisande, his only completed opera, is full of magical, cryptical and deeply symbolic moments. With this work Debussy added quite literally a new dimension to the 1893 stage play of the same name by Belgian playwriter and poet, Maurice Maeterlinck, who was to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1911. Rodney Gilfry, a leading American opera baritone whos vocal excellence has been repeatedly extolled by many leading music critics, is Pelléas. Praised by the San Francisco Chronicle for his “rich, rolling baritone with a superb upper range,” as well as his “vivid stage presence,” Rodney Gilfry has established himself as a most compelling musician on the world’s operatic stages. By his side Isabel Rey, internationally recognised for her exquisite vocal technique and her sensitive acting skills, is Mélisande. Due to her crystal-clear soprano and the winterly stage setting the cold dream-world of the subconscious emerges to the audience. Because of the fabulous soloist and a distinguished cast this opera promises outstanding listening pleasure. Under Franz Welser-Möst’s fabulous conducting this production of the Zurich Opera House is setting musical standards. Welser- Möst is ecxeptionally talented and internationally known as one of the outstanding personalities in the field of classical music. In conjunction with the director Sven-Eric Bechtolf, he has developed into one of the leading teams in contemporary music theater.
Mayr had already earned esteem in Venice for his church music when, in 1802, he assumed the post of maestro di cappella at the basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Bergamo. With a modest orchestra at his disposal he soon composed a Miserere in G minor, in which solo orchestral instruments often carry on a dialogue with the vocal soloists in a succession of powerful, descriptive and beautiful arias and choruses. The Litaniae Lauretanae, cast in three parts, features wide leaping figures and sighing melodies. Conductor Franz Hauk has been responsible for re-establishing the music of Johann Simon Mayr, one of the most significant operatic and vocal composers resident in Italy before the rise of Rossini.