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Aria For … Thursday – Nehmt meinen Dank, ihr holden Gönner! (Mozart)

In Aria For ..., Classical Music, Mozart on January 30, 2014 at 11:32 am

This is a gem of an aria. Written by Mozart for Aloysia Lange née Weber, she was Costanze’s sister and Mozart’s original love if reports are to be believed.

Even though his love was never reciprocated, Mozart wrote some of his most stunning and heartfelt arias– both concert and operatic – for Aloysia who clearly had formidable talent. She was his Vienna Donna Anna for example as well as the recipient of concert arias including Popoli di Tessaglia and Verrei spiegarvi. Oh Dio!.

Yet compared to those arias, Nehmt meinen Dank, ihr holden Gönner! seems beguiling simple and belies the obvious talents that Ms Weber possessed.

Written in 1782 the text portrays an artist thanking her patrons for their support. It’s not clear why the aria was written, some have speculated it was for a benefit concert by Ms Lange as an encore piece and others have speculate that it was an insertion aria for a German performance of Paisiello’s Il barbiere di Siviglia.

I lean toward the first option and sung here by Miah Persson – with such grace and delicacy – and accompanied with elegant simplicity by the Swedish Chamber Orchestra under Sebastian Weigle, I can see why it often features as an encore for today’s recitalists.

The two-verse aria doesn’t attempt to plumb the emotional depths of some other Mozart aria but charms with its simplicity – the pizzicato strings, the added warmth provided by the woodwind, above which Mozart’s creates an almost lieder-like melody.

And Mozart skilfully constructs this aria to provide ample opportunity for embellishment by the singer. I have no doubt that Ms Weber would perhaps have indulged in more ornamentation but the restrained and simple additions by Ms Persson fit the music perfectly.

Nehmt meinen Dank always raises a smile with me and is a great way to start the day.

An Invigorating Dasch Through Mozart. Enjoyment Assured.

In Classical Music, Mozart, Opera, Review on March 24, 2012 at 6:16 pm

Review – Mozart Arias. Annette Dasch, Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin & Marc Piollet

Buy this CD. It’s as simple as that. In the plethora of recital CDs by new and up-and-coming singers that quite literally litter the racks, Annette Dasch’s recital disc of Moart arias stands out.

I was fortunate enough to stumble on this CD while browsing the rather excellent CD shop at the Staatsoper Wien while waiting to attend a rather marvellous performance of Die Frau ohne Schatten. Having her recording of arias by various composers for the character of Armida led me to grab this CD.

Ms Dasch has a bright and agile soprano of which she displays great control in terms of dynamics and graceful fluidity. Firm and even throughout her range she also is in possession of a remarkable interpretative intelligence in each and every aria. There’s no excessive ornamentation and more to the point her own small interpretive decorative gestures around unexpected phrases delight rather than irritate Dove sono is a case in point for example.

And not only is her diction faultless but she puts meaning behind the text itself. Listen to her performance of the recitative of E Susanna non vien for example. Frustration, then hesitation then anger are all most effectively conveyed.

The recital disc covers all the major Mozart operas plus Zaide’s, Il Re Pastore and Lucio Silla and as much as possible the arias as grouped with respect to the operas they are from. And for the first time in a long time it was a joy – and I mean a joy – to revisit these old numbers. Ms Dasch breathes real life and honest interpretation into every single track.

The first three tracks are from Le Nozze di Figaro. Opening with Porgi Amor is really a make-or-break decision – sublimely beautiful but notoriously difficult to carry off, get it wrong and it can marr the entire recital. No worries here however as Ms Dasch – sensitively accompanied by the Akademie für Alte Musik – makes her musical intention clear – a beautifully poised, intelligent and faultless performance that sets the standard for the rest of the disc.

And that standard doesn’t slip.

Rune Sanft mein Holdens Leben with its oboe obbligato is delicately spun out with those vocal flourishes that I mentioned earlier adding to – rather than distracting from – the melody that Mozart rolls out. And there’s no hint of strain as Ms Dasch leaps on ‘Leben’ as is sometimes the case. Piollet takes the mid-section at quite a canter but doesn’t sacrifice the overall musical intelligence of this performance which is somewhat heightened with the return opening section and a sense of ‘preghiera’ in terms of Ms Dasch’s dynamic control.

Each and every aria is so beautifully performed it would be easy to write about each and every one but I sense that listening to the disc without too much commentary would be best.

But watch out for the vocal decorations in L’amerò costante for example; revel in the drama she unfolds in In quali ecessi … Mi tradi and how she effortlessly manages Donna Elvira’s sweeping phrases. Her Donna Anna is also a marvel. After a poignantly delivered recitative, her Non mi dir is both eloquent and dignified and Ms Dasch defies challenging tessitura and sails through the coloratura with incredible ease.

Non più di fiori from La clemenza di Tito and the two arias from Così fan tutte that follow throw into bold relief the rich and even tone that Ms Dasch has from her gleaming top notes to her resonant lower register. And in Fiordiligi’s two arias Come Scoglio and – for me the highlight of the entire disc – Per Pieta this incredible range is married with faultless technique as she flings off the coloratura with precise abandon. And hats off to the dexterous French horn player.

Ach, Ich Fühl’s brisker-than-normally expected pace blows cobwebs off what can sometimes seem a dirge with most singers. Again more ‘preghiera’ that hapless heroine formats Dasch and the same can be said for Giunia’s aria Fra i pensieri più funesti from Lucio Silla where the Akademie’s plangent wind sonorities are most effective in the opening section.

And no more fitting an end to a musically meticulous recital than A fuggi il traditor. The faux Baroque mannerisms are attacked with relish by the orchestra as Ms Dasch for one final time ratchets up the sense of dramatic to deliver an ovation-inducing Donna Elvira.

Bloody marvellous.

Throughout the soprano is brilliantly supported by Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin under the direction Marc Piollet. This is authentic instrument playing of the highest standard. Alongside the gutsy string playing – you can almost feel the players digging into the music at some points – I was once again reminded of a sense of ‘wind band’ in the luminous playing of the wind and brass sections. Piollet drew an amazing sound from all the players and directed the entire ensemble and Ms Dasch with great sensitivity and understanding through some of Mozart’s most famous aria. It was almost as if I was hearing them for the very first time.

And one thing that keeps turning over in my mind every time I listen to this disc – and I have returned to it repeatedly? That Ms Dasch displays the same innate musical intelligence and clear joy of singing this music as Ms Edda Moser.

I have made it a general rule never to travel abroad for Mozart except in exceptional circumstances. Ms Dasch is about to put a pleasurable strain on my finances methinks.

I can’t recommend this recital enough. Enjoyment assured.

Edda Moser – A Masterclass In Meaningful Mozart

In Classical Music, Mozart, Opera, Review on October 31, 2011 at 4:40 pm

Review: Mozart Arias (EMI)

My first and enduring memory of Edda Moser was as Donna Anna in Joseph Losey’s film of Don Giovanni. With a cast including Ruggiero Raimondi, Teresa Berganza, Kiri Te Kanawa and José van Dam and conducted by Lorin Maazel, it’s a film – or is it a production? – which I regularly return to.

As part of a strong ensemble, Edda Moser was a perfect Donna Anna. Not only did she perfectly capture the hysteria of the character but she married it with an innately informed and musical approach alongside her colleagues.

In today’s marketing-led world of classical music, Edda Moser would not be characterised as having a ‘beautiful’ voice – where ‘beautiful’ is often simply a synonym for bland and uninteresting. But what this reissue of her recital of Mozart arias demonstrates is that ultimately Moser is an accomplished, flexible and talented artist who literally breathes life into every character she portrays on the CD. I would hazard a guess that not many of today’s artists would be as capable of this level of musicianship and interpretation.

Additionally her diction is superlative. Indeed I understand that as well as being a professor of singing at Cologne’s Hochschule für Musik, she is the founder of the annual Festspiel der Deutschen Sprache, championing the use of proper German over ‘Denglish’. Enough said.

And while her voice may not be ‘beautiful’ to those brainwashed by today’s sleeve-note marketeers, it has a beauty, individuality and real sense of musicianship which should be the envy of many of today’s singers – a unique and distinct timbre, even and precise throughout her entire range with exacting and incredible vocal control even in the most challenging moments of coloratura.

Edda Moser is a confident singer, completely assured and hers is a voice that makes you sit up and not listen so much as demand that you pay absolute attention. This is not a CD to drive to or have on as background music. It must be listened to with no distractions.

The recital disc covers original recordings made between 1971 and 1976 just a few years after Ms Moser made her 1968 debut. Conductors Leopold Hager, Eugene Jochum, Wolfgang Sawallisch, Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt and Peter Scheider provide able support through a selection of arias from Die Zauberflöte, Idomeneo, Don Giovanni (of course), La clemenza di Tito as well as a few both concert and religious arias.

Throughout Moser conveys a real sense of each character she portrays coupled with perfect diction and intelligent interpretation. From Die Zauberflöte she sings to the two arias for the Königin der Nacht, interestingly in reverse order – and clearly to give the disc an impressive ‘opening number’. And it works. In Der Hölle Rache not only is there real fury and fire in the delivery the text but she delivers the demanding coloratura – and the famous high f’s – with pinpoint accuracy, exuding the very confidence and assurance I’ve already mentioned. Just listen to her final phrase – Hört, Rachegötter, Hört der Mutter Schwur! – delivered with utter conviction. In Oh Zittre Nicht, mein Lieber Sohn! … Zum Leiden bin ich auserkoren, Moser adopts a more lyrical tone as befits the aria but with careful attention to detail to the words in the accompagnato and the opening of the aria itself. But again the faster second section holds no difficulties as she once again throws out confident and machine-gun accurate coloratura including a top f which with so many other singers sounds pinched.

Staying with the singspiel theme, next is Marten aller arten. I love this aria but more for it’s passages of coloratura and four delicately balanced concertante instruments that for it’s dramatic potential. Only a precocious adolescent genius would stop the drama at the precise moment when it reaches a critical dénouement, cock a finger at the audience and make them sit there for almost ten minutes. Granted, through a marvellous, beautifully crafted and inventive aria but lessening the emotional and dramatic impact. Compared to Zaide’s Tiger! wetze nur die Klauen, Martern aller arten does what Mozart intended it to say on the tin of the opera – show of Signora Cavallieri’s talent. But this isn’t to complain. And while some people might prefer a greater sense of urgency in the tempo of this aria, Moser’s performance is incredibly accomplished, working with the concertante soloists and with a purity of tone and legato throughout. A more measured tempo not only allows her to negotiate the florid passages with note-perfect ease but actually allows them to breathe and in reality adding dramatic impetus. This is almost the best performance on the disc.

Crudele! … Non mi dir, bell’idol mio is the only aria Ms Moser performs from Don Giovanni and it immediately transported me back to Losey’s film. Her burnished dramatic soprano comes into it’s own and – perhaps because of the association with the film – this is the finest performance on the disc. From the opening Crudele, Moser inhabits the character of Donna Anna sliding through the demanding tessitura and the sweeping arc of the vocal line with faultless technique. More often than not for the audience and the soprano simply the accompagnato as a means to the aria. Not so Ms Moser. Here the emotional emphasis is equally distributed with a smooth legato vocal line and beautifully crafted phrases and embellishments clearly articulated in the opening section of the aria. In the ensuing allegro this is combined with note perfect coloratura which Moser delivers as part of – and not separate to – the overall emotional context. Wonderful.

From Hispanic victim to vengeful Greek for Elettra’s Tutte nel cor vi sento from Idomeneo. And before I proceed, one minor gripe. That EMI cut the aria stone dead by not including the subsequent choral entry. Despite a strong performance it leaves the track somewhat incomplete. Yet Ms Moser is in her element here and I wish I could have seen her Elettra on stage. Here – and in the subsequent aria for the character, Oh Smania! Oh Furie! – D’Oreste e d’Aiace – Moser brilliantly captures a princess full of hatred and a desire for revenge with the broken, hesitant phrases and she accents the appoggiaturas skillfully without ever cutting the notes short or snatching at them. In Elettra’s final aria, Moser raises the emotional temperature without ever sacrificing the Mozart’s lyricism. Although towards to end – and the only moment on the disc – Moser comes close to intonation troubles. Almost but not quite.

Sandwiched between these two arias, and at least chronologically correct unlike Die Zauberflöte at the top of the disc, is Elettra’s Idol mio, se ritroso. In comparison to the character’s other arias in Idomeneo I always feel that this aria is somewhat of a cipher> It lacks the heart-on-sleeve emotion of either of the other two and doesn’t attaining their emotional level. Perhaps because of this, Ms Moser’s performance seems somewhat muted.

From La Clemenza di Tito Moser performs the marvelous Ecco il punto … Non piu di fiori. Following an impassioned accompagnato, the aria launches into one of the stateliest tempos I have heard. With a great control, Moser sails purposefully through the vocal line, ably abetted by a mellifluous clarinet obbligato. And in terms of attention to diction, just listen to her delivery of Stretta fra barbare aspre ritorte, veggo la morte ver me avanzar.

The remainder of the disc is given over to two concert arias and excerpts from Mozart’s sacred music including the Agnus Dei in ensemble with Julia Hamari, Nicolai Gedda and Dietrich–Dieskau. All are beautifully performed but the single most pleasant surprise of the entire disc is Moser’s performance of the incredibly challenging Popoli di Tessaglia … Io non chiedo written for Aloysia Weber, for whom Mozart wrote some of his most demanding concert arias. An aria more commonly associated with Rita Streich, Edita Gruberova, Natalie Dessay and Cyndia Sieden, I was intrigued to hear Edda Moser.

This is not an aria to shrink from and Moser confronts it head on, delivering a performance of innate musicality and verve with intense control of her voice. As with the other examples on the disc, Moser gives equal weight to the opening accompagnato with attention to both the words and the vocal line. It’s interesting to note that the conductor on this occasion is Leopold Hager, who would later return to this aria with Gruberova. His handling of the delicate and filigree orchestral accompaniment with its oboe and bassoon obbligati is wonderfully detailed and Moser rises to and surpasses the challenge, spinning a rich yet even tone throughout her register. Indeed the richness of her tone surpasses many other performances of this aria.

And with a sense of ease that is remarkable she hits each and every g’ that Mozart fiendishly wrote. And indeed she sails to the note and holds it. No snatching from Ms Moser. Indeed, listening to her effortlessly fling out the coloratura, without a doubt Moser combines vocal security with innate musicianship that tips this performance of Popoli di Tessaglia well above those of other singers.

Brava Signora Moser! A masterclass in Mozart and a pleasure for repeated listening.

Review – Mozart Arias (Ildebrando D’Arcangelo/Noseda)

In Classical Music, Mozart, Opera on May 16, 2011 at 10:33 pm

Mozart recitals by female artists are an almost weekly occurrence so it’s always always a pleasant change to be confronted by performances of Mozart’s lesser-recital’d arias for bass/baritone. And when the artist is the consummate ‘poster boy’ Ildebrando D’Arcangelo then the appetite is clearly whetted in advance. Add to that the conductor is Gianandrea Noseda and the combination should be perfect.

Having seen D’Arcangelo in Don Giovanni at Covent Garden, I was looking forward to a more-than-enjoyable recital disc. On stage he is a consummate actor, his Leporello was just the right balance of servile accomplice and wannabe grandee. In fact I seem to remember he almost stole the show with his almost feral sexuality and sense of nihilism.

And on the whole the performances are literally flawless. That is to say that, note for note, bar one single aria, the performances are flawless. D’Arcangelo’s voice is rich and deep, with a pleasing and equal resonance through every register. The orchestra of the Teatro Regio Di Torino also play flawlessly for Noseda. Having now left the BBC Philharmonic after a wonderful final performance of Otello (see Verdi’s Otello – A Fitting Farewell), I understand that he will be spending more time conducting this orchestra. They clearly have a good relationship as the playing is also incredibly refined, particularly the playing by the wind sections.

Yet while the performances are flawless, they lack any sense of character. D’Arcangelo essays all the major roles of Don Giovanni, Figaro and Cosí together with some of the insertion and concert arias that Mozart composed. Yet from his entrance in Madamina, il catalogo è questo – in the Prague version apparently – that vital element of characterisation is missing. This isn’t Leporello singing jealously of his master’s sexual conquests across Europe but simply a performance. And similarly his Don isn’t the great seducer in Deh! Vieni alla finestra. Had he sung like this in reality perhaps the servant girl would have stayed in and washed her hair!

And so it goes on, his Figaro cuts no dash and his arias drawn from Cosí simply lack interest.

Potentially of more interest are the concert/insertion arias that are included on the disc. Yet again there is no sense of characterisation. Indeed more here than in the more famous opera arias, there is a real sense of D’Arcangelo simply going through the motions. Alcandro lo confesso… Non sò d’onde viene (K512) almost topples into disaster. He is clearly uncomfortable in the coloratura, which is quite extensive for a bass aria, with the result that this is the single turgid performance on the disc. However it has to be said that none of the arias in this category really hit the mark.

Naturally it must be difficult in a recital situation to perfectly capture the character of differing individuals. Yet Mozart’s music and the libretti make for more than ample tools for at least an attempt. Changing dynamic range simply isn’t enough. Naturally his diction is very good, but the texts do not come alive in anyway. There is no sense of irony in Se vuol balare, and no sense of swagger in Fin ch’han il vino for example. And fan of Noseda as I am, even I must admit that the orchestral playing simply serves as accompaniment rather than supporting any sense of portrayal. Where are the heckling wind and brass in the catalogue aria? I missed their expected intrusion.

Perhaps, as is often the case with recital releases now, D’Arcangelo will now tour a series of concerts. And maybe his performances will come alive when he is in front of a concert hall audience.

I certainly hope so because until then this CD simply remains – for me at least – just another technically flawless recital disc.

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