Saturday, May 8, 2010

Recordings and other events

In every issue the German magazine Toccata/Alte Musik Aktuell has a survey with news from the recording studios. This seems to me of interest to lovers of early music, so I am going to forward the most interesting things here on a regular basis. I also add some information about upcoming events, like festivals.

Let us start in the renaissance. The repertoire from Spain is quite popular, but it is mostly Tomás Luis de Victoria whom is given attention. And even from his oeuvre only a handful of pieces are regularly performed. The German label Archiv has started an interesting project, containing the release of a series of 10 discs with about 90 compositions by Victoria. They are performed by the Ensemble Plus Ultra, directed by Michael Noone. Also participating are His Majestys Sagbutts and Cornetts, the ensemble Schola Antiqua and the organist Andrés Cea Galan. Still, I can't help feeling a little sceptical about the interpretation. Some years ago I heard Plus Ultra in the early music festival in Utrecht, performing music by Cristóbal de Morales, and that was a bit disappointing. But we may at least expect to hear some hardly-known or even unknown pieces.
The Tallis Scholars also recorded Spanish music. The 30-year existence of their label Gimell was celebrated with a recording of Lamentations by Victoria and Padilla. I haven't heard it yet, but everyone knows what the performances of this ensemble are like: technically perfect, but hardly historically informed.

One of the main compositions of the early baroque is Monteverdi's Vespro della Beata Vergine. There was a time music like this was performed with boys' voices, but today that is the exception rather than the rule. So it is noticeable that the Knabenchor Hannover is going to perform this work later this month, with Concerto Palatino and Musica Alta Ripa. The solo parts are sung by adult soloists, though: the members of the German vocal ensemble Himlische Cantorey, with which the choir regularly cooperates. The performance will be recorded by the North-German radio (NDR). Hopefully this performance is going to be released on disc.

In recent years the operas of Francesco Cavalli are enjoying great popularity. A rare opera is Artemisia, which was rediscovered in the 1960's. Claudio Cavina, with his ensemble La Venexiana, is going to give a scenic performance this summer. I noted a performance in the festival KunstFestSpiele Herrenhausen in Hanover. I assume it will performed elsewhere as well.
More interesting opera news also comes from Germany: during the Musikfestpiele Potsdam-Sanssouci an opera by Carl Heinrich Graun is performed: Montezuma, which was composed in 1755. It is a scenic performance, directed by Geoffrey Layton; the Kammerakademie Potsdam will be conducted by Sergio Azzolini. In the cast are Florin Cezar Ouatu in the title role, Mireille Delunsch, Raquel Andueza, Makoto Sakurada, Mark Chambers, Gerald Thompson and the male soprano Paolo Lopez.
Also at this festival a scenic performance of Gluck's serenade Le Cinesi. It is a co-production of the ensemble L'Arte del Mondo and the China National Peking Opera Company. There will be intermezzi "in the style of the Peking Opera of the 18th century". I'm not sure what to make of this as a mixture of 'east' and 'west' in early music seldom works.

In the pipeline are two opera recordings under the direction of Diego Fasolis, with Max Emanuel Cencic and the orchestra I Barocchisti: Vivaldi's Farnace and an opera by the Neapolitan composer Leonardo Vinci, both to be released by Virgin Classics.

Recently I have written an enthusiastic review of a disc with Polish music by the ensemble alla polacca. It contained mostly pieces never recorded before. Considering the quality of that disc I am looking forward to its next release, which was recorded last December. It contains "music at the court of Hanover", with music by Handel and Steffani but also first recordings of pieces by Nicolaus Adam Strungk (1640-1700), Antonio Sartorio (1630-1680) and Vincenzo de Grandis II (1631-1708). That definitely looks very interesting.

The exploration of the vocal oeuvre of Georg Philipp Telemann goes on. Last March Hermann Max, with his ensembles Rheinische Kantorei and Das Kleine Konzert, gave the first modern performance of his St Luke Passion of 1748. It will be released shortly by CPO.

As I am a great lover of the music of Haydn it was nice to see last year that the recording industry has paid much attention to his oeuvre. But it seems one needs a Haydn year to see lesser-known compositions being released. I'm afraid that in the time to come we return to common practice, meaning that only the well-known repertoire will be recorded. We just have seen a new release of the London symphonies, conducted by Marc Minkowski - as if there aren't enough recordings of these symphonies available - and now the first volume of a new recording by Ton Koopman has been released. This is especially regrettable as their are still so many Haydn symphonies which are never performed and recorded.
It is simply a disgrace that still no complete recording of Haydn's symphonies on period instruments is available.