Thursday, 30 December 2010

Norwegian barihunk Visiting Grieg

EDVARD GRIEG: Hjertets melodier, Op. 5 (Melodies of The Heart) · 12 Melodies, Op. 33 (Poems by O.A. Vinje) · Romances and songs, Op. 18 (Poems by H. C. Andersen) · from Five poems by John Paulsen, Op. 26 · from Six Songs, Op. 48Johannes Weisser, baritone · Søren Rastogi, pianoPSC1310 SACD/Hybrid 5.1 Surround & Stereo

Johannes Weisser solo debut!

Johannes Weisser is among the foremost young baritones on European stages today, and also celebrated for his Don Giovanni recording with René Jacobs. Now he is ready with his debut solo-CD; visiting the songs of his fellow Norwegian Edvard Grieg. Weisser’s insightful and strong readings sets a new standard for the Grieg songs.

“We want to convey these songs as closely and directly as possible”. Weisser and Rastogi have collaborated for a long time, aiming directly for the heart of the emotional expression of the songs, no filters applied. With his phenomenal vocal recourses and natural talent for musical communication, Weisser’s Grieg songs emerge as pure art of the moment.

Grieg and the “secret intentions of the poet”

“For me it is not about making music, but first and foremost about doing justice to the secret intentions of the poet”, Grieg at one time explained. He hit bull’s eye already in his first opus of songs Melodies of the Heart; including such immediate and eternal hits as I love but Thee! and Two Brown Eyes. The poetry of H.C. Andersen is undeniably somewhat rich by today’s standards. Weisser and Rastogi do not repress this pathos, but rather incorporates it into a natural, impulsive musical expression.

The Vinje songs

Grieg’s songs to the Norwegian poet O.A. Vinje (1818-70) are from a time of great personal and artistic troubles. In this powerful poet Grieg found a soul mate and an artistic inspiration, and many of his best known songs are from this collection. Says Weisser: “These songs combine lines requiring a broad vocal format with the very simple and immediate melodies and a transparent accompaniment. The vocal is often written so that it invites to an operatic approach, while at the same time the music and the unmistakable inspiration from the folk music invites to a very simple style of singing. I have tried to approach these songs without too much distance, so that I might retain the soreness, enthusiasm, power and longing that both Vinje’s texts and Grieg’s music holds.

Johannes Weisser

Born 1980, Weisser today has an international career equalled by few other Norwegian artists of his generation. 23 years old he made his debut at the Norwegian Opera. These days he performs at Théâtre de La Monnaie Brussels, Royal Danish Opera, Komische Oper Berlin, Salzburg Festival, with conductors like René Jacobs, Fabio Biondi, Rinaldo Alessandrini, Philippe Herreweghe both in opera productions, concerts and recordings.
- Weisser has a wonderful voice which he uses with understanding and insight. The broad spectrum of this repertoire displays a young singer with empathy. [6/6 Idar Karevold / Aftenposten]

Monday, 27 December 2010

Looking ahead to 2011

With 2010 approaching it's end, we at Classicalify will present some of the good stuff coming in 2011. Here we go. Swedish up-and-coming soprano Malin Byström will sing Mathilde in EMI Classics 2011 release Rossini's final opera Guillaume Tell. The recording was made in October 2010 during concerts in Rome with Antonio Pappano leading the forces of his Orchestra dell'Accademia di Santa Cecilia and starring Gerald Finley as the independence loving Tell and John Osborn as the Arnold, the love interest of Mathilde. The recording will present a nearly complete take of the score and obviously aims at becoming the new reference. Reviews of the concerts on the web have been positive, but the challenge of surpassing Gedda and Caballe in the old Gardelli reference recording is, to put it mildly, daunting. Come 2011 and we will now the results.

Friday, 24 December 2010

Merry Christmas!

Classicalify wishes everybody a Merry Christmas! Hopefully you'll get many fantastic opera and concert tickets from big old father christmas. And maybe some CDs, DVDs and Bluray discs, if you still enjoy your music from physical media. If not maybe a subscription to Spotify and a gym membership. The latter to work off those extra pounds you'll get from being stuck in front of your spotified computer, listening to that old pirated Gencer recording you never found until Spotify entered your life.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Vivaldi Rock

A new release from Fabio Biondi and his Europa Galante with a stellar cast. Some reservations though for Villazon in this baroque style. But the rest of the cast is among the best!

Here a review from where you also can buy it. The recording is also on Spotify for all you downloaders!

Vivaldi's 1723 opera "Ercole sul Termodonte", his first to be performed in Rome, was a huge hit, pulling off what Oxford Professor of Music Reinhard Strohm described as "an aesthetic coup d'état in Roman opera".
Director Fabio Biondi has attempted a reconstruction from the surviving (complete) libretto, along with various musical manuscripts scattered across Europe. He supplies full analytical notes concerning the reconstruction in the accompanying booklet. Essentially much of what we have here is a modern creation cobbled together by Biondi, filling in the gaps; normally this kind of thing, knowing that it's not quite the real deal, would bother me a little when listening, but the sheer beauty of this recording wipes away such worries.
Rolando Villazón (Ercole) for me personally has the kind of voice which belongs more properly to a later age, of Rossini and Verdi; but I can forgive this choice given the rest of the cast.
As the Amazons: Vivica Geneaux (mezzo, Antiope) is an authoritative queen; Joyce DiDonato (mezzo, Ippolita) is outstanding as a fearsome warrior princess falling in love with Teseo, delivering tender love songs; the lovely Patrizia Ciofi (soprano, Orizia) is sadly a bit underutilised in terms of the number of arias she gets; Diana Damrau (soprano, Martesia) is delightful but maybe lacks a slight edge at times.
Playing Ercole's Greek companions: Romina Basso (Teseo), billed here as a mezzo, delivers real depth like a contralto, a solid performance in the trouser role and for me probably the standout performer of this set; Philippe Jaroussky (countertenor, Alceste) is just gorgeous as always and probably my favourite performer of the moment; Topi Lehtipuu (tenor, Telamone) is more like my idea of a baroque tenor though seems to have a tendency to try to imitate Villazón at times, especially when the two of them converse in the recitative.
Biondi's direction is excellent, the ensemble "Europa Galante" combines beautifully with the vocalists, and the sound in the recording is warm and space filling. The set comes as two discs in cardboard sleeves with sizeable accompanying booklet with notes, synopsis and libretto with translations, in English, French and German, all contained in a hinged cardboard box.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Non vesti la giubba

Today was the second and final peformance of Leoncavallo's Pagliacci at Berwaldhallen in Stockholm. They were conducted by Daniel Harding, principal conductor of the orchestra of the evening, the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra. In view of the up-coming La Scala Pagliacci they were most likely Harding's try out of the verismo style at a safe distance from the nasty loggionisti at La Scala.

And quite good it was, especially for a first try of the verismo style. Harding was on point in milking some of the score for dramatic effect, after all it's verismo blood and death. On the whole he kept things going forward, with good dramatic instincts. The score actually sounded more transparant, with all groups of the orchestra balanced and present. The orchestra itself was on great form, the strings loving every verismo drop of vibrato, and brass secure and self confident when needed. On hand was also the Swedish Radio Choir, who was its usual magnificent self. How glorious to hear the choral parts sung like this, ie as written in the score and not wobbling and shouting all over the place.

Vocally the find of the evening was the brazilian tenor Thiago Arancam. And not only vocally, mind you. Tall, slim and with South American good looks he must be every casting director's wet tenor dream, thus the heading. Add a healthy, well produced voice with a quite beautiful darkish timbre and a sure sense of musicality, he should be bound for tenor stardom. Given that his voice keeps up with the heavy repertoire his already well into, that is. While not small, this voice is not in the Botha or Domingo class, yet. His middle is still of medium size, and the top is certainly able to thrill decibel wise, but the thrills might have a price tag on them. But with care, Mr Arancam is well positioned for a big career and is certainly the real thing.

Next to him, Nuccia Focile (a replacement for Oksana Dyka) sounded a bit old, unfortunately. Her voice is certainly showing some wear and tear. Although never beautiful in the classical sense, Focile today sounds somewhat matronly at the top of her range. She compensates with good dramatic instincts, though. Tonio was sung by Alberto Mastromarino , a good and robust italian baritone. Apart from some frogs in the throat - a cold maybe? - and the low option in his prologue aria, he was a good villain in true verismo style. Christopher Maltman as Silvio, was good, but next to Mr Mastromarino sounded distinctly un italian. His timbre is not to our liking in this role either, a bit unfocused and lacking in velvet.

On the whole it was quite a successful evening with massive applause for everyone and Mr Arancam, Harding and the orchestra in particular.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

New Court Singers in Sweden

Miah Persson, Anna Larsson och Malena Ernman utsedda till hovsångerskor

Operasångerskorna Anna Larsson, Malena Ernman och Miah Persson utnämns av Kungen till hovsångerskor från den 1 januari 2011.
Hovsångare eller hovsångerska är en hederstitel instiftad av Gustav III. De först utnämnda hovsångarna var Elisabeth Olin och Carl Stenborg 1773.

Swedish singers Miah Persson, Anna Larsson and Malena Ernman has been named Court Singer by His Majesty the King of Sweden.
Classicalify celebrates!!!

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Opera Prize 2010

The Swedish magazine Tidskriften Opera gives it's Opera Prize 2010 to singer Åke Zetterström at Gothenburgh Opera. Classicalify congratulates!
"Jag blev både glad och förvånad över att få Operapriset, säger Åke Zetterström när jag ringer och meddelar den lyckliga nyheten. Ungefär som att göra en ofrivillig baklängesvolt. Det känns mycket hedrande."
Read more:
And to tell you the truth... this was the most interesting news in that magazine this time...