BEETHOVEN: Works for Guitar and Piano
Infatuated by American soprano Sybil Sanderson, Massenet wrote two operas for her, Esclarmonde in 1889, and Thaïs in 1894. He called the latter a "lyric comedy" which it hardly is—there's nothing amusing about the story of a courtesan who gives up her wild life for redemption in a convent where she dies, and a priest who saves her from her lurid past and then realizes he is desperately in love with her. The redeemed Thaïs dies in the arms of the despairing Athanael. At the Paris premiere, Anderson, either on purpose or by accident, exposed more of her body than was morally appropriate, thus creating a sensation. Since that time, some other sopranos have followed the exposure routine. Thaïs has attracted many leading sopranos. Geraldine Farrar sang the premiere at the Met, followed by Maria Jeritza, Beverly Sills and, more recently, Renée Fleming. Barbara Frittoli's disappointing Turin performance is available on DVD (REVIEW). There are many recordings, the first made in Paris in 1952 with Géori Boué in he tile role. A recording to avoid is Anna Moffo's 1974 RCA version mad towards the end of her career. This excellent new recording was made after performances at the Edinburgh Festival and then in Melbourne, with Toronto forces directed by Sir Andrew Davis. The cast is excellent and soprano Erin Wall easily handles this demanding role. The cat is uniformly strong, and Massenet's sometimes exotic score is beautifully played by the Toronto Orchestra directed by Sir Andrew Davis. The opera most famous episode the Meditation for violin and orchestra heard between the two scenes of Act II never has sounded as voluptuous as it does here. This is an impressive set with a booklet containing many photos and the complete libretto. Thank you, Chandos!
Polish tenor Piotr Beczala (b. 1966) has enjoyed a remarkable thus career. He has appeared with major opera companies as well as the Bayreuth and Salzburg festivals, and has made many recordings for major labels. Beczala also can be seen on videos of several operas. Obviously he has no problem with today's opera directors He starred in the Met's ill-advised modern adaptation of Rigoletto which takes place in Las Vegas, and several years ago defended a La Scala modern production of La traviata. Although not a tenor superstar, his voice is strong, controlled and he gives effective performances. He has now signed a contract with Pentatone, and this is his first release for the label. Verismo features arias from operas by Puccini, Mascagni, Leoncavallo and Cilea. He is given strong support by the Chorus and Orchestra of Generallitat Valenceniana conducted by Marco Boemi. Mezzo-soprano Evgeniya Khomutova also appears in supporting roles as necessary. The recordings were made in Spain's Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia, Valencia, and engineers have provided effective multi-channel sound. Complete texts and translations are provided.
This site has praised several superb recordings by German master guitarist Franz Halász in a wide repertory ranging repertory ranging from baroque to Gulbaidulina (REVIEW). On his latest BIS SACD he is joined by his wife, brilliant Brazilian pianist Déborah Halász who also has made many acclaimed recordings of varied repertory. It is a winning combination. On thus new disk they play music of Beethoven arranged for guitar and piano, the major work is the Serenade i D, Op. 41 originally written for flute, violin and viola. Other works are WoO (works without opus numbers): two Sonatinas, one in C the other in C mino; 12 Variations on the aria Se vuol ballare, Adagio in E flat,, Andante with Variations in D, 12 Variations in F, and an unusual work, Five Pieces for Mechanical Clock. This is a delightful program of Beethoven parented in a new light and the performances are elegant indeed. The recordings were made in Munich 2018 and 2019, and the engineering is up to BIS's usual sonic standard. A fascinating issue!
R.E.B. (July 2020)