field studies is a CD of chamber music by Canadian composer Emilie Cecilie Lebel. There are five tracks on the record; each around twelve minutes long, scored for various small forces and recorded in different locations.
The pieces are all different but they have one thing in common. They make a few notes go a long way! evaporation blue, which opens the album is typical. It’s scored for piano and harmonica; both played by Cheryl Duvall, and it’s very sparse with the notes typically given long time values. It’s quite evocative in a slightly tense kind of way. It’s also recorded with a lot of resonance which has to be deliberate since it was recorded at Revolution Recording in Toronto.
Gavin Bryars’ A Native Hill is a setting of sections from Wendell Berry’s 1968 essay of that title. It was written for, and recorded by, Philadelphia based choir The Crossing and their conductor Donald Nally. The essay was written by Berry shortly after moving back to Kentucky to farm. It deals mainly with how landscapes and the humans in them are shaped by each other in profound ways. It’s very local and specific and reminded me in a curious sort of way of WG Hoskins’ The Making of the English Landscape that came out a few years before the Berry essay.
A chance to see the young Edita Gruberova’s near legendary portrayal of Zerbinetta would be reason enough to watch the 1978 Vienna recording of Ariadne auf Naxos but, as it happens, there’s much more. For a start the cast includes Gundula Janowitz, Walter Berry, René Kollo and Trudeliese Schmidt plus Karl Böhm, a man who worked closely with Strauss, is conducting.
At the Christmas 2012 Against the Grain Christmas party I won a mega box set of Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau goodies which included a couple of DVDs of opera extracts including some footage of him singing the title role in Don Giovanni auf Deutsch. The full recording from which those excerpts were taken has recently been released on DVD. It’s a TV broadcast from the opening of the rebuilt Deutsche Oper Berlin in 1961. It’s the earliest recorded in a theatre, in front of an audience, TV opera broadcast that I have seen. It wasn’t, apparently, broadcast live. The recording was made during the final dress and broadcast the following evening simultaneously with the first performance proper.
Rossini’s La Cenerentola takes almost three hours to tell a very straightforward version of the Cinderella story. Generally directors, despairing of the this, either camp it up (for example the Els Comediants production seen, inter alia, in Houston and Toronto in recent years) or they try to find a few more layers of meaning as in Ponnelle’s film version. Michael Hampe does neither in his 1988 Salzburg production, preferring to tell the story as a straightforward morality tale. I guess if one really loves the music and it’s really well sung this could work but, ultimately, I found it rather dull. Continue reading →