Aida Garifullina is a young lyric soprano of Tatar origin who already has some interesting achievements under her belt. She played Lily Pons in the Florence Foster Jenkins movie, placed first at Operalia in 2013, has sung a string of -ina roles at the Marinsky and is currently a member of the ensemble at the Wiener Staatsoper. She’s also done concert work with the likes of Dmitri Hvostorovsky and Andrea Bocelli. Now she’s released a debut CD called Aida Garifullina recorded with the ORF Radio-Symponieorchester Wien and Cornelius Meister.
In some ways listening to ballet music without the visuals is even weirder than listening to opera without them but at least it’s easier to rearrange and abridge ballet music for concert purposes. That’s the case with Max Richter’s Three Worlds: Music from Woolf Works which is his condensation of Woolf Works which he wrote for Wayne McGregor and the Royal Ballet. As the name suggests it’s inspired by the works of Virginia Woolf and has three movements based on three of the novels; Mrs. Dalloway, Orlando and The Waves.
Renée Fleming’s new CD Distant Light is quite unusual for a “diva disc”. It’s definitely not “Opera’s Greatest Hits” territory. Rather, it’s in three quite contrasting parts though all are linked by the idea of “emotional landscapes”. It starts off with Samuel Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915, follows it with settings of Mark Strand poems by Anders Hillborg and finishes up with arrangements of Björk songs. She’s accompanied throughout by the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra with Sakari Oramo conducting.
The Barber piece sets a text by James Agee which is quite fragmentary and not obviously singable. Barber gives it a setting that varies quite a lot in mood and is full of melodic and rhythmic invention. It’s very Barber actually. Fleming is good here. Her voice is true and clean with no harshness in the upper register and her diction is excellent. It’s not often that the text in a high soprano setting is this comprehensible.
Exultet Terra is a disc of choral works (mostly) by Welsh-American composer Hilary Tann. The first half of the disc consists of shorter works for a cappella female chamber choir bookended by two pieces by Hildegard of Bingen in the latter of which the ladies are joined by the men of the choir. The second half of the disc consists of Exultet Terra; a five movement work for chamber choir, two bassoons, two oboes and cor Anglais.
It’s not often that discs of contemporary a capella choral music come my way but that’s what The Stolen Child: Choral Works of Scott Perkins is. There are three works on the disc exploring the themes of loss of innocence, nature, magic, sleep and death. The first, The Stolen Child (2006), sets texts by WB Yeats, the second, A Word Out of the Sea (2003), is a Whitman setting and the final work, The World of Dream (2016), uses texts by WH Auden and Walter de la Mare. The first is set for tenor, baritone and choir, the second for tenor and choir and the last for choir alone though the sound world Perkins’ creates is such that the solo roles are more or less blended into the overall sound.
All three works are similar in that the emphasis seems to be on the higher voices and everything blending into a conversational, murmury, shimmering sort of sound. It’s hypnotic and intriguing but tends to rather downplay the text which becomes more or less a series of phonemes. A Word Out of the Sea perhaps treats the text in a more conventionally dramatic way with more emphasis on the tenor soloist, Tim Keeler, but it still mostly in a similar sound world to the other two pieces.
The choir is Detroit’s Audivi conducted by the composer. It’s a twelve strong group with three singers on each part. Interestingly the alto line is taken by counter tenors. The group has a very integrated sound which works well for this music. The disc was recorded at St. Joseph Church in New Haven and the sound is quite resonant for such a small group. It suits the music but it doesn’t help make the texts any clearer!
All in all this is an interesting and unusual disc suitable for a contemplative moment. It’s available from Navona Records.
Joyce DiDonato’s latest CD In War and Peace is a compilation of baroque arias on the theme of war and peace, apparently prompted by the terrorist attacks in Paris. The arias are divided, apparently, into the two categories and while I get that Handel’s Scenes of Sorrow, Scenes of Woe from Jeptha is “war” I’m not at all sure how Purcell’s Dido’s Lament finds itself on that side of the balance sheet. No matter there’s lots of Handel; very well done, and quite a bit of Purcell, some of it quite little known; even better, with some Leo, Jommelli and Monteverdi along the way.
I’ve just been listening to Revive; a new recital disk from Elina Garanča. It marks her move into more dramatic territory as she enters her fifth decade. It also says quite a lot about how she wants to develop her career. There’s a very personal introductory essay titled Strong Women in Moments of Weakness and it seems to me that she’s looking to find her place in the 19th century French/Italian romantic/verismo repertoire as opposed to, say, Strauss or Wagner. Certainly the pieces on the disk represent roles like Eboli, Didon, Delila and Hérodiade, as well as some more obscure stuff like Musette from the Leoncavallo La Bohème and Anne from Saint-Saëns Henry VIII.