Apart from his popular Canciones negras, written more than half a century ago, the compositions of the now 87-year-old Montsalvatge (in 1999) have made little impact on the musical public in general: many of his works remain unrecorded – the opera Puss in Boots, the Indian Quartet, the five Invocaciones al Crucificado and the virtuoso Harpsichord Concerto, to name only four. But there are two Montsalvatges – one with a more traditional manner, and a later more trenchant, experimental and individual. From his earlier period comes the Sinfonia Mediterranea, composed three years after the Canciones negras; its lack of fashionable ‘modernity’ tempted him at one time to consider rejecting it completely. I’m glad he didn’t, for it’s an attractive (if slightly overlong), warmly romantic work that includes melodies of a popular cast.
There are few composers who have vanished from music history to the extent of Johann Abraham Schmierer. We know very little about this composer’s origins, education, career and life journey. Some listeners, during or after hearing this recording, may well wonder why this music – despite its undeniable qualities and relatively early publication (already in 1902 in the tenth volume of Denkmäler Deutscher Tonkunst) – has not been recorded earlier. One reason is surely the fragmentary character of the collection, for six suites are obviously missing.
This is in short a really good recording. Gerdes' handling of the opera is very good (though his tempo in the Pilgrims' Chorus theme of the Overture is almost disturbingly fast), the orchestra is well controlled and very expressive. Birgit Nilsson, one of the greatest Wagnerian sopranos of the 20th Century, sings the two principle female roles - Venus and Elisabeth; Wolfgang Windgassen, who sings the role of Tannhauser, is one of the greatest Wagnerian tenors of the century. And Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, who sings Wolfram, is virtually undisputed as THE baritone of the century.Highly recommend this recording.
The songs included on this album are all settings of words by either Elizabethan or Jacobean poets: a period of literature that has been a prime source for song composers since its creation. The Shakespeare texts – all ‘songs’ from the plays – contain the works that made Quilter’s name, and have largely been responsible for his enduring reputation. Nathan Vale studied with Ryland Davies at the Royal College of Music and Benjamin Britten International Opera School. He was awarded an Independent Opera Vocal Scholarship to the National Opera Studio, where he was further supported by the Elmley Foundation, ENO, the Nicholas John Trust and The Seary Trust. He is a former winner of the London Handel Singing Competition where he was also awarded the Audience Prize. He continues his studies with David Pollard.