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Opera Recording of the Year 2015

Features - Classical Music | Opera

Opera Recording of the Year 2015

by Andrew Aronowicz on December 11, 2015 (December 11, 2015) filed under Classical Music | Opera | Comment Now
A seasonal opera with temporal jiggery-pokery makes a wonderful find for the end of any year.

ORCHESTRAL • CHAMBER • INSTRUMENTAL  VOCAL

Hindemith
The Long Christmas Dinner
American Symphony Orchestra/Leon Botstein
Bridge BRIDGE9449

HINDEMITH'S NOT JUST FOR CHRISTMAS

The passage of time is the subject of this lesser-known work by Paul Hindemith. It was his last opera, a thoughtful setting in English of Thornton Wilder’s play of the same name, which sees the Bayard family enjoying their Christmas feast over 90 years. New life is celebrated, old lives commemorated and mourned and the repercussions of decisions are played out over decades. The cast play characters from old and young generations, entering through one door and exiting through another when their time is up. 

Hindemith’s score works with the cyclical nature of the libretto. Familiar melodies and phrases are uttered by younger characters, echoing the words of matriarchs and patriarchs from years past. The chamber orchestration is expressive yet tidy, never overpowering the soloists and providing a constant stream of accompaniment to the evolving feast. The melodies favour lyricism, rather than the angularity of Hindemith’s early neoclassicism. That said, he’s kept the emotional restraint, so the music never becomes sentimental.

With crystal clear diction, the performances by the various soloists are excellent. So too is the American Symphony Orchestra, under Leon Botstein’s secure direction. This is its first English recording, and it’s a fascinating find for lovers of 20th-century opera. Andrew Aronowicz

"The combination of major playwright and composer is rare in itself. But this is Hindemith at his best – full of imagination, wit and intensity. Best in English, the recording helps reclaim the American side of Hindemith's career."
– Leon Botstein


The Runners-Up

Brett Dean
Bliss
Peter Coleman-Wright bar, Opera Australia/Elgar Howarth
ABC Classics 4811820 (3CD)

Donizetti
Les Martyrs
Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment/Sir Mark Elder
Opera Rara ORC52 (3CD)

Jonas Kaufmann
The Puccini Album
Jonas Kaufmann t, Santa Cecilia Orchestra/Sir Antonio Pappano
Sony 88875092492

Veli-Matti Puumala
Anna Liisa
Helena Juntunen s, Tapiola Sinfonietta/Jan Söderblom
Ondine ODE12542D (2CD)