CD Dutch Heldentenor Arias Vol I 1852-1940

cdHeldentenorThis volume largely focuses on Hendrik Vonk’s solos. Barbara Schilstra stands out here in an imaginative performance of ‘Krassende raven’ from Dopper’s De blinde van het Casteel Cuillé (1894) and in the long duet from Ernest W. Mulders Daphne (1934). Central in this compilation are the studio recordings made in Cantina Vocaal Amsterdam (401Recordings 2) on September 24, 2017. In addition, we selected tracks from 401Concerts 4, 5, 8 en 10. Eigenlijk was het de bedoeling dit begin mei 2018 in een finale studio-sessie op te nemen, hetgeen verhinderd werd door Wolter Willemsens voortijdige overlijden op 18 juni 2018 (waarover meer op on IMWW tribuut 401Concerts 22). Zo werd deze CD behalve een tribuut aan het Nederlandse Heldentenorrepertoire en Hendrik Vonk ook een improviso In Memorial uitgave voor Wolter Willemsen. Try-out opnamesessies in Utrecht zijn gebruikt om de Cantina Vocaal-tracks te completeren. Op enkele tracks speelt klavierlegende René Rakier enkele passages die uit live-opnames of eerdere sessies niet in bruikbare kwaliteit voorhanden waren. Ondaks het ongemak en het lastige editingproces vanuit onvoltooid gebelven opnamesessies zijn wij er toch in geslaagd een uniek en meeslepend programma samen te stellen. De componisten, veelal volstrekt onbekend en hun opera's komen optimaal voor het voetlicht. De muziek op deze CD is soms prachtig, soms meeslepend, soms indrukwekkend. Het is het beste dat de periode van het Wagnerisme op tenorgebied in Nederland voortbracht.

Hendrik Vonk, Barbara Schilstra en het Nederlandse heroïsche operarepertoire

Vonk’s experience in the heavy repertoire (Wagner’s Tannhäuser, Tristan; Verdi’s Otello; Bacchus and Menelaus in Richard Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos and Die Ägyptische Helena, ecc.) is audible throughout these recordings. However, as can be heard on some mesmerizing Brandts Buys song recordings with Willemsen on our CD ‘Micarême’ (401NLOCD201801), Vonk has always combined the heroic school with remarkable legato and an interpretative level that comes from his Lieder interpretations. His diction in the Wagnerian monologues from Seelenkampf and Frithjof is elaborate. His mixture of bravura and sentiment in Jozal’s challenging Act I monologue is admirable. He lends weight to the operetta-like tunes of Van de Rovaart. Heros's melancholic moon-song in Seleneia, one of the secret marvels of Dutch opera, has just the right shade of emotion, without ever becoming larmoyant. Perhaps the most taxing monologue in all here is Oberstadt’s challenging ‘Ik drijf als wrak nu rond’, from De Scheveningers (1940). It was composed in exactly the same time as Van Gilse’s legendary opera Thijl, and we were surprised to find that Oberstadt’s work could actually hold its ground opposite Van Gilse’s masterpiece (the only acclaimed masterpiece in the entire history of Dutch opera!).
    Definitely one of the most original scores in the programme is Ernest W. Mulder’s unperformed opera Daphne, which combines Mulder’s highly individual style with his own understanding of Nietzsche’s Die Geburt der Tragödie aus dem Geiste der Musik. In the spoken duet between Apollo and Daphne, Schilstra and Vonk amply demonstrate their understanding of the sophisticated, florid and very poetic language. This music requires a genuine intellectual effort, but once into Mulder’s musical world, one may come to feel as if floating in Wonderland. In a different way this could also be said of Schilstra’s gripping madness aria from Dopper’s De blinde van het Casteel Cuillé, which is a veritable danse macabre, complete with monks’ choir (with solos for Vonk and bass-baritone Andreas Goetze in the ‘Veni creator’).
    What to make of Charles van der Does then, the composer whose Roi de Bohème from 1852 opens this compilation? Van der Does composed his work just a year after Gounod presented his first opera, Sapho, and the atmosphere of van der Does’s airs is surprisingly close to the realm of Gounod. It is beautiful music, both gallant and mellifluous. One could easily dream away on both of these ballads if it weren’t for the Auber & Meyerbeer-like finales of cadenzas and airs, which require stamina and explosive top notes. While the word Heldentenor is linked to Wagner, the genre harks back to the French heroic tenors in the line of Jason in Cherubini’s Médée, and from there to Licinio in Spontini’s La vestale, Pollione in Bellini’s Norma, then also the heroes of Meyerbeer (Raoul in Les Huguenots, Jean de Leyden in Le prophète), Berlioz (the protagonist in Benvenuto Cellini) and Halévy (Éleazar in La Juive), and, in the Netherlands, Charles van der Does!