Glanville-Hicks: Sappho
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Peggy Glanville-Hicks: Sappho

Opera in Three Acts
Libretto from the play by Lawrence Durrell

Catalogue Number: TOCC0154-55
EAN: 5060113441546
Release Date: 29 October 2012
Duration: 2:08:07

Act 1: Overture; Scene 1–2
Act 2: Scene 3–5
Act 3: Scene 6–7

Deborah Polaski, soprano: Sappho
Martin Homrich, tenor: Phaon
Scott MacAllister, tenor: Pittakos
Roman Trekel, baritone: Diomedes
Wolfgang Koch, bass-baritone: Minos
Sir John Tomlinson, bass: Kreon
Jacquelyn Wagner, soprano: Chloe/Priestess
Bettina Jensen, soprano: Joy
Maria Markina, mezzo soprano: Doris
Laurence Meikle, baritone Alexandrian
Coro Gulbenkian, choir
Orquestra Gulbenkian, orchestra
Jennifer Condon, conductor

Sappho, the last grand opera of Australian composer Peggy Glanville-Hicks (1912–90), was written in her stone cottage on Mykonos in 1963. Never heard before this recording, Sappho reflects Glanville-Hicks’ fascination with the orient and folk music, encapturing the colours of ancient Greece, with a heroic brass fanfare and epic writing for chorus, haunting woodwind solos and shimmering percussion evoking the stillness of crystal island waters. Deborah Polaski, who creates the role of the disenchanted Sappho, describes it as ‘the kind of music that singers want to sing’. The libretto, based on Lawrence Durrell’s verse-play, incorporates fragments of Sappho’s own verse.

Booklet texts   (PDF)

Track Listing, MP3 Downloads and Streaming Samples

Track No. Track Title / Details Duration Sample Add to Cart
DOWNLOAD COMPLETE ALBUM 2:08:07
1:1 Sappho: Act 1, Overture (1963)

Peggy Glanville-Hicks, composer
Orquestra Gulbenkian, orchestra
Jennifer Condon, conductor

(first recording)
3:41 play
1:2-8 Sappho: Act 1, Scene 1 (1963)

Peggy Glanville-Hicks, composer
Deborah Polaski, soprano
Martin Homrich, tenor
Roman Trekel, baritone
Wolfgang Koch, bass-baritone
Sir John Tomlinson, bass
Jacquelyn Wagner, soprano
Bettina Jensen, soprano
Maria Markina, mezzo soprano
Orquestra Gulbenkian, orchestra
Jennifer Condon, conductor

(first recording)
30:14
1:2 ‘Hurry, Joy, hurry!’… ‘Is your lady up?’ 4:14 play
1:3 ‘Now, at last you are here’ 6:13 play
1:4 Aria – Sappho: ‘My sleep is fragile like an eggshell is’ 4:17 play
1:5 ‘Minos!’ 5:14 play
1:6 ‘So, Phaon’s back’ 3:19 play
1:7 Aria – Phaon: ‘It must have seemed like that to them’ 4:33 play
1:8 ‘Phaon, how is it Kreon did not ask you to stay?’ 2:24 play
1:9-14 Sappho: Act 1, Scene 2 (1963)

Peggy Glanville-Hicks, composer
Deborah Polaski, soprano
Martin Homrich, tenor
Roman Trekel, baritone
Wolfgang Koch, bass-baritone
Sir John Tomlinson, bass
Laurence Meikle, baritone
Coro Gulbenkian, choir
Orquestra Gulbenkian, orchestra
Jennifer Condon, conductor

(first recording)
27:24
1:9 Introduction... ‘Phaon has become much thinner’…
Song with Chorus: The Nymph in the Fountain
6:22 play
1:10 ‘Boy! Bring us the laurel!’… ‘What are the fortunes of the world we live in?’ 4:59 play
1:11 ‘Wait, hear me first!’… The Epigram Contest 2:55 play
1:12 ‘Sappho! Sappho!’… ‘If death be noble’ 3:56 play
1:13 ‘Ah, it is you’ 6:27 play
1:14 Duet: ‘Nay, but always and forever’ 2:45 play
2:1-2 Sappho: Act 2, Scene 3 (1963)

Peggy Glanville-Hicks, composer
Deborah Polaski, soprano
Martin Homrich, tenor
Wolfgang Koch, bass-baritone
Coro Gulbenkian, choir
Orquestra Gulbenkian, orchestra
Jennifer Condon, conductor

(first recording)
6:19
2:1 Introduction… ‘What are you making?’… ‘Here’s Minos coming!’ 4:45 play
2:2 Chorus: ‘Hail to Pittakos!’ 1:34 play
2:3-6 Sappho: Act 2, Scene 4 (1963)

Peggy Glanville-Hicks, composer
Deborah Polaski, soprano
Martin Homrich, tenor
Scott MacAllister, tenor
Wolfgang Koch, bass-baritone
Sir John Tomlinson, bass
Coro Gulbenkian, choir
Orquestra Gulbenkian, orchestra
Jennifer Condon, conductor

(first recording)
20:31
2:3 ‘Sea begotten heroes’ 3:54 play
2:4 ‘Admit it now’ … ‘Now, where is this brother of mine’ 5:31 play
2:5 ‘Ah, here you are at last’ 6:37 play
2:6 Aria – Pittakos: ‘You think I do not feel’ … ‘Sappho! Sappho!’ 4:29 play
2:7-8 Sappho: Act 2, Scene 5 (1963)

Peggy Glanville-Hicks, composer
Deborah Polaski, soprano
Roman Trekel, baritone
Orquestra Gulbenkian, orchestra
Jennifer Condon, conductor

(first recording)
8:57
2:7 ‘Diomedes, oh Diomedes, what have you done?’ 5:31 play
2:8 ‘Sleep now’ 3:26 play
2:9-10 Sappho: Act 3, Scene 6 (1963)

Peggy Glanville-Hicks, composer
Deborah Polaski, soprano
Sir John Tomlinson, bass
Jacquelyn Wagner, soprano
Coro Gulbenkian, choir
Orquestra Gulbenkian, orchestra
Jennifer Condon, conductor

(first recording)
9:41
2:9 ‘Priestess of the Oracle’ … Invocation 3:49 play
2:10 Kreon’s confession: ‘Oh Mask!’ 5:52 play
2:11-15 Sappho: Act 3, Scene 7 (1963)

Peggy Glanville-Hicks, composer
Deborah Polaski, soprano
Scott MacAllister, tenor
Wolfgang Koch, bass-baritone
Orquestra Gulbenkian, orchestra
Jennifer Condon, conductor

(first recording)
21:20
2:11 Introduction 1:27 play
2:12 ‘The voting must be over’ 6:30 play
2:13 Aria – Minos: ‘I am very tired’ 1:51 play
2:14 The Verdict: ‘Sappho! Sappho! It is exile’ 4:24 play
2:15 Monologue: ‘Now everything is silence and remoteness’ 7:08 play

Artists

Peggy Glanville-Hicks

Peggy Glanville-Hicks, composer

Deborah Polaski

Deborah Polaski, soprano
[credit: Milena Schlösser]

Martin Homrich

Martin Homrich, tenor
[credit: Matthias Creutziger]

Scott MacAllister

Scott MacAllister, tenor
[credit: Devon Cass]

Roman Trekel

Roman Trekel, baritone
[credit: Imagem]

Wolfgang Koch

Wolfgang Koch, bass-baritone

John Tomlinson

Sir John Tomlinson, bass
[credit: R. Workman]

Jacquelyn Wagner

Jacquelyn Wagner, soprano
[credit: Bruce Szopo]

Bettina Jensen

Bettina Jensen, soprano
[credit: Reinhard Simon]

Maria Markina

Maria Markina, mezzo soprano

Laurence Meikle

Laurence Meikle, baritone
[credit: Nathan Amzi]

Coro Gulbenkian

Coro Gulbenkian, choir

Orquestra Gulbenkian

Orquestra Gulbenkian, orchestra

Jennifer Condon

Jennifer Condon, conductor
[credit: Milena Schlösser]

Reviews

Sappho awarded an ‘Outstanding’ by IRR

If […] you’re willing to let the music work its hypnotic powers on you, you’ll find yourself caught. This premiere is an act of commitment by the 30-year-old conductor, who has been working since 2001 to bring this work to the world, and who is responsible for deciphering the manuscript of the full score to make this performance possible. Her dedication is palpable from first note to last and she’s fortunate to have been able to secure a solid orchestra and to convince a first-rate set of world-class singers to participate […] The entire cast boasts excellent enunciation, especially important in an opera that relies so heavily on textual detail. The orchestra coaxes out the music’s understated effects expertly (listen, for instance, to the wailing of the strings beginning a minute or so into Scene 5 or to the keening solo winds throughout). All in all, a major contribution to the catalogue, served up with Toccata’s usual high-quality presentation values; the engineering is solid, too. Strongly recommended to any opera lover with a sense of adventure.

Peter J. Rabinowitz International Record Review March 2013

Recording of the month

Sappho […] is blessed with a beautifully poetic libretto, packed with memorable phrases and singable lines. The plot is cursed with a lack of forward momentum, but what it lacks in dramatic impetus it makes up for in meditative insight. […]

Musically, Sappho is a most attractive work, full of atmospheric modal harmonies, with pentatonic effects adding an exotic air. Some fine highlights compensate for occasional moments of patchy inspiration. Condon marshals her considerable forces with sensitivity. Martin Homrich and Scott MacAllister as the love interest sing ardently, and there are fine contributions from Wolfgang Koch, Roman Trekel and a characterful John Tomlinson. The Germans in the cast manage the English text pretty well. […] This major release deserves a strong recommendation, and Condon deserves a medal.

Clive Paget Limelight February 2013

All the elements of a Greek drama

The eagerly anticipated world premiere recording of Peggy Glanville-Hick’s opera Sappho, with libretto by Lawrence Durrell, is at last on the shelves, timed to perfection with the centenary of the composer’s birth on December 29th 2012 (d 25th June 1990).

The 2 CD set released by Toccata Classics is a recording of the complete opera in 3 acts, lasting a little over two hours. It is a substantial project with meticulous attention to quality and detail. The cast of soloists is little short of jaw-dropping, the orchestra and chorus are world class; the supporting literature is robust with archival photographs, biographies of writers and performers and the complete libretto. […]

The biggest revelation of the recording however, is the music of Peggy Glanville-Hicks. Though based in the traditions of western classical music, her aesthetic was informed by her travels and her philosophy and draws on an eclectic mix of Greek modes, Indian ragas, ancient Italian, Spanish and Caribbean influences. The music of the opera is distinctly modal with instrumentation, rhythms and ornaments that conjure images of a dangerously exotic Mediterranean epic.

Shamistha de Soysa SoundsLikeSydney 14th December 2012

Condon’s achievement should be celebrated

[Glanville-Hicks’] attempts to use non-Western musical language in opera – an essentially Western musical form – helps explain why Sappho was rejected by the San Francisco Opera, which complained of its “abundant use of modal tonality”. The score would have seemed simplistic – this was the era of difficult, avant-garde music – and the opera remained unperformed for almost 50 years.

Condon argues that Sappho was being judged on the reduced piano score and not the full orchestration with its vivid effects: the cymbals and gongs, dramatic scenes for chorus, and solos for cor anglais and clarinet. The music comes to life when the instrumental colour is added. […]

Given the few performances in Australia of any of Glanville-Hicks’s music this year, Condon’s achievement in bringing out the composer’s last complete opera should be celebrated. The recording will be a calling card to opera companies that she hopes will stage the work.

Matthew Westwood The Australian 11th December 2012

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