Written in the summer of 1749, Theodora was premiered in London at Covent Garden Theatre on 16 March 1750. This work, which Handel considered his finest oratorio, was a failure at first - Handel said bitterly that the hall was so empty that "there was room enough to dance there." Part of this failure could be explained by the earthquake that hit London in February of the same year and caused the upper classes to flee the city, but another possibility is that the subject matter of the oratorio - the rebellion of a woman against the power of the state - was a bit ahead of its time.
Terpsicore (HWV)(8b) is a prologue in the form of an opéra-ballet by George Frideric Handel. Handel composed it in 1734 for a revision of his opera Il pastor fido which had first been presented in 1712. The revision of Il pastor fido with Terpsicore as the prologue was first performed on 9 November 1734 at Covent Garden theatre in London, opening Handel's first season in that newly built theatre. Terpsicore mixes dance along with solo and choral singing and was patterned after models in French operas, a particular source being Les festes grecques et romaines by Louis Fuzelier and Colin de Blamont, first presented in Paris in 1723. The work featured the celebrated French dancer Marie Sallé as well as stars of Handel's Italian operas and was a success with audiences of the day.
What the world needs more of is intelligently planned, stupendously played, and brilliantly recorded collections like this one. These two discs contain all the piano works of Michael Tippett, works that come from every period of the composer's very long life except his very last. It includes the youthful, tuneful Piano Sonata No. 1 written between 1936 and 1938 and revised in 1941, the massive Fantasia on a Theme of Handel from 1941, the exuberant Piano Concerto from 1955, the experimental Piano Sonata No. 2, the gnomic almost Beethovenian Piano Sonata No. 3 from 1973, and the gnarly post-Beethovenian Piano Sonata No. 4. It features a bravura performance by pianist Steven Osborne that makes the best case for all the music, no matter how outré or recherché its harmonic proclivities or rhythmic audacities. Osborne has the emotional enthusiasm, intellectual clarity, physical strength, and sheer willpower to make listeners believe that Tippett is a major English composer and make them wonder why they ever doubted it. With the superlative accompaniment of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Martyn Brabbins in the Concerto and the Fantasia and the sparkling recording by Andrew Keener for Hyperion, this disc marks a major step forward in the Tippett discography.
The early music ensemble Anthonello is named after the 14th century composer Anthonello da Caserta, and was founded with the view to performing early music in the spirit of the period. Each of the members is a soloist in her or his own right, and also has wide experience of performing with leading musicians in various parts of the world. Since its inception in 1994, the ensemble has gained a worldwide reputation for the excellence of its playing and for its interpretative flair.
Only a few years since emerging as a notable singer, mezzo-soprano Magdalena Kozená hasn't stopped enchanting her audience. It is, after all, a rare pleasure to experience this unique voice with its warm and elegant timbre. Some of its aspects are apparent in her preceding recital, an unusual–and unusually beautiful program of Czech love songs. With this account of Handel's Italian Cantatas, Kozená confirms the immense scope of her gifts.
There was a time, not long ago, when Baroque scores were treated as a folio of performance suggestions, not as the letter of the law. Performers felt free to add music or (more often) to take it away, and to do other things which were quite different from what the composer originally had in mind. Sir Thomas Beecham had no qualms about performing surgery on the music of George Frideric Handel, a composer he absolutely adored. No disrespect was intended. In fact, Beecham loved Handel so much, he wanted everyone else to love him too. That meant making him more palatable for modern tastes – bigger and leaner, at the same time.
Monica Huggett and her ensemble Sonnerie scored a hit on Avie with their recording of Handel's Trio Sonatas, Op. 2. They continue their traversal of Handel's chamber works with the Organ Concertos, Op. 4, featuring soloist Matthew Halls, a brilliant young soloist who spins out Handel's endlessly tuneful works with an improvisatory flair that the composer - himself a virtuoso organist - would surely have approved of.
There are so many excellent recordings of Messiah that the addition of another only further complicates the decision for the listener, but having such an abundance of riches should be no cause for complaint. Hyperion's recording with Stephen Layton leading the choir Polyphony and the Britten Sinfonia is not among the flashiest or most star-studded, but it is immensely musically satisfying.