Classical music is one of the greatest joys in life. Opera on the other hand, is often too melodramatic to stomach. But there is nothing more enchanting than an Aria. On this 2 CD set, Emma Kirkby sings in sweet exultation. Her voice expresses power and agility yet a limpid tranquility. Clarity is the greatest achievement of any musician. With the aid of precision accompaniment on period instruments, shameless perfection is delivered. She soothes the soul longing for beauty. Her marvelous Soprano is rendered on 25 tracks in this eclectic ensemble. If you are a champion of Handel or a devotee of Mozart, you should not hesitate to purchase this CD. Emma Kirkby will have you beaming with delight and pining for more. Surely it will be one of the brightest of your collection.
If you've ever heard the Berlin guitarist Arne Jansen, you'll know how difficult it is to forget his special sound. That passionate rummaging around in the warm diversity of the electric guitar, where bashful understatement mixes with playful sensuality. The humaneness become sound that always searches for what is special in the commonplace, exudes serenity and yet never itself comes to rest because its quest never ceases.
Artaxerxes, premiered in London in 1762, was the first full-length opera seria sung in English. It proved a great success and helped to revive the fortunes of Thomas Arne, whose career had been in the doldrums. The opera featured his new protégée and mistress Charlotte Brent in the role of Mandane and Arne lavished attention on her music. Mandane’s arias and those of the hero Arbaces provide many of the opera’s high points, with their rich orchestrations, virtuoso vocal parts and captivating tunes. Though based on the Handelian model, Artaxerxes shows both Arne’s talent at the later galant style and his penchant for folk-like, pastoral airs. The results are mostly a delight (if a tad lightweight for the libretto’s blood ’n’ thunder deeds), with a variety of attractive arias further enhanced by Arne’s deft use of woodwind. Christopher Robson in the title role and Catherine Bott, thrilling as Mandane, head a fine team of singers: my only complaint is that Patricia Spence’s forceful Arbaces too often slips into shrill and strident mode.
It would be hard to find an opera in any area of the repertory that presents so many textual problems as Les conies d'Holfmann, largely stemming from the fact that the composer died four months before the premiere early in 1881, leaving the score incomplete. The traditional text, bringing in extra material, much of it unauthentic, and leaving out a lot, was only established this century. Arthur Hammond with the Carl Rosa Company was a pioneer in attempting to sort out a more acceptable text, and his work formed the basis of the English National Opera production at the Coliseum and also the Richard Bonynge recording for Decca. Since then the discovery of no less than 1,250 autograph pages allowed Fritz Oeser to produce his monumental edition, as used extensively in the Cambreling recording for EMI (12/88 —nla)…