Gossec made an important contribution to the development of French symphonic music and played a central role in Parisian musical life for almost three-quarters of a century. The opera 'Le Triomphe de la République' was composed in 1793 folowing the French Revolution and wonderfully demonstrates the musical movement that France experienced following the change in political climate. Music was recognized as a medium for the diffusion of new ideas and 'Le Triomphe de la République' was a case in point. It was written in the wake of popular enthusiasm at the news of the army's victory at the battle of Vlamy in 1792 against the anti-French troops led by the Duke of Brunswick. It features folk music and popular dances of the day reflecting a kind of life quite distinct from that of intellectual, aristocratic society. This is an opera that can be seen as redefining music for the new age; the awareness that new relationships were being formed within society as a whole is expressed stylistically by multi-levelled metaphors, and also by the interaction of different kinds of sound. I Barocchisti have a worldwide reputation for reviving vocal and instrumental works of the Baroque period and have earned worldwide success with live performances and recordings. Swiss conductor Diego Fasolis has received glowing reviews for his previous releases with this ensemble.
Giovanni Paisiello, whose works Mozart thought enough of to study closely, was mostly forgotten in the nineteenth century, and this Passione de Gesù Cristo remained buried until 1998. This is its second recording; a Polish version on the Arts label, from that year, is also available. The oratorio's text is by the preeminent operatic librettist of the eighteenth century, Pietro Metastasio. One can easily understand why the work has never had a critical mass of general listeners, but for those interested in Mozart's world it's truly fascinating. This passion story features neither Jesus nor Pontius Pilate, nor any of the other usual personages. Instead it takes place after Christ's crucifixion, recounted by St. John, Joseph of Arimatea, and Mary Magdalene (in surely her biggest part until Jesus Christ Superstar came along) to St. Peter, with the accompaniment of a chorus of Christ's other followers; in the second part, all bewail the corruption of Jerusalem and look forward to Christ's resurrection.
Russian Julia Lezhneva here shows an admirably gutsy attitude toward developing her repertory, avoiding familiar milestones in favor of an original project. Here she is paired with French countertenor Philippe Jaroussky in a program of works by Pergolesi for two high voices, strings, and continuo: the Stabat mater, for which there are plenty of other recordings, and the less-common Laudate pueri dominum and Confitebor tibi Domine. The distinctive feature here – which might tempt some to use the word "gimmick," but listen before doing so – is that Lezhneva fashions her voice into a very close copy of Jaroussky's, which is not at all an easy thing to do. Put this together with the precise, rather edgy playing of I Barocchisti under Diego Fasolis, and the result is a rather otherworldly Stabat mater. The tragic quality of the work and its association with Pergolesi's short life are played down (probably a good thing, for Pergolesi wasn't planning to die at age 26) in favor of creating a hypnotic globe of sound from which the two singers' voices emerge as flashing accents along with the punchy sound of Fasolis' strings. It may not be to everyone's taste, but it's quite an accomplishment, and the album continues to serve notice of Lezhneva's emergence as a major star in Baroque singing.–James Manheim
Until recently all traces of Alessandro Scarlatti’s oratorio Il martirio di Santa Cecilia had been lost. Discovered in the manuscript collection of the Fondation Martin Bodmer in Cologny, near Geneva, this oratorio which had been undiscovered for decades was immediately performed in Zurich. Karl Böhmer (the booklet author) and Oliver Mattern produced the first modern edition of the work. The interpreters on that occasion are again featured on the present recording. This sacred tragedy could rightly be termed one of the most dramatic and mature oratorios of the Roman baroque. Although there are no choruses, the action is portrayed with long recitative dialogues between the protagonists, and the music’s strongest moments come when the recitatives go over into expressive accompagnati, widely ranging ariosi, and affective arias. Like all of Scarlatti’s gloomy, fatalistic oratorios, this work culminates in bloody scenes of murder and martyrdom.
The triumphant release of Mission in autumn 2012 drew rave reviews and was followed up in September 2013 with Steffani’s Stabat Mater, alongside his greatest sacred works for chorus, orchestra and soloists, and a further disc of dances and overtures with the celebrated I Barrochisti conducted by Diego Fasolis. On the Stabat Mater, Bartoli leads an array of internationally celebrated singers including countertenor Franco Fagioli, the bass Salvo Vitale and the two young German tenors Daniel Behle and Julian Prégardien. The final album of the collection is Danze & Ouvertures’, contains 43 great tracks of enchanting early-baroque music.
Don't hate this album because it has been beautifully marketed, for if you do you'll miss out on something extraordinary. Italian mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli reportedly worked on it for three years, even suggesting a mystery-novel tie-in, and her label, Decca, kept the contents under wraps until the album's release, dropping hints via Internet videos. When the album appeared, it was issued in a limited-edition hardbound package including numerous essays covering aspects of the life of the composer involved, Agostino Steffani.
Until it was revived in the late twentieth century, Handel's opera Faramondo was performed just eight times in London in 1738 and then fell into obscurity. According to the conventions of Italian opera of the period, men's roles were often written for women, in spite of the lack of dramatic realism, and the use of castrati was common, so higher voices strongly predominate. Handel wrote the title role, which would have gone to a castrato, usually a male alto, for Cafarelli, who had the range of a mezzo-soprano. This recording is exceptional in its use of countertenors in all the male roles, and it's intriguing to hear together the variety of voice types lumped together as "countertenors"; the singers here are distinctly males altos, mezzo sopranos and sopranos. The early twenty first century is blessed with an abundance of extraordinarily fine countertenors, and the singers on this recording are exceptional, with voices of great tonal fullness and purity, agility, and individuality.
The plot is as follows: We are on an island where women reign; three of them–Tulia, Aurora, and Cintia–argue over who should become Queen. Their browbeaten boyfriends, when not begging for a kiss, groveling, or trying to figure out how to please the women, attempt to stop them from bickering, and worse, killing each other. Eventually, sick of the women’s petty rivalries and led on by the tenor Ferramonte, the men take over, returning things to their “natural” state: “You will find us merciful provided that you moderate your vanity,” they sing before the final chorus, which states that “Women in command make for a topsy-turvy world that is inevitably doomed to failure.” The Italian studios of Swiss Radio have lately produced a number of impressive recordings of early music, and their skills are well illustrated in this fresh, lively account of Galuppi, with a first-rate team of soloists, chorus and orchestra. (The Guardian)