It is extremely difficult nowadays to reproduce the sound castrato singers where capable of doing at their time and, too often, one finds voices that are too nasal or merely good falsettos. But in many of the performances in this CD one can let the imagination wander and almost imagine you are in the 18th century. In particular, the performance of James Bowmann is outstanding. Also very special the performace of Charpentier 'Salve Regina' by Gerard Lesne and the others; this of course enhanced by the exquisite sensibility of the director Jordi Saval. Also, the duo of Derek Lee Ragin and Ewa Mallas-Godlewska in 'Son qual nave ch'agitata' is so exquisite it brings tears to your eyes. (Carmen E. Alvarez)
A conductor who spent most of his career in tiny Luxembourg is hardly a musician one would expect to become well known, but Louis de Froment grew extremely familiar to record collectors thanks to his long association with the Vox label. Born in Toulouse, he studied at the Paris Conservatory, where he won first prize in conducting in 1948. After graduation, Froment conducted one of the French radio orchestras and, from 1950 to 1954, served as music director at the casinos in Cannes, Deauville, and Vichy.
Here we have the first complete recording of Gluck's charming one-act serenata teatrale for chamber orchestra and four treble voices, composed for the marriage of Hapsburg Archduke Joseph in January 1765. The Archduke's first wife had died. This time he was to marry the Bavarian princess, Maria Josepha. For this performance of the new Gluck work, four of the Archduke's daughters from his first marriage who were all accomplished musicians, sang roles in the new work. The new bridegroom's younger brother Leopold, conducted. That the four Archduchesses could successfully negotiate the florid soprano roles Gluck fashioned for them, is most impressive. One presumes that the youngest daughter, Marie Antoinette, was not so gifted. The serenata teatrale was presented as a surprise to the newly weds at Schonbrunn Castle in Vienna in the presence of the rest of the Hapsburg court. It was deemed such a success, that on the spot, Gluck was asked to compose another opera. The result was La Corona. The work was planned for November, but because the Emperor died suddenly, the work was not performed.
Christoph Willibald Gluck has a place in the history books for a few big hits and for the idea of reforming the ornate style of opera seria serious opera in the 18th century, replacing it with a more natural ideal of melody. This reputation has rested on a very few pieces, and both bibliographic control and recorded explorations of Gluck's music are perhaps more sparse than for any other major composer.
This is the masterwork, Gluck's last important opera, which convinced the teenage medical student Berlioz, when he first heard it in 1821, that he had to be a composer. He worshipped Gluck and took his side in the phoney "Gluck vs.Piccini War". He set himself the task of sitting in the Conservatoire library to copy out the entire score in order to absorb its lessons. Its directness and drama influenced his artistic style his whole life through, as evinced by key points in "Les Troyens".
The opera is starring countertenor Valer Sabadus - one of opera's most exciting newcomers - now exclusively signed to Deutsche Harmonia Mundi, a division of Sony Classical. Christoph Willibald Gluck, widely known for fundamentally reforming the 'opera seria' wrote some of the greatest and exemplary masterpieces of this great genre before he started his famous reform of the opera. This makes this work a fascinating and enlightening piece in the puzzle for the evolution of opera and the eminent character Gluck. Gluck's setting of La Clemenza was first performed in Naples in 1752, ten years before his first reform opera.