Recorded live in 2011 at the Aldeburgh Festival, which Benjamin Britten founded in 1948, this performance of his dark, intense chamber opera The Rape of Lucretia stars Angelika Kirchschlager, Peter Coleman-Wright and Ian Bostridge, with Oliver Knussen conducting. “Everything, without exception, was right on the money,” said The Guardian,” … a dazzling success.”
Handel’s beautiful, intimate settings of liturgical texts written for the First Duke of Chandos are among his less well-known choral works—and are proved by this second volume from Trinity also to be among his loveliest. They are a perfect example of the composer’s English style heard in Acis & Galatea and oratorios such as Judas Maccabaeus.
On this disc, the Choir of St John’s College, Cambridge performs alongside four soloists and the period instrument ensemble St John’s Sinfonia. The tenor Sam Furness and bass George Humphreys both started their careers as Choral Scholars with this very choir. The mezzo-soprano Frances Bourne is in great demand on the concert platform and has sung with many of Europe’s leading conductors; the soprano Susan Gritton has amassed a vast discography that has earned her two Grammy nominations and includes, for Chandos, recordings of works by Haydn, Schubert, Mendelssohn, and Vaughan Williams.
Today we take high fidelity sound quality for granted, but how did it start? When was the moment when compressed and scratchy sound gave way to natural, realistic sound that captured the whole picture of a performance?
Decca Sound ‘Mono Years’ seeks to answer that question and shows how, 70 years ago, amidst war-time privations, a small team at Decca made technological breakthroughs that brought hi-fi to the world. This latest cube explores Decca’s earliest high-fidelity history, and restores some restores critically acclaimed albums from ensembles such as the Trio di Trieste, Quintetto Chigiano and Griller Quartet which have not been available since their original LP release more than sixty years ago. An equally impressive array of soloists includes pianists Clifford Curzon, Julius Katchen, Friedrich Gulda and Moura Lypmany and violinists Ruggiero Ricci and Alfredo Campoli. Several generations of cellists are represented with recordings by Pierre Fournier, Maurice Gendron and Zara Nelsova.
This 55-CD set chronicles the remarkable Archiv label, begun in 1947. Devoted mainly to early and Baroque music, the recordings presented here, in facsimiles of their original sleeves (a nice touch), cover the period from Gregorian chant to Beethoven’s Fifth and Sixth symphonies, played on period instruments. There are stops in between for a great deal of Bach, music of the Gothic era, the French Baroque (Mouret, Delalande, Rameau, etc), Gibbons, Handel (Alcina, La Resurrezione, Messiah, Italian cantatas), Telemann, Zelenka, Gabrieli, Desprez, Haydn, LeJeune, and plenty of the usual, as well as unusual, suspects. There’s also a final CD with selections of new releases (more Handel, Cavalli, Gesualdo, Vivaldi).
It's been conventional wisdom for several generations that Solomon, great oratorio though it may be, contains a lot of deadwood; conductors have regularly cut some items and changed the order of others. (Even John Eliot Gardiner's excellent recording cuts about 30 minutes of music.) Leave it to Paul McCreesh to give us the complete score–and demonstrate that Handel's original structure makes plenty of sense and that every number is worthwhile.
With an outstanding solo quartet and a great chorus and orchestra, Davis leads a sterling performance that challenges the supremacy of his 1966 Philips recording of Messiah. Davis leads a dramatic performance; the famous "Hallelujah" chorus appropriately grand, the final "Amen" bristling with brazen energy, both sung with extraordinary tonal coloring and precise articulation by the chorus, which also shines in a lithe "He shall purify" and a vividly virtuoso "For unto us a child is born." Soprano Susan Gritton's solos are a delight, whether in the measured "Behold, a virgin shall conceive" or her exuberant "Rejoice greatly." The vocal purity of her "I know my redeemer liveth" makes this track a highlight. Alto Sara Mingardo's darker tones are especially moving in her arias and dramatic in "He was despised."
King's Consort produces another brilliant interpretation and performance of works by Henry Purcell. This collection of Purcell's solo secular songs (though some, as the previous review mentions, have short duets within them) is superbly sung all around. A note on the vocals, they aren't the most "early music" vocals you'll find. The singers all certainly demand attention, but for me, I think that's perfectly fine. The very subdued singing that some take to Baroque music seems to detract from the emotion of these pieces–emotion that is clearly intended from the text painting. However, they also aren't sung in an unnecessarily grandiose way or with too much drive. Frankly, it's just right.