Alessandro Stradella’s colourful life and eventual murder have since furnished writers with material for novels and stageworks. But he was very highly regarded as a composer during his short life, and made important contributions to several musical forms with operas, instrumental sinfonie and cantatas. This programme features five seldom performed chamber cantatas and two of his sinfonie or sonatas. Soprano Christine Brandes has a light, pleasing voice, and an athletic technique which enables her to circumnavigate most of Stradella’s often demanding vocal writing. But she is stretched to her limits, perhaps even a shade beyond, in the virtuoso, fiendishly difficult ‘Ferma il corso e torna al lido’.
To be a woman singing your own blues and soul songs in 1960s Texas was a rare thing. To do so while brandishing a left-handed Stratocaster and bashing out hard-edged licks was even rarer. Yet that’s just what Barbara Lynn did, inspired by Guitar Slim, Jimmy Reed, Elvis Presley and Brenda Lee. And it was a hit: her 1962 debut single, “You’ll Lose A Good Thing,” recorded with session musicians including Dr. John, gave her an R&B chart Number One and a Billboard chart Top 10 hit.
Understandably, Poulenc's Gloria and Stabat Mater have almost invariably been coupled together on LPs and CDs. Similarly scored for solo soprano, chorus, and orchestra, the two works are arguably the twin peaks of Poulenc's sacred music, that is, they are irresistibly melodic, energetically rhythmic, directly emotional, conservatively harmonic, and fervently religious. That said, however, the difference in tone between the two works is as striking as their similarities. Where the Gloria is light, bright, and at times even funny, the Stabat Mater, as befits its subject matter, is dark, heavy, and always deeply sorrowful. In this pair of performances with Georges Prêtre leading the Orchestre National de France and the French Radio Choir from the '80s, both works are given the deluxe French treatment. Prêtre is as skilled at balancing his forces as he is at keeping the music moving, and, as importantly, he is as capable of expressing the Gloria's joyous wit as he is of articulating the Stabat Mater's profound suffering. But the real star of these performances is American soprano Barbara Hendricks whose clear, warm voice and excellent diction breath vibrant life into all Poulenc's glorious melodies.