The singing is superb, especially from Horne, here giving one of her best DVD performances. The excellent Rossini tenor Douglas Ahlstedt deserves a mention too. As Mustafa, Paolo Montarsolo sometimes finds the part a little challenging vocally (who wouldn't!), but he is hilarious and very well suited to the role. Levine's conducting makes the music simply sparkle. I can't really fault this set.
By Mrs. E. Watts
The works included on this disc traverse an almost 25 year span of interest in writing for large vocal forces. Some of my largest works have been for choir—such as my St. Luke Magnificat or my Shoah Requiem—but on this disc the works, apart from my Missa Brevis, are for a cappella choir. Writing for a cappella choir is a very inspiring medium coupled, as it is, with text and language and the inherent timbral interest of varied vowel and percussive consonant sounds in the voice. The works, apart from Silence from my Two Looks at Silence, are all in Latin and owe more than a little to my background as a Catholic and Catholocism's traditional sacred liturgical literature. —Douglas Knehans.
Skyliner was one of Charlie Barnet's most exciting hit records, and quickly became as closely identified with his big band as was Ray Noble's Cherokee. This 1996 EPM Musique Jazz Anthology compilation is one of at least six Barnet albums with the word "Skyliner" in the title. Tracks one through twelve were recorded for the Bluebird label between June 19, 1940 and April 30, 1942. Tracks thirteen through twenty follow Barnet's progress through the turbulent wartime years with a trail of Decca sides cut between July 1942 and February 1944. "Skyliner" comes from a V-Disc recorded on July 13, 1944; "E-Bob-O-Lee-Bob," like "Oh Miss Jaxon" a vocal feature for trumpeter Peanuts Holland, was harvested from a Jubilee broadcast on December 6, 1945. Some of this band's arrangements were written by Horace Henderson, Billy May and by the leader himself. Most Charlie Barnet albums are well worth investigating. This one lives somewhere near the top of the heap.
I believe this is the only note-complete performance of this opera, and furthermore, the only one that is sung in all of the original keys (in almost every other recording "Casta diva" and the duets are transposed down). It is a spectacular example of bel canto. Recorded in 1964, Joan Sutherland was at her peak, exhibiting fearless, beautiful singing, thoroughly accurate in fiorature and breath control.
The plot concerns the feisty eponymous heroine Isabella. She has been sailing in the Mediterranean, accompanied by an elderly admirer Taddeo, in search of her lover Lindoro. After her ship is wrecked Mustafa, the Bey of Algiers, believes her the ideal replacement for his neglected wife who he intends to marry off to a captured slave, who happens to be Lindoro. Complicated situations ensue involving Taddeo being awarded the honour of Kaimakan and Mustafa in turn becoming a Pappataci, a spoof award invented by Isabella to keep him obeying her strict instructions. All ends well in a rousing finale with the Italians escaping from the clutches of the Bey.
If you want a good sampling of Copland's orchestral works, then this 2-CD compilation comes highly recommended, with excellent performances of works such as Appalachian Spring, Quiet City, El Salón México and others. (Presto Classical)