Renowned for his work in Baroque vocal music, René Jacobs is most frequently credited as a countertenor and as a choral director. He is somewhat less familiar as a conductor of Classical symphonic music, though he has increasingly delved into this repertoire in recordings with one of Europe's best early music groups, the Freiburger Barockorchester.
Anyone who enjoys Mozart opera should hear this disc. Yet quite a few people who'd probably love it to death if they listened are going to pass it by. Why? Well, look at the selections - it's not exactly a 'greatest hits' selection in the truly popular sense. Lucio Silla, Il re pastore, Mitridate, Zaïde - hardly front rank Mozart operas in the public consciousness; with Die Entführung we're getting closer - and suddenly you spot track 2, Pamina's gorgeous lament to lost love from The Magic Flute: 'Ach, ich fühl's' - anyone who hears Sandrine Piau singing this famous number will want to experience the rest of the recording no matter what.
More than two centuries after its creation, the emotional pull of this supreme opera remains absolutely intact. Dmitri Tcherniakov duly revisits the myth and makes the seducer of Seville a ‘man without qualities’, a cipher whose words have a hypnotic power over women. His words will disrupt the proprieties ruling the Commandatore’s family. His words are also what makes Don Juan such a subversive figure and the embodiment of one of the most powerful modern European myths. Leading the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra is one of the best Mozart conductors, Louis Langrée. Bo Skovhus portrays a dispirited Don Giovanni, old playboy and anti-hero. Kyle Ketelsen is his servant Leporello, currently a shoe-in for this rôle. The superb female trio is composed of Marlis Petersen (Donna Anna), Kristine Opolais (Elvira) and Kerstin Avemo (Zerlina).
Following his critically acclaimed recording of Mendelssohn’s Symphony No.2, Spanish conductor Pablo Heras-Casado returns with Symphonies Nos.3 and 4, this time leading the Freiburger Barockorchester. Both works have origins in the composer’s 1829- 1831 tour of Europe. Symphony No.3, sometimes called the “Scottish” symphony, was inspired by a visit to the ruined Holyrood Chapel in Edinburgh in 1829. It was not completed until 1842, making it, chronologically, the last of his five symphonies. Symphony No.4, called the “Italian” symphony, was born of the color and atmosphere of Italy, and was completed in Berlin in 1833.
Philippe Jaroussky as Ruggiero is in thrall to Patricia Petibon as the sorceress Alcina in Katie Mitchell’s virtuosic production of Handel’s opera from the 2015 Aix-en-Provence Festival, described by Bachtrack as “a night of a thousand delights”. Conducted by Andrea Marcon, this was, in the words of Opera News, “musically … a performance of the highest festival level”. The production of Alcina, by the British director Katie Mitchell, was welcomed by the Financial Times as “meticulously executed …, rich in detail, consummately polished”. Like Mitchell’s Aix-en-Provence staging of George Benjamin’s hugely successful Written on Skin (first seen in 2012), it offers simultaneous action in multiple zones of the stage, with Alcina’s elegant boudoir taking pride of place. As the New York Times wrote: “It involves a huge sorcery machine for turning people into animals (or whatever). And Ms. Mitchell works magic of her own onstage, constantly showing the enchantresses Alcina and Morgana alternating between glamorous public personas and their ‘real life’, older, private selves …There are also bits of simulated sex, mingling genders and suggesting, among other things, inventive new ways to hit high notes.”
When Bach was in the service of Prince Leopold in Coethen, he had his own orchestra and was contracted to compose a great deal of instrumental music. This gave him an opportunity to try new techniques and to develop his own instrumental style. The six Brandenburg Concertos belongs to these masterpieces for a small ensemble. This joyously infectious performance of these famous landmarks in the history of music by the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra demonstrates both the musical satisfaction and the high professional standard that can be reached with period instruments.
The Mass in B Minor, Bach’s last completed vocal work as well as the climax of his creativity, reveals the overwhelming wealth of his compositional skills. In the history of music it ranks highly, as the “Montblanc of church music” (Franz Liszt) – composed during Bach’s time as cantor at the St. Thomas Church in Leipzig. Performed in this important composer’s domain, the Mass in B Minor casted a spell over its listeners as the crowning glory of the Leipzig Bach Festival in 2013: Under the direction of Bach’s successor Georg Christoph Biller, the St. Thomas Boys Choir and an outstanding soloist quintet perform with the prestigious Freiburg Baroque Orchestra, playing on authentic period instruments.
Freiburger Barockorchester (Freiburg Baroque Orchestra) is a German orchestra founded in 1987, with the mission statement: "to enliven the world of baroque music with new sounds". They are based in Freiburg im Breisgau, hence the name, and have recently started performed works by later composers such as Beethoven, Schubert and Weber as well as contemporary music.