Firma Melodiya presents recordings of Brahms and Prokofiev concertos performed by Natalia Gutman and Oleg Kagan. One of the worlds best cellists, a Peoples Artist of the USSR, and an owner of the State Prize of Russia, Natalia Gutman received four competition prizes when she was a student.
Here are two of Rossini's "secular" cantatas: "The Lament of Harmony on the Death of Orpheus" for tenor, male chorus, and orchestra, written when he was a 16-year-old conservatory student, and the far more substantial "Wedding of Thetis and Peleus," one of many such pieces he composed for special occasions, commissioned for the marriage of an Italian princess to a French prince. Both consist of primarily short, separate, contrasting numbers, most of which would be perfectly at home in the opera house.
In the winter of 1733-1734, the opera houses of London were abounding in Ariannas. In late December, Porpora's Arianna in Nasso was staged by the Opera of the Nobility. In late January, Handel's Arianna in Creta was staged by the composer's own opera company. Comparison, apparently, proved odious – and fatal: Porpora's Naxos Arianna has fallen from the repertoire while Handel's Cretan Arianna has barely hung on by her finger tips. This 2005 Greek performance with George Petrou leading the Orchestra of Patras is the work's first recording in decades – and, thankfully, it's quite fine. Most of the women soloists – and whether their characters are male or female, most of the parts here are sung by woman because most of the parts then were written for castratos – are terrific. Mata Katsuli is sweet but strong in the title role and Theodora Baka is especially effective and affecting as Alceste. The period instrument Orchestra of Patras is stylish, colorful, and lively, particularly the winds and brass playing in the finale. As captured in Musikproduktion Dabringhaus und Grimm characteristically crisp, deep, and detailed sound, this Arianna is well worth hearing by anyone who reveres the operas of the German-English composer.(James Leonard)