Bob van Asperen's recording of Handel's Organ Concertos Op.7 is the newest addition to the Veritas x2 series. Veritas x2 is a series from Virgin Classics devoted to landmark recordings of early Baroque music. Handel's Organ Concertos contain six organ concertos for organ and orchestra. They were written for performance during Handel's oratorios and contain almost entirely original material. Bob van Asperen leads the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment in this recording.
The violin concertos here are not the familiar pair in A minor and E. Bach composed a number of concertos for orchestral instruments and later transcribed them as keyboard concertos. Reversing Bach’s procedure, Wilfried Fischer has taken the harpsichord versions and from them has reconstructed the originals. BWV 1056 is a transposed transcription of the Keyboard Concerto in F minor (though New Grove identifies the outer movements as being from a lost oboe concerto). The D minor work is also usually heard in its keyboard adaptation. The concerto in C minor for two harpsichords appears in its original instrumentation for violin and oboe, the soloists here being perfectly balanced for clarity of line. It was Tovey who suggested that the A major concerto may have been intended for the oboe d’amore, an instrument pitched between the oboe proper and the cor anglais.
Coming in at a tidy three hours and eight minutes, Donizetti’s huge Les Martyrs, composed (or adapted) for Paris in 1840, is here presented in its fullest conceivable form, including ballet and many passages cut right after the first performances. The opera was a reworking of his 1838 Poliuto, composed for the San Carlo in Naples, which had been banned by the king himself, since Christian martyrdom under the Romans was found unpleasant by the censors and the king was devoutly religious.
The major debut on Decca DVD of Danielle de Niese. Returning to the opera house where she sang her sensational Cleopatra in Handel's Giulio Cesare, Danielle performs the title role in Monteverdi's great opera of lust and power, in Robert Carsen's new, modern-dress staging. De Niese is perfectly cast as the beautiful and seductive Poppea who ruthlessly grabs power as Nero's lover but, in this production, is doomed from the moment of her coronation. De Niese's performance is vocally and dramatically powerful, perfectly complemented by Alice Coote as Nero. The two are supported by an outstanding cast, together with period-performance stars Emmanuelle Haïm conducting the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. Carsen creates an intelligent and visually-strong production, focusing on the personal side of the story. At times the action is violent and shocking, but this is juxtaposed with episodes of lightness and humour.
For this 2010 production, the first new staging of the opera in 10 years, Glyndebourne welcome back the winning team of director Jonathan Kent and designer Paul Brown with Festival Music Director, Vladimir Jurowski conducting the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. Set at a time of seismic social and cultural change - in a Fellini-esque vision of post-war life - Jonathan Kent's urgently propulsive production offers a 'white-knuckle rollercoaster ride' through the events of the Don's last day as they unfold in and around Paul Brown's magical 'box of tricks' set.
Skin-tight rubber and lacrosse sticks bring contemporary chic to this timeless fantasy of warriors and witches in Robert Carsen's fun-filled transformation of Handel's first London triumph. Conducting from the keyboard just as Handel himself did, Ottavio Dantone leads a youthful cast of today's luminaries in the dramatic art of Baroque opera, the 'affecting' Sonia Prina, the 'unadorned intensity' of Anett Fritsch and 'fire-breathing flair' (The Observer) of Brenda Rae.
Three attractive and lively concertos by two exact 18th-century contemporaries (they were both born in 1739) the Viennese Dittersdorf and the Bohemian Vanhal who on at least one occasion played string quartets with Mozart and Haydn. (Haydn and Dittersdorf played violins; Mozart played viola; Vanhal the cello.) This seems to be the only recorded pairing of the two Dittersdorf concertos.
In Glyndebourne’s first-ever staging of a opera by Rameau, director Jonathan Kent presents a production which, in his own words, ‘strives to appeal to every sense and show audiences how engrossing and musically ravishing French Baroque opera can be’. Rameau’s inventive take on Racine’s great tragedy Phèdre is brought to life by Paul Brown’s colourful and elegant designs and Ashley Page’s playful choreography. Ed Lyon and Christiane Karg give captivating performances as the titular young lovers, while Sarah Connolly, making a welcome return to Glyndebourne, ‘invests Phaedra with both grandeur and a desperately human vulnerability’ (The Independent). Leading exponent of early music William Christie ‘sets an exhilarating pace, galvanising the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment to playing of tremendous panache’ (The DailyTelegraph).