The popular Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment presents a fantastic and exuberantly played selection of Vivaldi. Named a ‘Choice' recording by Gramophone upon release, the OAE joyfully celebrate some of Vivaldi's finest instrumental writing. The soloists are drawn from within the distinguished ranks of the OAE including Anthony Robson (oboe), Andrew Clark (horn), Roger Montgomery (horn), David Watkin (cello), Lisa Beznosiuk (flute), Elizabeth Kenny (lute) and Catherine Mackintosh (viola). The concertos assembled on this disc afford the listener a glimpse of Vivaldi's originality, not only as a sensitive colourist and master of form, but also as a felicitous melodist whose harmonies and phraseology are charged with heady atmosphere. The dancing rhythms and distinctive characters of these concerti together with the variety of instrumental combinations and sparkling performances make this a fresh and constantly engaging listen.
Avant garde. Eccentric. A maniac. Wild and adventurous. Off the wall. Extraordinary. No marketing hyperbole - this is how the players of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment describe Carl Philip Emmanuel Bach and his music. One of the many children of JS Bach, CPE Bach always lived in his father’s shadow, and now is an almost unknown figure at least beyond the classical cogniscenti. How can such an unknown be considered a gamechanger? A listen to his music reveals just why – it constantly shifts, wrongfooting the listener when they least expect it with wild changes of direction and colour – it is bright, effervescent, and is a fascinating link between the music of his father (and the Baroque era) and Joseph Haydn (and the Classical era).
Performances of Bach's St. John Passion, BWV 245, with these forces or close to them have become an annual Eastertime tradition in London, and this recording is guaranteed an appreciative audience. Certain details relate specifically to this tradition: several chorales are sung unaccompanied, but an accompanied version is included at the end for those who reject the dramatization.
Christmas Oratorio is topical, it’s also universal. It doesn’t require lights or tinsel or presents under the tree to instruct, inspire, and/or entertain, especially if it is presented in as fine a performance as this one fashioned by Stephen Layton and his cohort. Layton is the director of music at Trinity College, Cambridge (having succeeded Richard Marlow), and his choir is top-notch, as is the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, mercifully identified as OAE. OAE’s roster is rife with such familiar names from the period instruments movement as Margaret Faultless (who is just that here) and Alison Bury. To mention Anthony Robson, oboe, and David Blackadder, trumpet, is not to slight any of the other players. Layton’s solo quartet is outstanding, too. James Gilchrist is always excellent, but never more so than here, doubling as Evangelist and soloist. Iestyn Davies has risen to the top rank of countertenors. Katherine Watson’s sweet soprano and Matthew Brook’s resonant bass are no less gratifying. Layton’s direction is near perfect, on the mark from start to finish. I’ve long treasured John Eliot Gardiner’s Christmas Oratorio , but Sir John will have to make room Stephen Layton at the top of my list. (George Chien)
This unbelievably exciting record is actually a Mahler world premiere! Das klagende Lied was Mahler's first great work–he was only 18 when he wrote it–but he later removed its first part and extensively revised the remaining two. The original versions of the second two parts, then, have never been performed until their release in 1997 as part of the new critical edition. The music is, as might be expected, less polished than the revision, but it's also wilder and even more powerful in many respects. Hopefully it will gain new attention for this neglected but totally characteristic work. This performance is nothing short of spectacular, and makes the best possible case for Mahler's original thoughts.
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.
Admittedly my early experience of these works was formed by the great Arthur Grumiaux' modern instrument versions, not with the ( to my ears over-romantic ) Solistes Romandes, but an earlier (I think) more incisive performance with the English Chamber Orchestra, very hard to track down, which is wonderful…
By rc_rc (Yorkshire, UK)
The gods of musical commerce are smiling on hot young countertenor Andreas Scholl: this is his second CD of opera arias to appear in less than a month. The previous disc, a selection of Handel arias on Harmonia Mundi, showcased Scholl's considerable strengths: subtle and sensitive phrasing, deft coloratura, and a pure, rounded tone with little of the disembodied hootiness that used to be accepted from countertenors. His first recital disc for Decca gives us a wider range of music (Hasse, Gluck, and Mozart as well as Handel) and a more complete representation of Scholl's singing–vices as well as virtues. Among the former are his top notes (sometimes squealy or poorly tuned) and a Joan Sutherland-like combination of beautiful sound with indistinct diction and lack of temperament. This is particularly damaging in the laments from Rodelinda and Giulio Cesare, which come across as mere pleasant pastorales; the famous "Che farò?" from Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice sounds self-satisfied rather than bereft. (To be fair, Roger Norrington's jaunty tempos deserve much of the blame for this.) Scholl also aspirates his coloratura, which will bother some listeners more than others. On the other hand, "Oh, Lord, whose mercies numberless" from Handel's Saul is radiant, and the two arias from early Mozart operas are thrilling. In the end, the disc gives a fair, well-rounded picture of an important young singer. (Matthew Westphal)
The unprecedented expansion of music in the age of enlightenment
The eighteenth century is probably the most extraordinary period of transformation Europe has known since antiquity. Political upheavals kept pace with the innumerable inventions and discoveries of the age; every sector of the arts and of intellectual and material life was turned upside down.