Esbjörn Svensson, the Swedish original who consistently turned crossovers between jazz, pop and classical music into lasting art with EST, would have got around to this orchestral venture himself but for his accidental death in 2008. With its shapely themes, subtle pacing and big climaxes, his popular trio’s music was ideal material, eloquently confirmed here by arranger Hans Ek, the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic and four star jazz soloists, including brilliant Finnish pianist Iiro Rantala and Norwegian saxophonist Marius Neset.
I have a personal criterion for judging sopranos in modern recordings of any role that Maria Callas excelled in: If you can beat Callas, you are gold. And despite her achievements in bel canto roles (most of which I find uninteresting, either dramatically or as music), I still think that Callas’s greatest gift to the world of opera, particularly opera in Italy, was to point out to the entire country and the world how much more there was in roles like Elvira in I Vespri Siciliani, Cheribini’s Medea, Iphigénie in this opera, and yes, even Lady Macbeth than had been previously thought.
At under an hour this mini-masterpiece should be in every opera-lover's collection. There are scores of versions available but I tend to favour those with a Dido of really starry vocal quality given that her torments lie at the heart of the opera and all other considerations are secondary: Purcell and his librettist Nathum Tate make little of Aeneas's psychology and the other roles are all supplementary, reflecting upon Dido's plight, even to the extent of some suggesting that the Sorceress is her alter ego.
Here we have the first recording of Handel's final Italian opera with a period instrument orchestra, chorus and a superb American cast. Deidamia was Handel's last opera. He began work on it in October, 1740, at the same time he was completing its companion work, Imeneo, which he had begun two years earlier. On November 8, Handel presented his London winter season - with some new works, some revivals - and for this purpose had engaged the Theatre Royal at Lincoln's Inn Fields. Opening night saw a semi-staged version of the serenata Il Parnasso in festa; later in the month came the premiere of Imeneo. Despite a superb score and fine cast, the production was a failure and was offered only once again in early December. The fact is that opera - Italian opera - was passe in London by this time. The public had turned to other musical delights - stage works in English of a more frivolous nature than Handel's offerings.
This seventh and final installment of the Anthology of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra covers the years 2000 to 2010, a rich period in the orchestra's history largely characterized by the changing perspectives of a new century. Indeed, it was in 2004 that Riccardo Chailly relinquished his position as chief conductor, to be replaced by the Latvian maestro Mariss Jansons, who shifted the orchestra's focus more towards Tchaikovsky, Richard Strauss and Shostakovich. A generation of orchestral players retired and were succeeded by a group of outstanding young musicians, most of them hailing from outside the Netherlands, resulting in a growing internationalization of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. Also in this period, the launch of the orchestra's own in-house record label, RCO Live, breathed new life into its rich recording tradition.