Cimarosa was an expert at writing lighthearted opera buffa that zipped along. Much of this music sounds very much like his better known IL Matrimonio Segreto, coming clearly out of the same stable, but it has its distinctive elements. Here the forces of the Festival Valle D'Itria come up with a sparkling production. The singing and the orchestra come across as excellent, the conductor Eric Hull keeping things moving with a light touch that keeps it all together. The singers keep the music zipping along, and when it turns more serious, Alla Simonischvili, the lead soprano, and the others handle it well. Well recorded, especially considering that apparently we have some sort of mixture of only two straight-through live performances, and well performed this set offers a good deal of pleasure.(John Cragg)
Armida abbandonata is one of Niccolo Jommelli's finest operas. It was the first he composed after returning to Naples from his triumphant years in Stuttgart (1754-1769), receiving its first performance at the Teatro San Carlo on May 30, 1770. Among those who attended was the 14-year old Mozart, whose report that Armida was "beautiful, but too serious and old-fashioned for the theater," has been frequently quoted and almost as frequently misunderstood. "The theater" almost certainly refers specifically to the San Carlo, which did indeed find Armida "too serious," in the sense of its harmonic and orchestral complexity, ironically a criticism Mozart himself would later encounter in Vienna.
The two Johann Adolf Hasse compositions recorded here are proof of the both high quality of his music and the broad range of styles which he had at his disposal. Once again Hans-Christoph Rademann offers an exemplary interpretation of music from the Court of Dresden, to which he has often dedicated his musical efforts.
“Under the direction of Hans-Christoph Rademann the Dresdner Barockorchester and the superb Chamber Choir bring a homogeneous, lean performance which follows integrally the gesture of the text and provides many moving moments. Thus with its penetrating tone language this live recording brings to life two unjustly forgotten masterworks of the 18th century.”
Allegri's early Baroque masterpiece Miserere from around 1630 movingly juxtaposes modal chant with tonality, and was so popular that the Vatican refused to allow it to be performed anywhere else - until the 14 year old Mozart broke the Vatican's monopoly by writing it down from memory after attending a performance. Pergolesi's late Baroque masterpiece Stabat Mater for soprano and alto dates from 1736, the year of his death at the age of 26. It was originally written for male voices but since it's hard to find a castrato these days, it's generally performed by two women or by a female soprano and counter-tenor. This performance uses a female alto but in other respects it's very much a period performance - the sound is intimate and the tempos are lively without any sacrifice of spiritual depth. The soloists, soprano Monika Frimmer and alto Gloria Banditelli, sing beautifully without overdoing the vibrato, and their voices are well matched. The disk also contains a brief "Sonata a quattro" by Vivaldi, and another setting of the Stabat Mater, by the late Baroque composer Antonio Caldara from around 1725.(Kenneth Dorter)
Thanks to his omnivorous curiosity, conductor Nikolaus Harnoncourt has revived an authentic masterpiece. Several opera composers–Lully, Handel, and Gluck–had already availed themselves of the amorous and stormy adventures of the knight Rinaldo and the enchantress Armida, drawn from Tasso's Jerusalem Liberated. Composed in 1784, Haydn's Armida was his the final opera he wrote for his patron Prince Esterházy, but it was also the composer's debut opera seria. Even so–and just like Mozart–Haydn knew how to free himself from the rigid and monotonous alternation of aria and recitative that customarily governed this genre. Thus the final act, which unfolds in an enchanted forest, offers us a half-hour of nearly uninterrupted music, even prefiguring the romantic shape of things to come in the 19th century. This recording was made from a concert performance in June 2000 in Vienna's sumptuous Musikverein under the blazing baton of Harnoncourt. The cast is impeccable–including Christoph Prégardien and Patricia Petibon and dominated by the stunning Cecilia Bartoli, who can swerve within a few bars from boiling anger to the most overwhelming amorous pleading.(Franck Erikson)