“During this visit, these young ladies were so obliging as to sing me a Salve regina, lately set by their father, in duo. It is an exquisite composition, full of grace, taste and propriety.” What more could one ask of an antiphon than that which Charles Burney found in an impromptu performance by Hasse’s daughters during a visit to their father in Vienna in 1772? Hasse composed several settings of the Salve regina of which Reinhard Goebel has chosen two for his interesting programme of vocal and instrumental pieces by the composer.
Two arias include obbtigato instruments. The violin version of the better known setting of the same text with piano obbligato k505. It is the soprano version of the long aria sung by an mezzo or tenor Idamante in Idomeneo. While not quite as phenomenally beautiful as k505, it is both lively and demanding, requiring virtuoso contributions from conductor, orchestra, violinist and soprano. For k505, best that I have heard is Ameling/Dalton Baldwin/Edo de Waart (see my review). Hendricks/Tate/Jose Luis Garcia and the ECO are equally good in the violin setting.
Of all the laudatory epithets applicable to Barbara Bonney, “radiant” might not be the one that springs to mindat least, not insofar as it suggests the warm luxuriance of sunshine. Bonney’s light, bright lyric soprano is something else: a voice of delicate refinement and transparent, pure-toned beauty. But it’s capable of silkily seductive textures too; and there are wonderful examples on this compilation disc that, if featuring a less well-established artist, might qualify as a demo tape. Most of the tracks are previously issued but together they define her capabilities and home-base repertory, from Bach, Purcell and Mozart through to Scandinavian song and Richard Strauss. –Michael White .
Certainly the somber beauty of Pergolesi's Stabat Mater for soprano, alto, and strings has a lot to do with its popularity. But it must be said that the story of the 26-year-old composer completing the work on his deathbed has always been too romantic for the public–or the music business–to resist. "The instant his death was known," wrote the famous 18th-century traveler Dr. Burney, "all Italy manifested an eager desire to hear and possess his productions." And so it's been ever since. In spite of the competition already on the market, it seems Decca just had to get its prize lyric soprano and hotshot young countertenor together to record the piece. –Matthew Westphal
No matter how passionate soprano Barbara Bonney gets, she never loses the unsullied purity of her tone. And in this 1994 disc of Schubert songs, Bonney often has cause to get passionate: her artless Der Hirt auf dem Felsen (D. 965) is transformed by passionate virtuosity, her mournful Mignon Lieder (D. 877) are transcended by passion, and her ecstatic Ganymed (D. 544) is transfigured by passion. But through all of it, Bonney's tone stays pure, the voice of stainless innocence in the face of sorrow, shame and even death. This is almost – but not quite always – a good thing. Bonney can surely sing the songs: her voice is sweet and her technique is graceful…
When Written on Skin had its premiere at the 2012 Festival d'Aix-en-Provence, conducted by George Benjamin himself, it received a standing ovation. The opera's arrival at Covent Garden in 2013 was eagerly anticipated, and provided audiences with the opportunity to experience the work of two of Britain's greatest living artists. Benjamin previously collaborated with playwright Martin Crimp on Into the Little Hill, a magical retelling of the Pied Piper fairytale, and for this new work they joined forces with acclaimed stage director Katie Mitchell. For all three, the production marked their main-stage debut at the Royal Opera House. The tale, inspired by a medieval legend, tells of an ill-fated troubadour, drawn into a liaison with an innocent maiden. But they are observed by the jealous eye of her protector, who wreaks a shocking revenge on the young couple.