Naples in 1750 was one of the ten biggest cities in the world, and it spawned two of the biggest musical stars of the era: the castrati Farinelli and the much lesser known Caffarelli, whose real name was Gaetano Majorano. This release consists of arias written for Caffarelli, and you might treasure it for the flamboyant, high-volume singing of countertenor Franco Fagioli, who arguably comes as close as any of his contemporaries to conveying what the high-powered sound of the castrati was like (in the understandable absence of the genuine article). Or, you might be grateful to hear the music associated with Caffarelli, who in his own time had a reputation for being troublesome and has generally ignored by the historical opera revival movement. The composers represented on the program are not household names; the best-known of them was German Johann Adolph Hasse, and some, such as Gennaro Manna and Domenico Sarro, are all but unknown. The bright, blooming orchestral work of Il pomo d'oro under conductor Riccardo Minasi is unfailingly exciting. Beyond all this, however, is the presentation of the whole package.
Bernard Haitink’s 1980 Manfred was the prize of his Concertgebouw/Tchaikovsky symphony cycle. Riccardo Chailly’s 1987 effort with the same orchestra, while very good, doesn’t quite live up to that standard. In both recordings you get the sense that Tchaikovsky composed Manfred expressly for the Concertgebouw Orchestra. The very sound of the ensemble in its own hall conjures the dark, fantasy world described in the music. To this add lively and colorful playing, rich sonority, and utterly impeccable musicianship and you’ve got a uniquely compelling aural experience. Where the performances part company is in Haitink’s embrace of Tchaikovsky’s passionate dramatic ethos, a quality that Chailly, by contrast, tends to shy away from. (Of course, for a truly passionate reading you have to hear Muti’s rendition on EMI.) In his favor Chailly does have Decca’s vivid, high-impact digital recording, which, though having less warmth than the analog Philips production, better conveys the massiveness of the Concertgebouw Hall’s acoustics.
Despite the use of period instruments, including some fine blaring natural horns, this couldn't be called a historically informed performance of Handel's Royal Fireworks Music, HWV 351. The work was not composed for a pleasant onboard afternoon musicale like the Water Music, but instead was part of an event that would have been one of the top items on CNN Headline News for 1749: the celebration of the Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle, brokered by King George II.
Riccardo Fassi has often worked around the music of Frank Zappa and, with the Tankio Band, had already recorded in the nineties a first homage to the genius and opera of the great Italian-American composer. Go back to Zappa's material with an articulated, full-bodied project rich in guests and suggestions, able to enter and exit the "non canonical canon" designed by compositions and Zappish interpretations. Fassi conceives a kind of "concert": the seventeen tracks are articulated around ten tracks of Zappa, with introductions and queues, two improvisations conducted by Fassi along with Antonello Salis and Uncle Remus by George Duke. In nearly seventy minutes overall, many things happen, following the spirit of the tutelary labor number.
Riccardo Muti chose to celebrate his 75th birthday with a programme at the 2016 Salzburg Festival featuring two masterworks from the Austro-German tradition that had both been premiered by the Wiener Philharmoniker under the direction of their respective composers: Bruckner’s Symphony No.2 and R. Strauss’ Orchestral Suite Der Bürger als Edelmann. Alongside celebrated pianist Gerhard Oppitz is violinist Rainer Küchl, on the eve of his retirement from the Wiener Philharmoniker following a remarkable 45 years of service.
“…Riccardo Muti conducts Don Pasquale in Ravenna - a great celebration for everyone.” This press quote from the Italian music magazine Il giornale della musica hit the mark exactly. Watching this realistic, young and vital production, directed by the 21 year old Andrea da Rosa and listening to a high potential and unspent young cast, you feel how powerful, charming and timeless this score by Donizetti is. This production was recorded during the Ravenna Festival in the gorgeous and patriarchal Teatro Dante Alighieri, in December 2006. Maestro Riccardo Muti shows one more time, what it means to perform an Italian opera with a young and professional Italian cast – an outstanding and breathtaking performance and really, "a great celebration for everyone".
This extraordinarily powerful 1983 production may be the best-sung performance by Luciano Pavarotti on DVD, but when acting values are counted in, Ingvar Wixell manages to outshine the tenor star. Verdi gave the Duke two of Italian opera's most brilliant arias ("Questa o quella" and "La donna e mobile"), but he gave the deformed jester Rigoletto a depth and complexity of character that is reflected in music of great variety and enormous emotional impact: the cruel mockery of the opening scene, the self-doubts inspired by his dialogue with Sparafucile, the paternal anxieties and final despair at his daughter's sad fate, and the burning, self-destructive thirst for revenge.