This 55-CD set chronicles the remarkable Archiv label, begun in 1947. Devoted mainly to early and Baroque music, the recordings presented here, in facsimiles of their original sleeves (a nice touch), cover the period from Gregorian chant to Beethoven’s Fifth and Sixth symphonies, played on period instruments. There are stops in between for a great deal of Bach, music of the Gothic era, the French Baroque (Mouret, Delalande, Rameau, etc), Gibbons, Handel (Alcina, La Resurrezione, Messiah, Italian cantatas), Telemann, Zelenka, Gabrieli, Desprez, Haydn, LeJeune, and plenty of the usual, as well as unusual, suspects. There’s also a final CD with selections of new releases (more Handel, Cavalli, Gesualdo, Vivaldi).
Betrayal, sorcery and one dazzling aria after the next…Ovid's Queen Niobe of Thebes, who turns to stone when her children are slain by the gods as punishment for her arrogance and pride, is the subject of this forgotten 1688 masterpiece. The Italian composer-priest Agostino Steffani languished in obscurity until the opera was rediscovered recently; the Boston Early Music Festival give its world-premiere studio recording with Karina Gauvin in the psychologically complex title role, and countertenor Phillipe Jaroussky singing 'powerfully and sweetly' (The New York Times) as Niobe's husband Anfione, driven to suicide in the face of family tragedy.
Last year saw the launch of the David Munrow Edition on Virgin Veritas (9/96). The series continues with this, arguably Munrow’s most consistent and most polished collection, devoted to the sacred and secular polyphony of the mid-to-late fifteenth century. These recordings remain marvellously fresh and vital – even in the case of pieces that have since had more polished or more clearly recorded interpretations.
CPO follows its stellar releases of Conradi's Ariadne and Lully's Thésée by the Boston Early Music Festival with an equally extraordinary performance of Lully's Psyché. These are works that have had limited exposure and are known far better by reputation than by performances or recordings.
Based on a program presented at the Boston Early Music Festival in 2011, this recording, made in a German radio studio in 2013, offers a pair of little-known short operas by Marc-Antoine Charpentier. One of the two, La descente d'Orphee aux enfers (not to be confused with a similarly titled cantata), either was left unfinished or has been partially lost; it is missing a finale and resolution to the plot.
What's interesting about the latest outing from this prolific chamber group is not so much that they've chosen to create string quartet adaptations of music from the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance – after all, these are folks who have commissioned arrangements of Jimi Hendrix and Bo Diddley, so we've learned not to be shocked – but rather that they've chosen to juxtapose the works of Machaut, Pérotin and Tye with pieces by John Cage, Moondog and Harry Partch, among other twentieth-century notables.