This generously programmed disc provides excellent value and outstanding performances of both major and lesser-known masterpieces of French choral music. The Fauré Requiem has been recorded many times, and several excellent versions of the original orchestration are available on disc. This one is among them, owing to John Eliot Gardiner's experience and perfectionist mastery of details overlooked by less-successful choral conductors. The real bonus here is the inclusion of the popular but very difficult Debussy and Ravel chansons, and the rarely heard but eminently worthy little part songs by Saint-Saëns. These pieces are a lesson in how to achieve maximum effect with the simplest materials.
Listening to this work so soon after hearing Zauberflote one is amazed anew that Mozart could write two such totally contrasted pieces within months of each other. Here, in the composer's last opera seria, we are in another world, one of formality tempered by the deep emotions engendered by love and jealousy. Instead of birdcatchers and Masonic rights we are dealing with historic figures in a supposedly historic context with down-to-earth feelings. For each Mozart finds precisely the appropriate music.
“This is unquestionably the most vital and authentic account of Idomeneo to date on disc. We have here what was given at the work's first performance in Munich plus, in appendices, what Mozart wanted, or was forced, to cut before that premiere and the alternative versions of certain passages, so that various combinations of the piece can be programmed by the listener. Gardiner's direct, dramatic conducting catches ideally the agony of Idomeneo's terrible predicament – forced to sacrifice his son because of an unwise row. This torment of the soul is also entirely conveyed by Anthony Rolfe Johnson in the title role to which Anne Sofie von Otter's moving Idamante is an apt foil. Sylvia McNair is a diaphanous, pure-voiced Ilia, Hillevi Martinpelto a properly fiery, sharp-edged Elettra.
This is the masterwork, Gluck's last important opera, which convinced the teenage medical student Berlioz, when he first heard it in 1821, that he had to be a composer. He worshipped Gluck and took his side in the phoney "Gluck vs.Piccini War". He set himself the task of sitting in the Conservatoire library to copy out the entire score in order to absorb its lessons. Its directness and drama influenced his artistic style his whole life through, as evinced by key points in "Les Troyens".
Continuing his award-winning cycle of works by Felix Mendelssohn, Sir John Eliot Gardiner leads the LSO, his Monteverdi Choir and three talented young actors from the Guildhall in a landmark performance of 'A Midsummer Night’s Dream', which was performed as part of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. To mark the celebrations, Gardiner produced a special version of the work featuring some cuts to the original movements that, in his words, "remove all of the music relating to the Mechanicals and thus focus on the world of the fairies and the human lovers". Mendelssohn, who adored Shakespeare’s writings, composed his concert overture based on 'A Midsummer Night’s Dream' in 1827 aged 17, after having read a German translation of the play. The overture was immediately acclaimed as a masterpiece and quickly became a popular favourite throughout Europe. Years later in 1843 he was asked by the King of Prussia to provide a score for an entire production: 14 short works based on themes and moods from the original overture, with a broadly romantic sound although classical in style and structure.
Sir John Eliot Gardiner has revolutionized music making with his Monteverdi Choir and the English Baroque Soloists, and has created completely new sounds from many well-known works.
…Gardiner's account of the Vienna Orfeo ed Euridice is peerless. One soon loses all sense of its being a period-instrument performance at all, so profound, at times overwhelming is its impact - so utterly right. In detail after detail - hauntingly poetic offstage instrumental complement, perfectly positioned in the drama (and perfectly captured by the excellent Philips recording); superbly stirring brass playing, which makes every entry a dramatic event; choral singing extraordinarily light in weight yet rich in emotional substance; exquisitely refined dance movements - and in sustainment of a delicately tenebrous, uniquely Gluckian atmosphere throughout, Gardiner's command of an opera championed since his first London concert performance, 21 years ago, is revealed as simply larger and fuller than almost anyone else's. The set was studio-made after many concerthall performances by exactly the same forces, and in recording terms it achieves the best of all worlds -the vitality of a live event married to the precision of a recording. – Gramophone 
Agrippina – a portrayal of lust and power set in first century Rome – was first performed in December 1709 at the Teatro San Giovanni Crisostomo, Venice. This "arrangement" by John Eliot Gardiner was recorded in 1991/2 in London and has now been re-released. It was Handel's second and last opera to be composed during his time in Italy, from 1706 to 1710. Written against some resistance (the composer at first saw "no good reason" to write (such) an opera) in three weeks while in Venice, it represented the first such popular acclaim of Handel's career being performed over two dozen times in succession.