An heroic story, based on historical events occurring on the Germanic fringes of the Roman Empire, Arminio is now being revived in a new and ravishing production by Parnassus Arts under their artistic director Max Emanuel Cencic: a combination with an unequalled track record in Handelian opera seria, as witnessed by their multiple-award-winning staging and recording of Alessandro (from 2012 to date). Countertenor Max Emanuel Cencic takes the title role of Arminio, surrounded by a superb cast featuring Layla Claire (Tusnelda), Ruxandra Donose (Ramise), Vince Yi (Sigismondo), Juan Sancho (Varo), Xavier Sabata (Tullio) and Petros Magoulas (Segeste). Joined by the dynamic Armonia Atenea under the baton of George Petrou, Arminio is sure to join a fast-growing collection of acclaimed Baroque opera recordings. In recent years Max Emanuel Cencic has become recognised as one of the world’s supreme countertenors: “Mr. Cencic is blessed with the finest countertenor voice of our day” (Opernwelt)
Handel’s ninth major opera for London, Alessandro was written as a showcase for the “Rival Queens”, the two famous Italian sopranos – Francesca Cuzzoni and Faustina Bordoni – whose supposed enmity, both personal and professional, not only generated good publicity for Handel’s latest opera but also added extra dramatic frisson to the two divas’ jealous clashes on stage…
It could be argued that Händel’s Giulio Cesare is, in a sense, the La Bohème of Baroque opera: surely performed both more frequently and more widely afield than any of Händel’s other operas, Giulio Cesare is the most popular of Händel’s operas and the one that is most known even by audiences with limited exposure to Baroque opera. This familiarity led to the long-held assumption that Giulio Cesare was likewise the finest of Händel’s operatic scores, a supposition that has been challenged during the past two decades by more frequent – and more impressive – performances of Händel’s lesser-known operas…
Finally, a recording which marries thoughtfully considered knowledge of Baroque style with glorious, golden-toned musical spontaneity. An elegant, tasteful presentation. Mary Ellen Nesi has a gorgeous, naturally full-bodied voice which can be contemplative, then suddenly fly up to effortless and thrilling high notes with perfect intonation. Conductor George Petrou is a perfect match for his orchestra, collaborating to explore the intricacies of Baroque style, finding a fine balance between interpretive extremes. As the narrative of Orestes unfolds, one feels the commitment of these artists to this tale from their homeland of Greece. Continuo accompaniments are fascinating and stylistically appropriate. The string section is clear, pure, yet resonant. I've become jaded about Handel recordings but this one I will play often for friends and family. It also makes for glorious background music! (amazon.com)
Handel is my favorite composer. But even if he's not your favorite there are still many reasons to purchase this set of 3 CDs. If you enjoy baroque vocal music. If you enjoy wonderful singing and graceful music. Long, tuneful arias punctuated by brief recitatives. Also the production label for this CD is MDG and the acoustics for their recordings are always top-notch without any sort of soundmodifying manipulation. And how they can produce such a superior recording of 3 CDs for $20 and some change is beyond me. Anyway I'm not a knowledgeable music critic. I just know what I like though I do happen to think I have good taste in music. In my humble opinion music like Handel's is a privileged foretaste of what we will experience in Heaven. That may sound like hyperbole to some but not to those of us who are passionate about baroque music. If you're a seasoned Handel fan you must have this recording. If you're new to the baroque vocal music scene you also must have it. Hurry up and purchase before the good people at MDG come to their senses and double the price! (amazon.com)
The emotional content, lyricism and direct appeal of Gavin Bryars’s music are unique, reflecting a contemporary composer’s absorption and transformation of several centuries of musical craftsmanship in order to reflect his, and our, own epoch. Originally written for harpsichord, After Handel’s Vesper is a strong illustration of Bryars’s post-minimal interests in early music repertoire. Ramble on Cortona, derived from 13th-century music, makes expressive use of the piano’s resonant qualities, while in the highly-coloured, almost impressionistic The Solway Canal, landscapes pass by as if in a dream.
Steven Isserlis and Richard Egarr here assemble all the viola da gamba sonatas written by three composers born in the propitious year of 1685: one each by Handel and Domenico Scarlatti, and three by JS Bach. Isserlis plays them on the gamba’s modern cousin, the cello, and the microphone loves his playing, picking up all the nuances and scampering asides from his soft-spoken instrument which can sometimes get lost in big concert halls. Egarr on harpsichord matches Isserlis’s eloquence and rambunctious energy all the way. The dreamy, airy slow movement of Bach’s Sonata in G minor brings telling use of vibrato as Isserlis circles around Egarr, his playing at once idiomatic and soulful. An extra cellist reinforces the bass line in the Handel and Scarlatti, in which the composers give the harpsichordist only a framework; Egarr’s imaginative realisations ensure that even when Scarlatti is at his most repetitive, he is never dull.