The songs of late Renaissance and early Baroque England have been sliced and diced in various ways in concert and recorded programming, but the configuration here seems to be unique. The tenor Nicholas Phan, from Ann Arbor, Michigan, devised the program himself: pointing out "how little human experience has changed over the centuries" and that Dowland's melancholia had much in common with the Romantics' veneration of the lovesick solitary hero (both debatable ideas, but both stimulating), he assembles what he calls a pastiche song cycle from compositions by Purcell, Dowland, John Blow, and other lesser-known lights.
The impressive discography of Handel operas and oratorios from Nicholas McGegan continues with this recording of Radamisto, made following staged performances of the opera at the 1993 Göttingen Handel Festival. Generally speaking, McGegan has derived better results in those sets using the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra (as here) than in those made with his Californian forces. The German players sustain his brisk tempi with relative ease, though McGegan’s penchant for spiky staccato and short, snatched phrases rather than long lines does not always do the music full justice. The stars are the countertenor Ralf Popken in the title role and Juliana Gondek as his long-suffering wife, Zenobia. Popken has the technique to get round the heroics of ‘Perfido’ with ease, yet delivers the expressive slow numbers, such as ‘Cara sposa’, with exquisite eloquence. Gondek is equally versatile: formidable in her rage arias, touching in the griefstricken ‘Quando mai’. (Barry Millington)
The new production of Purcell's The Fairy Queen launched in 1995 by the English National Opera (ENO) was received with great enthusiasm by both the public and musical press. This atmospheric production was prepared by David Pountney, Robert Israel created the stage set, Dunya Ramicova was responsible for costume design and Quinny Sacks was responsible for the choreography of the dance roles as well as the numerous breathtaking ballet scenes. Under the musical direction of Nicholas Kok, the English National Orchestra played a baroque music which was as crystal clear as it was expressively infectious. Next to outstanding performers of the dancing roles such as Puck (Simon Rice) and the Indian boy (Arthur Pita), an entire armada of excellent singers was summoned up such as one seldom experiences together on the baroque opera stage. These included Yvonne Kenny as Titania, Thomas Randle as Oberon and Richard Van Allan as King Theseus. Jonathan Best, with his comic portrayal of the drunken poet, was loved by the audience and praised highly by the press, while other singers like Michael Chance, Mary Hegarthy, Janis Kelly, Marc Le Brocq and Christopher Ross all contributed their talents to produce an unusual musical theatre experience that has been masterfully preserved on this DVD.
The concerto grosso form was popularized by Corelli, and Locatelli’s Op 1 is a marvellous example of the genre: its solid craftsmanship, imaginative textures and exciting virtuosity bringing it into the top rank. These works are ravishingly performed here by The Raglan Baroque Players, Nicholas Kraemer and soloist Elizabeth Wallfisch.
Nicholas Isherwood made his début as Lucifer in Stockhausen’s Donnerstag aus Licht at Covent Garden, at the age of 25, and has since collaborated closely with composers such as George Crumb, Hans Werner Henze, György Kurtág and Iannis Xenakis. His relationship with John Cage soon developed into what he in his liner notes to the disc calls ‘a love affair’. The composer Sylvano Bussotti has remarked that ‘since the passing of Cathy Berberian, Nicholas Isherwood is the singer who best understands the spirit of the music of John Cage’. On ARIA, Isherwood presents most of Cage’s music for solo voice that is not included in the composer’s Song Books, and most pieces are here recorded for the first time by a male singer. The programme covers 43 years, from A Chant with Claps from the early 1940s to Ryoanji and Sonnekus2 of the 1980s, and includes the celebrated Aria, here performed with a new multi-channel tape realization of Cage’s Fontana Mix, by the Italian composer Gianluca Verlingieri.
“This is the first recording to use the version of Handel’s Tamerlano performed at its premiere. And George Patras’s Greek forces do the opera proud. In a real ensemble achievement, Nicholas Spanos is outstanding in the title-role, surmounting the vocal hurdles with ease.” James Inverne