The program on this release by baritone Matthew Rose is innovative and useful in a couple of different ways. First, although performers have sometimes tried to bring 18th century opera to life by programming arias written for specific singers, this has usually been applied to countertenors. They were generally the stars, it's true, but they weren't the only ones. The Italian comic baritone Francesco Benucci was one of the leads of Joseph II's Italian opera company, the original Figaro, and the original Leporello in Don Giovanni in the Vienna premiere (the second production).
Haydn's Sinfonia Concertante in B flat major for violin, cello, oboe, and bassoon, Hob. 1/105, is among his most recorded works, and among his most utterly joyful. But it has rarely reached the heights of ebullience achieved in this historical-instrument reading by the small British ensemble Arcangelo and its conductor, Jonathan Cohen. The list of things to be enthusiastic about is long, but it begins with the differentiation of the instruments in the solo passages, with the period oboe and bassoon of Alfredo Bernardini and Peter Whelan, respectively, having the depth of texture to stand up to the brilliant Stradivarius violin and Guarneri cello of Ilya Gringolts (a renowned soloist in his own right) and Nicolas Altstaedt.
The magnificent Christopher Purves performs a recital of Handel’s bass arias. This unique collection demonstrates the range and brilliance of Handel’s writing for this voice, featuring a selection from Italian and English operas, English classical drama, Biblical oratorios, literary odes and a masque. Handel’s endlessly imaginative gift for characterization is fully explored here, with Purves commanding an extraordinary emotional and technical range from the buffo blustering of Polyphemus in Acis and Gatalea to the loving musings of Abinoam in ‘Tears, such as tender fathers shed’ from the oratorio Deborah.
Following the success of her discs of Romantic and Late Romantic repertoire, Vilde Frang has recorded Mozart’s Concertos Nos. 1 and 5 ‘Turkish’ and the Sinfonia Concertante K364, enabling music lovers to hear the Norwegian violinist perform Classical repertoire on disc for the first time. The impetus for this album was a 2012 orchestral tour of Asia conducted by Jonathan Cohen in which Vilde performed Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 5. The vibrancy of their musical collaboration was something both artists were keen to repeat and commit to disc. Jonathan’s Cohen’s chamber orchestra, Arcangelo, proved the ideal partner, joined by violist Maxim Rysanov in the Sinfonia Concertante.
British countertenor Iestyn Davies is one of the fastest rising stars on the concert and opera circuit. Following his highly acclaimed recording of Porpora cantatas, he returns for a second solo album with Hyperion, a selection of arias written for Gaetano Guadagni. Italian-born Guadagni was the first ‘modern’ castrato, famed all over Europe for the lyric purity of his voice and his powerful, naturalistic acting style. Not only did he enjoy a close artistic relationship with Handel, who nurtured Guadagni’s voice to fit the alto roles in his English oratorios, but he effectively created the role of Orpheus in Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice, an opera he thoroughly made his own. Here, Iestyn Davies is joined again by the renowned period-instrument band Arcangelo, directed by Jonathan Cohen.
Young countertenor Iestyn Davies makes his much anticipated Hyperion solo debut with an enchanting disc of cantatas from the Italian composer Nicola Porpora. Davies’s luminous tone has a celestial purity and he performs with prodigious technical assurance. Unfazed by the composer’s intricate passagework and elaborate ornamentation, his astonishing breath control creates a seamless melodic line. Davies is accompanied by the ensemble Arcangelo in interpretations that go far beyond historical understanding. In a productive career that spanned 70 years, Porpora wrote some 135 secular canatas, twelve of which were dedicated to His Royal Highness Frederick Prince of Wales, a great patron of the arts and an amateur musician. Porpora’s ability to set the Italian language to music was widely acknowledged during his lifetime and his music is full of imaginative word painting. Davies’s remarkable skill in characterization, and his innate ability to go straight to the heart of both text and music, make this the perfect affiliation.
Gramophone Award-winning ensemble Arcangelo (in their first recording as a vocal and instrumental group) presents a selection from Monteverdi’s last three books of madrigals. These ardent and passionate works are microcosms of Monteverdi’s great operas, and among his most celebrated music.