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2005 NewOlde.com Early Music CD Awards
2005 Best Italian Baroque Opera CD
Rodelinda, Regina de'Longobardi. (HWV 19, London 1725).
DG Archiv 00289 477 539-1 (3 CDs, May 2005).
Review by Philippe Gelinaud. Alan Curtis, Il Complesso
Barocco. Rodelinda: Simone Kermes, soprano; Bertarido: Marijana
Mijanovic, mezzo-soprano; Eduige: Sonia Prina, contralto;
Unulfo: Marie-Nicole Lemieux, mezzo-soprano; Grimoaldo: Steve
Davislim, tenor; Garibaldo: Vito Priante, bass.
This is clearly the finest commercial
Rodelinda recording to date, and indeed the finest recording
of any of Handel's "Big Three" operas for the Royal Academy of
Music -- Giulio Cesare, Tamerlano and Rodelinda.
Alan Curtis has long been in the forefront of Handel opera
performance and scholarship. His ground-breaking, 1978 recording
of Admeto still holds up well, despite vastly improved
standards in early music performance over the past 30 years.
Recent Curtis CDs that merit special acclaim are his superlative
recording of Domenico Scarlatti cantatas, duets and harpsichord
pieces, his 2004 recording of Handel's Lotario, which was
spoiled by the BMG bean counters who required unpleasant cuts to
force it onto two CDs, and his 2005 recording of the first
version of Radamisto, the runner-up in this award
Fortunately, Rodelinda was recorded by DG, whose
engineering personnel are among the finest in the industry. They
have delivered a near perfect studio recording. It includes the
first recordings of two of Handel's five major changes for the
second version -- a duet immediately before the final coro, and
a completely different, substitute aria for Unulfo to the
original words ("Sono i colpi della sorte"), near the end of Act
I. Neither is in the HG edition. The original version of
Unulfo's aria for Pacini is dramatic and familiar, but I agree
with Curtis that the less demanding and lower pitched
replacement in C minor for Baldi is not musically inferior, as
suggested by Dean & Knapp. It actually suits the situation
better. (The original version of the aria is included in an
appendix at the end of the third CD.) Still unrecorded is the
substitute aria for Rodelinda that is in the HG edition and
bears a striking resemblance to "Se pietàquot;.
My only reservations are Screaming Simone's cadenzas up to a
high sustained note. However, her singing otherwise is much more
satisfying that that of most other sopranos known for similarly
obnoxious cadenzas. I disagree with complaints about Mariana
Mijanovic posted on the Handel-l, perhaps by countertenor
enthusiasts. Indeed, this may be Mijanovic's finest recorded
performance to date. Both Sonia Prina and Marie-Nicole Lemieux
are strong in the lower register in the secondary but demanding
roles of Eduige and Unulfo. The booklet includes a complete and
updated version of the excellent translation for Decca.
2005 Best French Baroque Opera CD
Lully. Isis (1677). Accord 4768048 (3 CDs, November
of live performance] [English
translation of the libretto] Hugo Reyne, La Simphonie du
Marais. Io, who becomes Isis: Françoise Masset, soprano; La
Renommée, Iris & Hébé: Isabelle Desrochers, soprano; Calliope,
Mycène & Syrinx: Valérie Gabail, soprano; Junon: Guillemette
Laurens, mezzo-soprano; Apollon, Pirante, 1er Berger
& Erinnis: Robert Getchell, tenor; Mercure & 2d
Berger: Howard Crook, tenor; Hierax & Pan: Bertrand Chuberre,
bass; Jupiter: Bernard Deletré, bass; Neptune & Argus: Renaud
Delaigue, bass. Vol. 7 in Accord's series "Lully ou le Musicien
This is perhaps the most enjoyable Lully
recording to date, a superb performance of one of Lully's finest
operas. The well-known frost scene "avec une voix tremblante" at
the beginning of Act III was the model for the frost scene in
Purcell's King Arthur. The Entrée des Forgerons, with
rhythmic anvil accompaniment which follows immediately as the
next test for Io, is unique to my knowledge. Another seeming
influence on Purcell is Fame's trumpet tune in the Prologue,
which sounds like "I come to sing great Zempoalla's story" in
The Indian Queen. Hugo Reyne reconstructed the original
version from the 1719 score, the 1677 libretto, and a set of 10
separate parts published in 1677. The booklet includes an
excellent English translation by John Tyler Tuttle.
2005 Best Baroque Oratorio CD
Israel in Babylon (Pasticcio compiled by Edward Toms in
1764, with instrumental works transformed into arias.) K617 172
(2 CDs, June 2005). Joachim Fontaine, Kantorei Saarlouis,
Ensemble Una Volta. Zorobabel: Joseph Cornwell, tenor; Pharez:
Julia Gooding, soprano; Israelite: Sabine von Blohn, soprano;
Israelite: Jonathan Peter Kenny, countertenor; Salathiel:
Ekkehard Abele, bass; Darius: Adolph Seidel, bass.
This heretofore little-known pasticcio was the
most pleasant surprise of 2005. It has little in common with the
pasticcio oratorios compiled by Smith. The libretto is closer to
a serenata libretto than, for example, to Israel in Egypt,
to which this work bears little resemblance. The characters
debate which is most powerful -- the king, wine, or women, and
ultimately decide in favor of truth. Toms reorchestrated Handel
much as Mozart did, adding horns, clarinets and bassoons. One
sinfonia was reduced to harmoniemusik for clarinets and horns
only. Familiar pieces utilized include "Da tempeste" from
Guilio Cesare, the Siciliana from Ottone, the Royal
Fireworks music -- now a chorus with fifes and drums, the Pifa
from Messiah as a duet, and "Ombra mai fùquot;. It is an
excellent performance and recording that I highly recommend.
2005 Best Classical Opera CD
La Grotta di Trofonio (1785). Ambroisie AMB 9986 (2 CDs,
November 2005). Includes a DVD with scenes from the opera.
Christophe Rousset, Les Talens Lyriques, Choeur de L'Opéra de
Notes by Rousset (pdf). Dori: Marie Arnet, soprano; Ofelia:
Raffaella Milanesi, soprano; Trofonio: Carlo Lepore, bass;
Artemidoro: Nikolaï Schukoff, tenor; Aristone: Olivier
Lallouette, baritone; Plistene: Tobias Rapp, tenor.
This was a very pleasant surprise. The buffo
libretto bears some resemblance to Così fan tutte, as two
pairs of lovers experience personality reversals upon entering
and leaving Trofonio's grotto. Overall, Salieri's music is
stylistically closer to Gluck, his teacher, than Mozart. The
opera clearly deserved to be rescued from obscurity. (I haven't
watched the DVD, as I don't own a DVD player and have no
intention of getting one.)
While the booklet contains a complete libretto with English
and French translations, the texts are virtually unreadable.
They are set in extremely small type and printed over a
gray-scale background image based on the booklet cover. I wonder
if there might be grounds for complaint to the EU about printed
materials like this set in type too small to work in reading
machines for the blind. The solution of course would be to post
the texts online, as Glossa has done. Unfortunately, Ambroisie's
website, now apparently defunct, was even more grossly
incompetent and unusable than their wretched CD booklets.
2005 Best Classical Oratorio CD
Mysliveček (1737-1781). La Passione di Nostro Signore Gesù
Cristo (Florence or Bologna 1773-77). Capriccio 71 025/26 (2
CDs, February 2005).
Details. Christoph Spering, Das Neue Orchester, Chorus
Musicus Köln, Mülheimer Kantorei. Maddalena: Sophie Karthäuser,
soprano; Pietro: Jörg Waschinski, sopranist; Giovanni: Yvonne
Berg, mezzo-soprano; Giuseppe: Andreas Karasiak, tenor.
Mysliveček composed more than 30 operas and
oratorios, mostly on libretti by Metastasio, and was considered
by many to be the greatest opera composer immediately before
Mozart, who was an admirer of his work. This is an exceptional
recording of a great oratorio comparable to the best works of
contemporary composers such as Josef Haydn and Johann Christian Bach,
although the contrapuntal choruses look back to earlier styles.
The arias are mainly in the dal segno form, with shortened
repeats, and several have dramatic contrasts in tempo within the
A section or between A and B sections. It was favorably reviewed
in Early Music Review 107:43 (June 2005) by Brian Clark.
2005 Best Early Keyboard Recording
Scarlatti. Le Pianoforte de Maria Barbara. Assai 222612
(1 CD 2004). Reissued on Ambronay AMY002 (October 2005) as
Una Nova Inventione per Maria Barbara. Aline Zylberajch,
fortepiano by Denzil Wraight after Cristofori-Ferrini.
This superb CD is one of the best recordings to
date of a fortepiano. It received glowing reviews after the
initial release on Assai, but the label folded before sufficient
disks could be pressed to distribute to consumers. Fortunately,
the Ambronay Festival came to the rescue and reissued the CD on
their new record label.
Until recently, I owned only one recording of a copy of a
Cristofori piano and assumed, incorrectly it turns out, that its
undistinguished sound could be attributed in part to the design
of the instrument. In fact, the design of the Cristofori piano
may give it fundamental sonic advantages over later fortepiano
Denzil Wraight's website for details.) Moreover, there are
fewer possibilities for performers to fiddle with registration,
as only one alternative stop -- una corda -- is available, and
registration may not be changed on the fly.
I have not yet had a chance for track-by-track, comparative
listening to this CD alongside the Capriccio recording of
Scarlatti sonatas by Linda Nicholson on the same piano. It's
also a fine performance and recording, and may be added to the
NewOlde.com 2004 awards.
Before hearing these disks, I had always preferred so-so
harpsichord performances of Scarlatti to any on fortepianos.
However, these Cristofori piano recordings by two masters of the
instrument are as interesting and enjoyable as any on
harpsichord. Furthermore, for the first time I have heard a
piano that I would like to find a way to squeeze into my house.
2007 Early Music CD Awards
2006 Early Music CD Awards
2004 Early Music CD Awards
Keywords: Récompenses classiques disques grand prix musique