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Sophie Bevan (soprano), Ed Lyon (tenor), William Berger (bass), Jan Waterfield (harpsichord), Nicholas Wearne (organ continuo)
Ludus Baroque, Richard Neville-Towle
Handel's musical illustration of Dryden's Alexander's Feast, first performed in 1736, was a critical and popular success. A day after the première, the London Daily Post reported 'Never was upon the like Occasion so numerous and splendid an Audience at any Theatre in London, there being at least 1300 Persons present'.
Twice a year some of the UK's finest baroque players and young vocal soloists come together in Edinburgh's Canongate Kirk to give sell-out concerts of the great works of Bach and Handel. The chorus, handpicked by Will Dawes, comprises a sensational selection of singers from Britain’s finest early music consorts, including the Monteverdi Choir, the Sixteen, Polyphony and the Gabrieli and King’s Consorts.
Ludus Baroque's appearances are unmissable events in Edinburgh's calendar. Now for the first time listeners from further afield can experience the vibrancy of their Festival-fuelled performances in this their debut recording. Alexander's Feast is the perfect showpiece for the vitality and abandon of Ludus Baroque and their rising-star soloists.
“Richard Neville-Towle gathers some of Britain's best new talents on this recording – Sophie Bevan, Ed Lyon and William Berger are on dazzling form and there is some superb singing from the chorus. "The many rend the skies with loud applause," they sing. And so they should.” The Observer, 27th February 2011
“The warm, shapely choral singing is in stark contrast to the the Dunedin Consort's ascetic precision...Berger [is] particularly impressive in the B-section of "Revenge, Timotheus cries". Jan Waterfield's harpsichord concerto sets the tone for an exalted yet humane celebration.” The Independent on Sunday
“Energy and vigour are among the common properties radiated by the period instrument players and professional choristers of Richard Neville-Towle's Ludus Baroque...This exuberant performance, intensely focused in its second part, moves and inspires.” Classic FM Magazine, April 2011 ****
“Vivacious youth leaps from this lively CD debut by Richard Neville-Towle’s group...The tenor Ed Lyons’s diction cuts through the resonant church acoustic: every word dances before us. The soprano Sophie Bevan needs a lighter touch, and the chorus greater clarity. But minor flaws fade before the sound of musicians bouncing with joy.” The Times, 5th March 2011 ****
“Sophie Bevan's shining soprano is always a pleasure to hear: the vocal equivalent of a fresh, bright spring morning...Capable of encompassing long-breathed phrases, [Lyon] has a bit of 'beef' in the voice, which serves him well in the more outgoing arias...the 18 voices produce a fine sound, as does the orchestra, well directed by Neville-Towle, who directs a spirited performance.” International Record Review, March 2011
“Orchestral details emerge with pristine clarity – the juddering lower strings as the tenor sings of beating drums in The Praise of Bacchus, or the braying natural horns in the chorus which follows. The libretto is barely necessary, so good is the diction of chorus and soloists...Music is described in the closing chorus as "the greatest blessing". Listen to these discs and dare to disagree.” The Arts Desk, 9th April 2011
“This is a scintillating first commercial recording. The young soloists, Sophie Bevan, Ed Lyon and William Berger, are all first-rate.” Sunday Times, 17th April 2011 ****
“I particularly enjoyed the choruses which show the choir at its full strength. The delivery is excellent, and the treatment of dynamics impressive... lovers of Handel's music shouldn't miss this recording. It has many fine qualities; I have mentioned the choir, but the orchestra is of the same high level...The recording is outstanding: it is crisp and clear, and has great presence.” Johan van Veen, MusicWeb International, 11th April 2011
“Neville-Towle keeps the tone worldly, sensuous and exultant until near the end, when there's a vague but telling sense of sadness, as well as calm when contemplation gradually replaces action. The playing is sharply focused, the choral singing tremendous in its elan and warmth....[William Berger] steals the show with his terrific performance of Revenge Timotheus Cries” The Guardian, 5th May 2011 ****
“Richard Neville-Towle gets beautifully crisp playing from his orchestra: the jolly numbers bounce along nicely but the sombre passages are given their due weight...The chorus sounds young, fresh and enthusiastic.” Gramophone Magazine, June 2011
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The Sublime Voice of Lynda Barrett
O Holy Night
Semele: Where'er you walk
Messiah: Come Unto Him All Ye That Labour
Messiah: How beautiful are the feet
The Little Road to Bethlehem
Lloyd Webber, A:
Requiem: Pie Jesu
You Raise Me Up
Vesperae Solennes de Confessore, K339: Laudate Dominum
arr. Neil Jenkins
S’altro che lagrime (from La clemenza di Tito)
Music for a while, Z583
When I am laid in earth (from Dido and Aeneas)
A Hymn to the Virgin, Op. 13 No. 2
The Lord bless you and keep you
The Sun Whose Rays (from The Mikado)
O Waly, Waly ('The Water is Wide')
arr. Mark Haye
Nulla in mundo pax sincera, motet for soprano, strings & continuo, RV 630
"The most wonderful natural soprano voice you will ever hear." Do not miss it.
Lynda has been singing since she was a young girl and today she has won many prizes and awards in Northern Ireland. She studied music at Queen's University, Belfast where she studied with the late great Irene Sandford. Much in demand as a soloist, Lynda also has been involved with Castleward Opera where she has sung a number of leading roles. She has also featured as guest soprano with the Ulster Orchestra in their series of Christmas Concerts as well as on television in different programmes for the BBC.
I first came across Lynda Barrett when she was singing as part of a choir that I was recording in St.Anne's Cathedral, Belfast. Suddenly in the solo section of an anthem a solo voice shone through that was something rather special and that nearly made me fall off my seat in amazement! It was a wonderful mixture of purity, clarity and beauty that was far removed from the average solo soprano. Not only was this a voice of rare quality but Lynda sang from the heart and not from the head. Here was a God given gift from a very modest lady, which i felt should be heard by a far wider audience. A CD was therefore born...
Lynda has recorded a programme of music that is delightful on the earand one that I feel best conveys the qualities of this superb voice captured for posterity.
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Monarca Della Tromba (works for trumpet)
Igor Cecocho (trumpet)
Wrocław Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra, Jarosław Pietrzak
In numerous Baroque manuscripts there are many references to solo parts being performed on either violin, flute, oboe or trumpet. This discs truly brings a balance to these arrangements with the fine trumpet playing of Igor Cecocho, performing pieces from some of the masters of this period.
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George Petrou conducts Handel & Manzaro
These are world premiere recordings and these Handel specialists have once again scored a major coup. Alessandro Severo is based on the life of a Roman emperor of the third century and is in the form of a pasticcio. Manzaro composed the Greek national anthem and the discovery of an opera by him was a major find by the Greek conductor George Petrou. Armonia Atenia perform on period instruments.
“Petrou gives us more vigorous Handel, played by his Greek colleagues in the period-instrument Armonia Atenea with red-blooded energy and pounding rhythms...Solberg sings with disarming beauty as the ostensibly innocent Salustia...In the castrato role of Alessandro Severo...Nesi manages to set a tone distinct from the rest of a well-chosen cast, none of whom lets the side down,” Gramophone Magazine, June 2011
“The singing here is of the high standard one has come to expect from Petrou's productions...These are among the best-sung Handel recordings on disc...the excellent Athens-based Armonia Atenea...is crucial to the issue's success, responding to Petrou's vital, always theatrically alert direction with verve and unforced virtuosity.” International Record Review, May 2011
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“This dramatic recording makes a persuasive case for this most neglected and most concise of Handel's magic operas. Nathalie Stutzmann dazzles in a daringly slow 'Notte, amica dei riposi'.” BBC Music Magazine, June 2011 *****
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Venetian Oboe Concerti
Marc Schachman (oboe)
American Classical Orchestra, Thomas Crawford
This performance was recorded at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden in 1959.
“It seems incredible that a singer of Heldentenor quality like Vickers could sing so stylishly in Handel, with elaborate divisions perfectly executed. Not only that, his portrayal of Samson is deeply moving, thanks to vocal acting over as wide tonal and dynamic range.” Gramophone Magazine, August 2011
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Wigmore Hall Live kicks off New Year with an early music release. Handel’s Il Trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno was the composer’s first opera to feature the celebrated aria Lascia la spina, cogli la rosa (Avoid the thorn, pluck the rose). Recorded for Wigmore Hall Live in January 2010 by the Early Opera Company, one of Britain’s leading early music ensembles, the group features contralto Hilary Summers in the traditional countertenor role of enlightenment, her voice specifically chosen for its depth and fullness of tone.
Director and harpsichordist Christian Curnyn was determined to recreate as faithful a sound as possible to what audiences at the time would have heard, not only instrumentally but notably in relation to tempi: “Everything in Handel comes back to the heartbeat rate, fifty per minute. Recently people have tended to go either very fast or make things very dragged out, but in my view that spoils it. Baroque music is all based on dance, which means a natural rhythm. Of course you should push the boundaries, but it should feel as though you’re pushing against a natural membrane. There’s an inner pulse in Handel which you can’t ignore.”
Christian Curnyn founded the Early Opera Company in 1994 since when they have performed in New York, at most of the major UK festivals and at the BBC Proms. Their many recordings appear on the Chandos label the latest of which, Handel’s Flavio, has just been issued.
“[Crowe is] breathtaking in pyrotechnic displays of virtuosity as she dismisses the threatening ravages of Time. She's ideally matched duetting with Anna Stephany as Piacere (Pleasure), and accompanied by some of the best Baroque oboe-playing I've heard. Hilary Summers as Enlightenment is a remarkable contralto. An outstanding achievement.” BBC Music Magazine, April 2011 *****
“throughout the concert the string-playing is immaculate...Anna Stephany reins her voice in with admirable discipline and there is a nice atmosphere of chamber music-making between her vocal lines and solos by organist Mark Williams...Crowe's animated coloratura is executed with precision and refinement, her embellishments strik[ing] the ideal balance between unpredictability and fitting the harmony naturally.” Gramophone Magazine, May 2011
“it is Crowe who takes the vocal laurels here and would be my main reason for recommending the set. Each of her arias is a highlight” International Record Review, March 2011
“Curnyn and his lithe ensemble make the most of the often sensual instrumental colouring.” Sunday Times, 6th March 2011 ***
“Vivaciously detailed yet anchored to an even heartbeat, Christian Curnyn's performance with the EOC shows just how rich the sound of a small orchestra can be. If Lucy Crowe's Bellezza has the finest aria ("Tu del Ciel ministro..."), Anna Stephany's elegant Piacere, Hilary Summer's coppery Disinganno and Andrew Staples' bluff Tempo lend stylish support” The Independent on Sunday, 6th February 2011
“Curnyn's choice of tempi and his measured use of embellishment allow Handel's glorious score to speak for itself...Lucy Crowe is in thrilling form as Beauty; Andrew Staples delights as Tempo; rich-toned Hilary Summers is authoritative as Disinganno and Anna Stephany, as Piacere, brings a special warmth to the signature aria "Lascia la spina".” The Observer, 16th January 2011
BBC Music Magazine
Choral & Song Choice - April 2011
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