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Haydn: The Creation

Haydn: The Creation

Inspired by Haydn’s trips to England, where he first heard Handel’s oratorios, The Creation is widely considered Haydn’s crowning masterpiece. Set for three vocal soloists, four-part chorus, and a large Classical orchestra, there seems little doubt that Haydn wanted a big sound (by the standard of his day) for this work. Based on both the biblical Book of Genesis and Milton’s Paradise Lost, the oratorio was premiered in the US by the Handel and Haydn Society in 1819. Harry Christophers says: “Haydn’s music is always a joy to perform but with The Creation he excels himself allowing soloists, chorus and period orchestra to revel in vivid word painting, both vocal and instrumental. Can there be a more consistently happy work than The Creation? Feel free to smile at his genius.”

Handel and Haydn Society is America's oldest continuously operating arts organisation. Its Bicentennial celebration began with the 2014-2015 Season and continues into the 2015-2016 Season. Harry Christophers has been Artistic Director since 2008.

“both steeped in tradition and aware of period manners. The choral and orchestral forces are optimum for a piece from the late 18th century, and three stylish British soloists (Sarah Tynan, Jeremy Ovenden, Matthew Brook) make a strong case for a performance sung in English.” Sunday Times, 27th September 2015

“an exceptional account of the oratorio from all points of view…but what is wholly exceptional is the diction of both soloists and choir; you can hear every word without referring to the text printed in the booklet…the choir also impresses with its bright, fresh tone, while the orchestra supplies distinctive colour and vibrancy; their playing is consistently alert” BBC Music Magazine, February 2016 *****

BBC Music Magazine

Choral & Song Choice

Coro Handel and Haydn Society - COR16135

(CD - 2 discs)


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Rameau: Anacreon

Rameau: Anacreon

Matthew Brook (Anacréon), Anna Dennis (Chloé) & Agustín Prunell-Friend (Batile)

The Choir of the Enlightenment & Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Jonathan Williams

Rameau wrote two complete 'Anacréons', both of them one-act acte de ballets, but with two different plots and librettos. 'Anacréon' (1754) was set to a libretto by Louis de Cahusac and had a successful premiere followed by some performances in Paris after the composer’s death, and then fell into oblivion for almost 250 years. From fragmented manuscripts scattered through Paris’s libraries, Dr Jonathan Williams has reconstructed the work, had his edition published by Bärenreiter, and now leads this world première recording, joined by a leading cast of soloists and the Orchestra and Choir of the Age of Enlightenment.

“This Rameau Project... shows how integrated research and performance have now become...The music here is well worth restoring: the instrumental dances full of burbling flutes, whooping horns and beating drums show Rameau as thoroughly contemporary in his vivid imagination; they rather overwhelm the paler vocal lines.” The Guardian, 8th October 2015 ****

“sweetly sung.” The Times, 16th October 2015

“There is an indefinable sophistication to the OAE sound here that bears comparison with Les Arts Florissants - high praise in repertoire like this … The finest of the singers is Anna Denis’ Chloé, who is full of wide-eyed innocence but marries this with a gloriously refulgent tone. There is a haunting, luxurious quality to her voice that I found utterly beguiling, and her singing is a joy throughout.” MusicWeb International, 22nd October 2015

“Rameau fans will rejoice over this world premiere recording … there’s elegant, expressive heart-warming singing from Matthew Brook and Anna Dennis. One of the chief pleasures lies in the band’s virtuosity, including a brace of fantastically flighty flutes, playing throughout with the most impressive, almost gleeful, brio” Choir & Organ, March 2016 ****

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Signum Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment - SIGCD402


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Handel: Esther

Handel: Esther

First Reconstructable Version (Cannons), 1720

Susan Hamilton (Esther), Nicholas Mulroy (Mordecai), Matthew Brook (Haman), Thomas Hobbs (1st Israelite), Robin Blaze (Priest), James Gilchrist (Habdonah / Assuerus) & Electra Lochhead (Israelite Boy); Nicholas Wearne (organ continuo)

Dunedin Consort, John Butt

The Dunedin Consort’s highly anticipated new recording of ‘Esther - First Reconstructable Version (Cannons), 1720’ is the third recording in its hugely successful Handel series.

The Consort have set the bar high for this Handel performance with a Gramophone Award in 2007 for ‘Messiah’ and a BBC Radio 3 ‘Building a Library’ First Choice accolade for ‘Acis and Galatea’.

For Esther, director John Butt has reunited his award-winning team of soloists (Susan Hamilton - Esther; Nicholas Mulroy - Mordecai; Matthew Brook - Haman; Thomas Hobbs - 1st Israelite) plus well-known guest soloists Robin Blaze – Priest, James Gilchrist – Habdonah / Assuerus and Electra Lochhead - Israelite Boy.

The Dunedin Consort has established a reputation as the finest single-part period performance choir currently performing.

In 2011 Gramophone named the Dunedin Consort the 11th Greatest Choir in recognition of its ‘triple focus upon artistic revitalisation of over-familiar great works, meticulous musicological enquiry and the audiophile integrity of Linn Records' production values.’

The multi-award-winning Dunedin Consort has won praise for the natural style of its soloists (‘an authoritative bass and a superb contralto’ The Guardian) and renown for the virtuosity of its singers.

The Dunedin Consort has performed at music festivals in Scotland - including the Edinburgh International Festival and broadcasts frequently on BBC Radio 3 and BBC Scotland.

Read Presto's complete review of this disc here.

“Butt's direction combines spontaneous freshness with a care for expressive phrasing and precise colouring. The 11-strong chorus - the solo cast plus reinforcement - is vital incisive, packing a fair punch even in the ceremonial final chorus.” Gramophone Magazine, June 2012

“the scholarship is only a means to an end, and is never allowed to get in the way of the wonderfully crafted music making. Textures are lean – 11 singers, including the soloists, 20 instrumentalists – but wonderfully precise, and the solo contributions, with soprano Susan Hamilton as Esther, are models of stylishness.” The Guardian, 17th May 2012 ****

“Butt's consort of soloists do this great music proud, sounding larger than their number would suggest...I'll return to this recording for the winning drive, dramatic conception and expressive phrasing of Butt's direction, his crack Baroque orchestra and his exceptional male cast” International Record Review, June 2012

“Paradoxically, a two-voices-to-a-part chorus achieves more immediacy than a larger choir, coupled with a stylish and delightfully intimate band. Yet again, Butt demonstrates that less can be more.” BBC Music Magazine, August 2012 ****

“the score is an absolute treasure-trove of arias: highlights include the alto lament ‘O Jordan, Jordan, sacred tide’ (ravishingly sculpted by a plangent Robin Blaze), Esther’s defiant rage aria ‘Bloody wretch’ and the gorgeous pair of tenor arias in which the king Assuerus puts love before duty. The ever-excellent James Gilchrist is at his most mellifluous here, and like his fellow soloists blends seamlessly into the whole for the choruses.” Katherine Cooper, Presto Classical, 14th May 2012

Presto Disc of the Week

14th May 2012

Super Audio CD


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Summer Opera Sale

Linn - CKD397

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Brahms: Ein deutsches Requiem

Brahms: Ein deutsches Requiem

Recorded live at the Usher Hall, Edinburgh, 2008


Ein Deutsches Requiem, Op. 45


Psalm 84: Wie lieblich sind deine Wohnungen, SWV 29

Selig sind die Toten, SWV391

SDG is happy to present last recording issued from the 2008 Brahms: Roots and Memories tour, in which John Eliot Gardiner and his ensembles explored the music of Johannes Brahms.

Brahms’ Ein deutsches Requiem is presented along with pieces by Heinrich Schütz (1585-1672) which might have inspired its composition, giving the listener a new insight into the composer’s mind and music making.

Deeply moving, profound, and powerful, the Requiem is central to our understanding of Brahms’ compositional personality and inner spiritual life. Behind its dramatic gestures and 19th century grandeur, it reveals Brahms’ obsessions with folk-songs and the music of the past. The libretto, assembled by Brahms himself based on the Lutheran Bible, makes it a definitive personal statement of his position in matters of religion.

The booklet includes a note by composer Hugh Wood, explaining how the pieces relate to each other and giving a moving account of Brahms as a composer and as a man.

Read Presto's complete review of this disc here.

“The warmth and clarity of John Eliot Gardiner's Monteverdi Choir makes it a compelling exponent of the two Schütz works presented here...the Brahms begins beautifully with an even richer choral sound...[Denn alles Fleisch] can often get bogged down with overbearing morbidity. Not so here, thanks to Gardiner's agile, slow-waltz tempo and choral dexterity.” Graham Rogers,, 7th March 2012

“Schütz’s radiant Psalm 84, gloriously sung by the Monteverdi Choir, almost steals the show here...The big C major fugue [of the Requiem] is particularly rousing and the lovely Wie lieblich exquisite. Gardiner is right that Brahms demands flexibility of tempo, but overdoes it in the final number, missing the grand sweep of the opening melody with too fast a tempo.” Sunday Times, 26th February 2012

“The choral ensemble is superb; intonation perfect. Gardiner's instrumentalists' meticulous attention to authentic performance style adds a further dimension to a glorious reading of this beautiful piece. Highly recommended.” The Observer, 26th February 2012

“Gardiner's forces are marshalled with care, the Monteverdi Choir as uplifting as on his series of Bach Cantatas, while the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique lives up to its name in its emotional subtlety.” The Independent, 2nd March 2012 ****

“The recorded sound has great immediacy, and the chorus produces a beautifully sustained and richly coloured vocal tone. Gardiner's flexibility in tempo, phrasing and dynamics (which Brahms favoured) pays dividends...Matthew Brook's dark-hued baritone is excellent for the role...Katharine Fuge's fresh, youthful voice adds a piercing pathos to 'Ihr habt nun Traurigkeit'” BBC Music Magazine, May 2012 ****

“Brook might not be the high-cholesterol baritone often favoured in classic recordings...but a hint of reediness in his tone seems appropriate for one yearning to know the measure of his days...The star of the German Requiem, though, it always the choir. You know you're in safe hands with the Monteverdis and the pitch-perfect top A at 2'04''...absolutely confirms it...a minutely considered, dramatic and, in places, aptly disturbing performance.” Gramophone Magazine, May 2012

“This is a very impressive new recording....Gardiner conducts with warmth and the textures of the work...have a vibrancy and immediacy that is wholly to its advantage...he makes a compelling case for his tempo choices...this new version is uncommonly good, and will surely delight anyone wanting to hear the German Requiem on period instruments.” International Record Review, May 2012

“Gardiner's smooth, lean approach works well in a vividly alive performance” Classical Music, 7th April 2012 ***

“The choral sound is rich and full, and I liked the precision brought to the music by this relatively small-scale choir...Gardiner doesn’t ignore the orchestra, though; while his period performance sensibilities may not quite be to everyone’s taste (especially if you’re used to a fuller, more Romantic sound), I appreciated the textual clarity he achieves.” James Longstaffe, Presto Classical, 5th March 2012

Presto Disc of the Week

5th March 2012

GGramophone Awards 2012

Finalist - Choral

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - May 2012

SDG - SDG706



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Bach, J S: Christmas Oratorio, BWV248

Bach, J S: Christmas Oratorio, BWV248

Stephen Layton and the combined forces of Trinity College Choir Cambridge, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and an impressive line-up of soloists present a joyous rendition of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio. This six-part masterpiece covers the events of the nativity to Epiphany and beautifully evokes the pastoral atmosphere of the Gospels which is such an important part of the Christmas liturgy.

James Gilchrist has become one of the most admired Evangelists performing today, his limpid, flexible tone and great musicianship bringing the stories thrillingly to life.

Read Presto's complete review of this disc here.

“the playing of the OAE brings great distinction to this recording...Right from the opening chorus of Cantata I one notes clarity and vigour in [the choir's] singing...Gilchrist is an admirable choice as the Evangelist...I found his narration beautifully nuanced, sensitive and characterful...This stylish and committed performance is one that renews again one’s awe at the genius of Bach.” MusicWeb International, 8th November 2013

“the 38 mixed voices of Trinity College Choir [are] very well trained, especially in matters of firm text enunciation...the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment sounds thoroughly at home (David Blackadder gives a very suave trumpet solo in 'Grosser Herr'), and Stephen Layton conducts with care and expertise.” Gramophone Magazine, November 2013

“The fact that the music seems to course through the very veins of the singers and players, not to mention Layton himself, is one of the qualities that make this Christmas Oratorio such a telling, affecting and inspiring experience, judiciously balancing jubilation, devotion and contemplation.” The Telegraph, 28th November 2013 *****

“Layton unwraps it with all due festive pomp and circumstance...In a work incontestably smitten with the alto voice, Iestyn Davies triumphs...Gilchrist's relaxed and lyrical Evangelist maintains the narrative flow...Crisp choral singing and exquisite accompaniment, this is a decidedly welcome addition to anyone's Christmas stocking.” BBC Music Magazine, Christmas Issue 2013 ****

“Layton and his orchestral players begin with tremendous verve, but there is infinite variety in this seasoned Bach conductor’s trajectory of the six cantatas with the lively, mixed-voice Trinity choir — singing in excellent German — and elite British soloists...Gilchrist’s Evangelist here could hardly be bettered among his compatriots, incisively declaimed and subtly nuanced.” Sunday Times, 22nd December 2013

“There’s a real sense of jubilation right from the opening chorus; the young mixed-voice choir sing with verve and immaculately crisp diction, and the chorales are phrased with tender loving care...The soloists are also top-drawer...Davies’s limpid alto arias are simply some of the finest accounts on disc.” Katherine Cooper, Presto Classical, 2nd December 2013

“An enthralling disc...I was most impressed with the soloists, particularly James Gilchrist’s eloquent Evangelist and Matthew Brook’s resonant bass, and by some brilliant playing from the OAE – their exultant trumpets and timpani open and close the oratorio in a blaze of festive jubilation.” Early Music Today

Presto Disc of the Week

2nd December 2013

Hyperion - CDA68031/2

(CD - 2 discs)


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Mozart: Requiem (Reconstruction of first performance)

Mozart: Requiem (Reconstruction of first performance)


Requiem in D minor, K626

Misericordias Domini - Offertory, K222


Reconstruction of Requiem Performance at Mozart’s Funeral in 1793

Joanne Lunn (soprano), Rowan Hellier (alto), Thomas Hobbs (tenor) & Matthew Brook (bass-baritone)

Dunedin Consort, John Butt

The Dunedin Consort presents the premiere recording of Mozart scholar David Black’s new 2013 edition of Süssmayr's completion of Mozart’s Requiem.

In keeping with several other Dunedin projects, this provides the opportunity to re-imagine what this work may have sounded like at its very first performance.

To this end, the recording will be the first not only to use this new edition, but also to present the work using forces close in style and scale to those at the first performances.

One striking element of these performances is the fact that the soloists are also the leaders of the choir, thus giving a greater consistency to the relationship between the solo numbers and the choruses.

Dunedin Consort seeks to resurrect Süssmayr's much maligned edition to its place and worth in history.

“something special…one of the most important releases of Mozart’s Requiem.” Audiophile Audition, 24th March 2014

“Anyone used to a suave choral sound in performances of the Requiem might be surprised by the almost granular texture here, in which every voice makes its own distinctive contribution, and by the pungency with which the orchestral writing registers. There's a real energy, with tremendous climaxes that belie the scale of the forces involved.” The Guardian, 2nd April 2014 ****

“Butt's Dunedin Consort recordings may draw from musicological findings, but the spirit they summon is a long way from dry or academic. His measured approach brings out the starkness and solemnity of Mozart's setting, while the recording highlights its distinctive colours in a near ideal ecclesiastical acoustic.” BBC Music Magazine, May 2014 *****

“this is one of the finest Mozart Requiems of recent years...It is Butt's minute attention to details...that makes this such a thrilling performance...Blend and tuning are of an accuracy all too rarely heard, even in this golden age of British choral singing...Instrumental sonority, too, is meticulously judged.” Gramophone Magazine, May 2014

“After one blast from Butt’s players and the 16-strong choir, lit up with individual colours, everyone who bends an ear should be riveted...Don’t go to this recording for honeyed tones: Butt’s voices come sprinkled with salt and pepper, even flecks of granite...almost every note, whoever wrote it, thrills, warms, and enchants.” The Times, 25th April 2014 ****

“the music is refreshed but familiar, and both purists for period practice and adherents of modern style can find common ground here. Linn's hybrid SACD offers extraordinarily clear and spacious sound, and the sharpness of the playing comes across in the mix without any loss of the wonderful acoustic resonance.” All Music Guide, March 2014

“Butt gets drama aplenty in the Dies irae, Rex tremendae and Confutatis, and includes two fascinating bonuses.” Sunday Times, 4th May 2014

“Butt instils fervour into his forces, fierce in rhythmic drive, forthright in the enunciation of the text...The ensemble projects far more strength than its modest proportions might suggest, but it is a sign of its sensitivity to the import and implications of the Requiem’s atmosphere that its response to the more meditative parts of Mozart’s and Süssmayr’s music is of affecting, eloquently phrased sincerity.” The Telegraph, 2nd May 2014 ****

Presto Discs of 2014


GGramophone Awards 2014

Winner - Choral

GGramophone Magazine

Disc of the Month - May 2014

Building a Library

First Choice - February 2016

Super Audio CD


Hybrid Multi-channel

Linn - CKD449



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Handel: Messiah

Handel: Messiah

(Dublin version, 1742)

Susan Hamilton (soprano), Annie Gill (mezzo), Clare Wilkinson (alto), Nicholas Mulroy (tenor), Matthew Brook (bass), Edward Caswell (bass)

Dunedin Consort, John Butt

This is the first recording to seriously explore the version and performing forces that Handel used for his legendary Dublin première.The research was carried out by director and lecturer John Butt and the performance recreated by the acclaimed Scottish choral group the Dunedin Consort, with soloists taken from within the choir. The Dublin version of The Messiah is unique in several important ways and the resultant Linn recording signifies an exciting and historically considered representation as enjoyed by the Dublin audience of 1742.The challenge in this recording was to try and recapture something of the freshness of the first public performances, imagining what it was like to hear the work for the very first time, when many moments must have been quite unexpected.

“... the freshest, most natural, revelatory and transparently joyful Messiah I have heard for a very long time” Gramophone Magazine, December 2006

“The Dunedin Consort's recording of Handel's Messiah strips the work back to how it was performed at its first outing in Dublin. Even less ornate than other 'authentic' performances, it is innately spiritual, and deeply satisfying.” BBC Music Magazine, December 2007

“For an infinitely rewarding fresh look at Handel's most familiar music, look no further than the Dunedin Consort's performance of Handel's first version, premiered at Dublin in 1742. Bizarrely under-represented in concert and on disc, the Dublin score contains some fascinating music that Handel never reused, such as the substantial chorus 'Break forth into joy'. The exuberant direction by harpsichordist John Butt is meticulously stylish and utterly devoid of crassly pretentious egotism. The playing is unerringly spontaneous and dramatically integrated with singers who illustrate profound appreciation of text.
Clare Wilkinson's 'He was despised' is most moving, Susan Hamilton effortlessly skips through a delicious 'Rejoice greatly', and bass Matthew Brook sings as if his life depends on it.
Butt bravely resolves to use the same forces Handel had at his disposal in Dublin, which means that the entire oratorio is sung by a dozen singers (with all soloists required to participate in the choruses, as Handel would have expected).
Where this approach might risk worthy dull solos churned out by stalwart choir members, the Dunedin Consort's exemplary singers produce virtuoso choruses that are theatrically charged, splendidly poised and exquisitely blended. Old warhorses 'For unto us a child is born' and 'Surely he hath borne our griefs' are delightfully inspiring. Butt and the Dunedin Consort marry astute scholarship to sincere artistic expression and the result is comfortably the freshest, most natural, revelatory and transparently joyful Messiah to have appeared for a very long time. (It's also available as a download at numerous different bit-rates.)”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

GGramophone Awards 2007

Best of Category - Baroque Vocal

Super Audio CD


Hybrid Multi-channel

Linn - CKD285

(SACD - 2 discs)


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Handel: Ariodante

Handel: Ariodante

Joyce DiDonato (Ariodante), Karina Gauvin (Ginevra), Marie-Nicole Lemieux (Polinesso), Sabina Puértolas (Dalinda), Topi Lehtipuu (Lurcanio), Matthew Brook (King of Scotland), Anicio Zorzi Giustiniani (Odoardo)

Il Complesso Barocco, Alan Curtis

Read Presto's complete review of this recording here.

In this complete recording of Ariodante, Alan Curtis, a supreme Handelian conductor and scholar, joins forces with glorious mezzo soprano Joyce DiDonato, who, with her Virgin Classics album of Handel arias, ‘Furore’, “scored a triumph … which not only shows her phenomenal technical talent, but verily crackles with dramatic fire” (BBC).

In 2010, Virgin Classics released Curtis’ recording of Handel’s opera Berenice. The US magazine Opera News welcomed it, saying: “At the helm of the superb period-instrument ensemble Il Complesso Barocco, with its smooth violin section and supple, energetic continuo, Alan Curtis paces a well-chosen cast with his customary precision and command ... Singers never seem musically constrained or theatrically hampered, and … the cast exhibits a welcome sureness with Handel's style and rhetorical presentation, both individually and as an ensemble.”

In Ariodante, DiDonato takes the title role of a young prince -- remaining in male mode throughout after her recent gender-swapping antics on the operatic recital CD ‘Diva, Divo’, The role was written for the star castrato Carestini and includes two contrasting showpieces -- ‘Dopo notte’ and ‘Scherza, infida’ – both among the most famous of all Handel’s opera arias.

When DiDonato sang Ariodante in Geneva in 2007, the Financial Times wrote: “How confidently she brings off trouser roles and what spine-tingling effect she puts into a bravura piece such as ‘Dopo notte’”, while the Neue Zürcher Zeitung felt that: “her bright, homogeneous mezzo soprano is wonderfully suited to the passionate lover who, just before his wedding, believes he has been deceived by his betrothed.” The supposedly unfaithful Princess Ginevra is sung here by the sensuous-toned Canadian soprano Karina Gauvin, praised in Handel by Opera News for her “tonal substance, even at pianissimo,” and her “real bel canto technique, all in one voice from top to bottom; the whole aria is carefully shaped without breaking the Baroque boundaries”. Joining DiDonato and Gauvin in the cast are another fine Canadian singer, contralto Marie-Nicole Lemieux, the charming Spanish soprano Sabina Puertolas and the elegant Finnish tenor Topi Lehtipuu.

Gramophone has said that “Alan Curtis has done more than most to prove that many of Handel's 42 operas are first-rate music dramas”, while the BBC Music Magazine has praised him as “a seasoned Handelian who has contributed, perhaps more than anyone now, to the composer’s operas on disc.”

This new recording will further support both those claims and the New York Times’ judgement that he is “one of the great scholar-musicians of recent times”.

“Tempos are wonderfully fresh and vigorous, the phrasing crisp without being clipped...But the singing is the glory of the set: Joyce DiDonato confirms her reputation as the finest Handelian mezzo-soprano of the day...she is so clean of tone, so true of pitch and engaged by the drama that it is impossible to carp. Marie-Nicole Lemieux is thrillingly incisive as the dashingly villainous Polinesso.” The Telegraph, 12th May 2011 *****

“[DiDonato] matches thrilling technical despatch to personable characterisation...She is surrounded by a cast of equally accomplished Handelians...But the key lies in the inspiring musical direction of Curtis...From Il Complesso Barocco, his hand-picked band, he draws playing of infinite flexibility and unforced style.” Financial Times, 14th May 2011 ****

“[diDonato's] bravura technique - great Rossini singer that she is - is second to none in 'Dopo notte'. She also brings a rich palette of vocal colour and emotional nuance to Ariodante's other sublime arias...[This is] perhaps the most consistently well-cast Ariodante on record...Curtis's cast, his always sensible approach to tempo...and the superb playing of his Complesso Barocco put this set close to the top of the Ariodante pile.” International Record Review, July 2011

“[DiDonato] is almost as compelling a Handelian as she is a Rossinian. She brings rapt expression to Ariodante’s outburst of rage and despair, Scherza infida, with its doleful bassoon solo, and almost jazzily syncopated bravura to his final show stopper, Dopo notte. These are among the American singer’s finest achievements on disc...She is surrounded by a cast without a weak link: as the wrongly accused Ginevra, Karina Gauvin phrases with sculptural beauty” Sunday Times, 12th June 2011 ****

“in Alan Curtis's scrupulously detailed performance, Joyce diDonato's gleaming legato and coloratura are upstaged by the elegance of Karina Gauvin's Ginevra. While diDonato offers recklessly inventive da capo decorations, Gauvin favours measured pathos...for a complex and moving Ginevra, this is the Ariodante to have” BBC Music Magazine, July 2011 ****

“Ariodante is sung by the wonderful Joyce DiDonato. "Con l'ali di constanza" is taken at quite a lick: fair enough, as the reference is to Cupid's wings. In "Scherz, infida", with its mournful bassoon, DiDonato has the full measure of Ariodante's despair...There are no weaknesses in the rest of the cast. Alan Curtis directs with his customary stylishness and, in the "Ballo di ninfe...", a nice touch of rustic phrasing.” Gramophone Magazine, August 2011

“this new set has all the hallmarks of Curtis’s earlier projects: the pacing (even during the dramatically static first act) is immaculate...Lemieux is thrillingly butch and deliciously insinuating as Polinesso...There may be no shortage of good Ariodantes on disc, but this new contender scores highly both as a team effort and for the spellbinding central performance from DiDonato.” Katherine Cooper, Presto Classical, 9th May 2011

Presto Disc of the Week

9th May 2011

Summer Opera Sale

Erato Alan Curtis Handel Operas - 0708442

(CD - 3 discs)

Normally: $20.25

Special: $18.22

(also available to download from $20.00)

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JS Bach: St John Passion

JS Bach: St John Passion


Nun danket alle Gott

congregational chorale

O Lamm Gottes unschuldig

congregational chorale

Bach, J S:

Chorale Prelude BWV621 'Da Jesus an dem Kreuze stund'

congregational chorale

St John Passion, BWV245

Chorale Prelude BWV618 'O Lamm Gottes, unschuldig'

Chorale Prelude BWV620 'Christus, der uns selig macht'

Chorale Prelude BWV657 'Nun danket alle Gott'


Praeambulum in F sharp minor, BuxWv 146


Ecce quomodo


Da Jesus an dem Kreuze Stund

Responsory; Collect; Blessing; Response to Blessing

Joanne Lunn (soprano), Clare Wilkinson (alto), Nicholas Mulroy (tenor), Matthew Brook (baritone), Robert Davies (baritone)

Dunedin Consort, John Butt

This is the premiere recording J.S. Bach’s John Passion heard for the first time within its original liturgical context.

This recording marks the return of Dunedin Consort’s star studded cast including, Nicholas Mulroy, Matthew Brook, Robert Davies, Joanne Lunn and Clare Wilkinson.

Director John Butt has given listeners an interpretation that will provide a refreshing outlook on this masterpiece and will show the John Passion in a completely new light.

The Consort recreate the context of a passion performance during Bach’s time at Leipzig; the University of Glasgow Chapel Choir (directed by James Grossmith) and a congregational choir of amateur singers perform motets and chorales from an original Leipzig hymn book and John Butt takes centre stage to perform organ preludes on the Collins organ at Greyfriar’s Kirk in Edinburgh, where the recording took place.

'No performance could better justify small-scale Bach than this convincing marriage of scholarship and inspiration.’ BBC Music Magazine (on J.S. Bach: Mass in B Minor)

‘The playing and the singing is outstanding, undoubtedly enhanced by John Butt's scholarly and revelatory handling of the score.’ The Observer (on J.S. Bach: Matthew Passion)

The Dunedin Consort has established a reputation as the finest single-part period performance choir currently performing, under the direction of prize-winning Bach specialist John Butt O.B.E.

The multi-award-winning Dunedin Consort has won praise for the natural style of its soloists and renown for the virtuosity of its singers.

Since receiving a Gramophone Award in 2007, Dunedin Consort has continued to receive accolades: Esther was voted one of the ‘Top 10 Classical Albums of 2012’ by The Times, 2011 saw them included in Gramophone’s ‘Twenty Greatest Choirs’ list and its recording of Bach’s Matthew Passion was named Building A Library: First Choice by BBC Radio 3 - CD Review.

“naturalness and emotional honesty are what emerge from this tight-knit and perfectly paced ensemble Passion, in which Bach's complex succession of recitatives, arias, choruses and chorales has surely seldom sounded so convincingly of a piece...[the singers] come across as a gathering of real people rather than a disembodied chorus. The fact that you can sometimes recognise a soloist's voice within the mix only adds to the impression of reality.” Gramophone Magazine, March 2013

“The artists themselves bring pleasure, unless you’re allergic to the idiosyncratic, rather peevish tone of the tenor Nicholas Mulroy...Would that there were more chances to hear the soprano Joanne Lunn, clear as a bell, daisy-fresh. Around and about, Matthew Brook’s Jesus, the Dunedin Consort and their director John Butt attack the music with customary verve. Intimacy, too: the Consort choir numbers eight” The Times, 15th March 2013 ***

“a dramatic, exactingly nuanced, profoundly considered reading, compelling in its integrity and text-driven immediacy...Mulroy's firmly-contoured Evangelist balances the musical and narrative imperatives of the recitatives with judicious sensitivity...Brooks's Christus stands up to the crowd with a dignified yet firm resolve and hallowed charisma..Butt's contextualising demands to be heard: it's nothing short of a revelation” BBC Music Magazine, April 2013 *****

“a really fine, taut, mainly single-voice account of Bach's music – led by Nicholas Mulroy's powerful Evangelist and Matthew Brook's affecting Christ – which somehow acquires new power for emerging from its spartan surroundings. John Butt's research and direction are an object lesson in musical study brought to compelling life.” The Observer, 24th March 2013

“The recording is a significant landmark in authentic Bach performance, but at the same time it's refreshingly relaxed around the edges (Butt doesn't pretend to have recreated the exact 1724 service, because there's no way of knowing what that was)” The Herald (Glasgow), March 2013

“Not only is this an exceptionally fine small-scale performance and recording with scholarly but readable notes, it attempts to bring us closer to the way in which the original listeners experienced the passion on Good Friday” MusicWeb International, March 2013

“the choral singing is wonderfully pure, buoyant and transparent...I found [the add-ons] stimulating and musically all-of-a-piece.” Financial Times, March 2013

“Linn offers a fascinating extra dimension.” Sunday Times, 31st March 2013

“All of the soloists are generally outstanding. Nicholas Mulroy's lithe, sensitive Evangelist is the epitome of narrative clarity and contrast beautifully with the calming, authoritative richness of Matthew Brook's Jesus...Both the reconstruction and the performance are carefully prepared, historically faithful and immaculately presented.” International Record Review, June 2013

GGramophone Awards 2013

Finalist - Baroque Vocal

GGramophone Magazine

Disc of the Month - March 2013

BBC Music Magazine

Disc of the month - April 2013

Super Audio CD


Hybrid Multi-channel

Linn - CKD419

(SACD - 2 discs)


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Vaughan Williams: A Cotswold Romance & Death of Tintagiles

Vaughan Williams: A Cotswold Romance & Death of Tintagiles

Vaughan Williams:

A Cotswold Romance

Death of Tintagiles

This re-release of two rarely heard works by Ralph Vaughan Williams, A Cotswold Romance and Death of Tintagiles, forms part of the new commemorative Hickox Legacy series on Chandos Records, leading up to (and continuing beyond) the fifth anniversary, in Nov 2013, of the conductor's untimely death. The recording is released on the Classic Chandos label at Mid Price.

Vaughan Williams composed his ‘ballad-opera’ Hugh the Drover, from which A Cotswold Romance is adapted, between 1910 and 1914. In his own words, he had an idea for an opera written ‘to real English words, with a certain amount of real English music’. The finished product, set in the Cotswold Village of Northleach during the Napoleonic wars, certainly does contain a host of identifiable English elements: the bringing-in of May, the bustling fair, and the prize-fight, for instance. Accommodating his publishers’ request for a version of the music which was more appropriate for concert performance, Vaughan Williams came up with the cantata A Cotswold Romance for tenor and soprano soloists with mixed-voice chorus and orchestra. The writing has the open, fresh, and vital quality that coloured many of Vaughan Williams’s works composed before the First World War.

In contrast, Death of Tintagiles, the incidental music for Maurice Maeterlinck’s play of the same name, is powerfully atmospheric and possesses a strong elegiac quality throughout. In five acts, the play concerns the tragic fate of a young child, Tintagiles, at the hands of his suspicious and jealous grandmother. Vaughan Williams perfectly captures the sense of foreboding and gloom in the play. In its simplicity and overall atmosphere the music recalls both Holst and Sibelius, while in the tender moments there are hints of A London Symphony, too.

BBC Music Magazine wrote of this disc: ‘Richard Hickox directs a vivid performance [of A Cotswold Romance] with splendid support from his assembled forces… Although not major works, these are notable additions to the catalogue, and the performances could hardly be better *****’.

Chandos - up to 40% off

Chandos Classics - The Hickox Legacy - CHAN10728X


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Special: $6.80

(also available to download from $10.00)

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