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Handel: Ombra Cara
In his first recital for harmonia mundi, Bejun Mehta, the American countertenor, has chosen highlights from the repertoire of the famous castrato Senesino, accompanied by René Jacobs and Freiburger Barock. Bejun (b.1968) is a protegée of René Jacobs and has been sponsored by Marilyn Horne. He made his opera debut as a countertenor, having been inspired by David Daniels, as Armindo in a New York City Opera production of Partenope. Stage rôles have included Tolomeo in Giulio Cesare, Tamerlano, Ottone in Agrippina and Endimione in Le Calisto.
+ BONUS DVD: OMBRA CARA 'MAKING OF'
NTSC 16.9, Subtitles, Fr, Ger, Total time: 15’25”, Interview in English
“Mehta's disc towers above the other Handel 'medley' recordings currently fashionable among opera stars. Musicality and a brilliant intelligence emanate from every track...This is not just an aria collection, but a celebration of genius, in composition and performance alike.” BBC Music Magazine, Christmas 2010 *****
“Mehta's way of listening to the orchestra around him, and either allowing his singing to stand out in relief, or to meld with the instrumental textures, produces wonderfully variegated effects and ever-changing perspectives...Mehta's beauty of tone and musical intelligence confirm his position in the highest echelon of contemporary countertenors” The Guardian, 23rd December 2010 *****
“...a superior musician at the peak of his vocal powers. He has luxury support from the Freiburg Barockers and Jacobs, himself a former countertenor and a no less imaginative Handelian. The icing on this sumptuous cake is the gorgeous duet from Sosarme, in which Rosemary Joshua’s voice blends ideally with Mehta’s. A treat from start to finish.” The Times, 2nd January 2011 ****
“Mehta's singing can be astonishingly good...his precise coloratura in direct faster arias is superb...The Freiburg Baroque Orchestra plays excellently, particularly during a passacaglia from Rodrigo.” Gramophone Magazine, February 2011
“Mehta deals with and vanquishes any vocal difficulties, for his voice is like a well-oiled engine...[He] employs the colours of his voice skilfully...He is among the best of countertenors, and Handelians should relish these performances. In every piece, the orchestra produces instrumental colour and stylish playing, be it from trumpet or lute. Jacobs lends a wise and experienced hand.” International Record Review, January 2011
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Handel - Mezzo Soprano Opera Arias
This was the response of Classique News to Max Emmanuel Cencic’s first recital for Virgin Classics, released in 2007 and since awarded the Orphée d'Or by the Académie du Disque Lyrique. The German website KlassikInfo judged that: “It would not be possible to sing Malcolm’s arias from La donna del lago with more beauty and erotic charge, from the dark velvety depths to the brilliant top notes … a wonderful CD to combat a bad mood on a rainy Sunday afternoons …”, while the Rossini expert Richard Osborne, writing in Gramophone observed that: “The singing of Viennese countertenor Max Emmanuel Cencic is distinguished by good rhythm, crisp divisions and clear, expressive word use. The range these roles require sits comfortably on his voice. The G below the stave is rounded and full, the two octaves beyond are clear and bright … Cencic's musicianship is generally impeccable: a tribute to the values instilled in him during his time in the Vienna Boys' Choir which he left in 1992, nine years before his decision to ‘re-create’ himself as a countertenor.”
After that foray into the early Romantic era -- heroic arias written for female mezzo sopranos to perform in male disguise – Cencic returns to core countertenor repertoire with this programme of Handel. When Cencic performed the role of Sesto in Giulio Cesare on stage in Toulouse in 2006, ResMusica described him as a “true phenomenon”.
Handel retains a prominent position in Cencic’s performance schedule. Among operas by the composer that he has performed are Giulio Cesare, Tamerlano, Fernando, Serse, Ottone and Faramondo – his complete Virgin Classics recording of this work was designated a Diapason ‘Découverte’ in March 2009, also being selected for Gramophone’s Editor’s Choice in July 2009. The Daily Telegraph wrote of the recording that: “The cast is notable for the flamboyant contributions of the impressive young countertenors Max Emanuel Cencic (in the title role) and Philippe Jaroussky. Strongly recommended to diehard Handel fans.”
“Cencic possesses a poise and flexibility of tone which bestows a calm nobility even during the more animated passages of 'Salda Quercia, in Erta Balza' from Arianna In Creta; while 'Pena Tiranna' from Amadigi Di Gaula and 'Ombra Cara' from Radamisto are occupied with a courtly grace.” The Independent, 5th March 2010 ***
“Cencic's powerhouse countertenor is compellingly beautiful but also phenomenally androgynous...Just when you think Cencic is indulging in too much bravura, he stops you in your tracks with slow arias...sung with an unaffected simplicity...Intelligent, provocative stuff, and absolutely outstanding.” The Guardian, 8th April 2010 *****
“Cencic's almost reckless brilliance is immediately on show in the ferocious 'Sorge nell'alma mia'...as a portrait of jealous frustration this is startlingly vivid, with hyperactive Barocchisti dancing as if on hot coals...This is a thrilling Handel recital, with Fasolis and his band complementing Cencic in sensitivity and virtuosity.” Gramophone Magazine, August 2010
“...even Handel's longest-standing fans may find themselves marvelling anew at their composer's encyclopaedic mastery of the vocal melody...Cencic shows himself exceptionally alert to vocal colour and capable of tinting and illuminating the words without ever pulling the phrases out of shape. On the simplest level, he makes these tunes irresistable.” BBC Music Magazine, August 2010 *****
BBC Music Magazine
Opera Choice - August 2010
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Handel: Opera Arias
The contralto Nathalie Stutzmann was not yet 30 years of age when she made this extraordinarily dramatic recording of arias from Handel’s Italian operas. It showcases her impressive depth of tone, a voice of tremendous – indeed, in these days, almost unrivalled – projection that inevitably brings to mind the great contraltos of yore from Clara Butt to Marian Anderson.
Stutzmann was, and remains, however, an entirely modern artist, who has continued to innovate in her choice of repertoire and musical partners. Many of these arias were written for castrati and countertenors, who nonetheless sang, we are led to believe, with quite a different, more earthy timbre, than we are accustomed to hear from countertenors today.
In that sense Stutzmann’s assumption of these often powerfully dramatic scenes of love and rage and despair presents an intriguing throwback to the age when they were first performed, especially when, as here, she is accompanied by a period-instrument band who are themselves soaked in Handel’s idiom.
“a thrilling recital of plangent and heroic arias” BBC Music Magazine, March 2012 *****
“[The recital] begins superbly, leaping in with the magnificent ‘Fammi combattere’, sung here in a truly grand manner – as indeed everything is, for Stutzmann has a commanding style and a tremendous
technique, allied to a very powerful contralto. She is an exceptionally rhythmic singer, and produces immense fire in the quick numbers, among them the big outburst from Partenope, ‘Furibondo’, and the first of the two from
Floridante, as well as parts of the Mad Scene from Orlando, in which too, she is very successful at conveying, musically, the character’s slipping into madness through her softening of the voice.” Gramophone Magazine, March 1993
“what we hear on this disc is a still very young singer. Her distinctive dark timbre and fluent technique were already her hallmarks...There is glorious singing throughout the recital and Roy Goodman draws vivacious and stylish playing from the excellent Hanover Band. It is great to have this disc available again. Handel lovers should place their orders at once.” MusicWeb International, May 2012
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Berlioz Les Nuits d’Eté & Handel Arias
In conjunction with the Orchestra’s 30th Anniversary Season, Music Director Nicholas McGegan and Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra announce the launch of the ensemble’s own recording label, Philharmonia Baroque Productions. The label’s début release showcases the late Lorraine Hunt Lieberson in a live 1995 recording of Berlioz’s Les Nuits d’été and a live 1991 recording of arias from Handel’s Giulio Cesare, Ottone, Arianna, Radamisto and Agrippina. Hunt Lieberson had a long and fruitful relationship with McGegan and Philharmonia Baroque. The Berlioz is the last of seven acclaimed recordings she made with the orchestra and the first time she ever sang the full Berlioz song cycle in performance. Lorraine was in her element and the result was splendid. These incredibly moving performances are now available to a wide audience for the first time.
In more than two decades as its music director, Nicholas McGegan has established the San Francisco-based Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and Philharmonia Chorale as the leading period-performance ensemble in America – and at the forefront of the 'historical' movement worldwide, thanks to notable appearances at such venues as Carnegie Hall, London Proms, Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw, and the International Handel Festival in Göttingen, Germany, where McGegan has been artistic director since 1991. Born in England, he was educated at Oxford, Cambridge and the Royal College of Music. In 2010, he was awarded an OBE for “services to music overseas". Other awards include an official 'Nicholas McGegan Day' declared by the Mayor of San Francisco to mark his 20th anniversary with Philharmonia Baroque.The next release from Philharmonia Baroque will be of Haydn's Symphonies.
“her warm and maternal tone combine with her interpretative commitment and spontaneity to produce wonderful results...Hunt Lieberson's inimitable approach makes a wonderful thing, for instance, out of 'Vieni, o figlio' from Ottone, which is about as close to vocal heaven as it gets” BBC Music Magazine, September 2011 ****
“[Her Theodora] is the most youthful and vulnerable-sounding on disc...Her voice glints and darts in the exultant bravura arias [from Ariodante], the coloratura always perfectly even...While never stinting on the impassioned climaxes, Hunt Lieberson shows an uncanny feel for the [Berlioz] cycle's mysterious half-lights...In sum a cherishable memento of a great artist who always sang, as a colleague once said, 'as if every performance were her last'.” Gramophone Magazine, November 2011
“'Le spectre de la rose' is interpreted with subdued inwardness before the voice is opened to reflect the rose's pleasure at being worn by the girl at 'Et j'arrive du paradis'...An eloquent account of Radamisto's lament 'Ombra cara' benefits from vocal steadiness and controlled emission of soft, unexaggerated tone.” International Record Review, December 2011
“The Handel arias...are glorious, exquisitely polished performances, every role inhabited comprehensively...But it is Berlioz's song cycle that is the real revelation...the astonishing velvety evenness of her singing in a number such as Sur les Lagunes, symbiotically entwined with the string textures around her, is worth the price of the disc alone.” The Guardian, 30th June 2011 *****
“Heartbreakingly beautiful. Berlioz’s Sur les lagunes shows her voice at its most lustrous: a tragic tour de force. But the arias show her range best: consoling in Vieni, o figlio from Ottone; proud in La giustizia from Giulio Cesare; poised and noble in Ogni vento from Agrippina.” The Times, 9th July 2011 ****
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Russell Oberlin - Handel Arias
Russell Oberlin (countertenor) & Albert Fuller (harpsichord)
Baroque Chamber Orchestra, Thomas Dunn
First release on CD
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