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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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Lorraine Hunt-Lieberson: A Tribute
Bach, J S:
Bist du bei mir, BWV508
Qui d'amor (from Ariodante)
Scherza, infida (from Ariodante)
Dopo notte (from Ariodante)
Theodora: Angels, ever bright and fair
Theodora, HWV 68: With Darkness deep
Theodora, HWV 68: Oh! that I on wings could rise
To thee, thou glorious son of worth (from Theodora)
with Drew Minter (counter-tenor)
Messiah: Rejoice Greatly, O Daughter of Zion
Messiah: But who may abide
Messiah: He was despised
Messiah: I know that my Redeemer liveth
Clori, degli occhi miei, HWV 91a
Susanna, HWV 66: Bending to the throne of glory
Crystal streams in murmurs flowing: Susanna
Susanna, HWV 66: Guilt trembling spoke my doom
Susanna: If guiltless blood be your intent
Qual nave smarrita (from Radamisto)
Come to me, soothing sleep (from Ottone)
Svegliatevi nel core (from Giulio Cesare)
Qual Leon (from Arianna)
Thy hand, Belinda … When I am laid in earth (from Dido & Aeneas)
When I am laid in earth (from Dido and Aeneas)
As a tribute to the artistry of Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, this retrospective gathers together many of the finest recordings of arias and duets made during her acclaimed association with harmonia mundi. The booklet notes include tributes from her husband, Peter Lieberson, Nicholas McGegan and her obituary from Le Monde.
Lorraine Hunt - who became Lorraine Hunt Lieberson after her marriage to the American composer Peter Lieberson in 1999 - was born on March 1st 1954, in San Francisco. Her father was a music teacher and a conductor, her mother a contralto and a voice teacher. She played viola professionally until she was 26, when she found that her voice could be a better and richer way to express her musicality and secure her professional future. Lorraine would have a professional singing career of only 2 decades (1984-2006), interrupted twice by illness. She died from cancer on July 3, 2006, aged 52.
For harmonia mundi, Lorraine Hunt Lieberson recorded operas, oratorios and Handel arias, conducted notably by Nicholas McGegan. For Erato, she added the rôles of Rameau’s Phèdre and Charpentier’s Medea, under William Christie. Since her death, other taped live performances have been added to her discography, including two Wigmore Hall Live recitals and Peter Lieberson’s Rilke and Neruda Songs.
In 2009 harmonia mundi issued a recital given at the Ravinia Festival in August 2004 with pianist Peter Serkin. More recently, new label Philharmonia Baroque has issued Lorraine’s live performances of Les Nuits d’Eté and Handel Arias.
A formidable musician, a natural-born actress, she was at her best in roles of sacrificed victims, which didn’t prevent her from displaying a dark sense of humour. After having sung during the same evening Stravinsky’s Jocasta and Britten’s Phaedra, she once said: ‘Two suicides in one night! That’s right up my alley’.
“For those who loved Lorraine and her singing, and for those who have not yet heard her, my gratitude to harmonia mundi.” PETER LIEBERSON (b.1946, d.2011)
“Handel's popular "Angels, ever bright and fair" from Theodora and "Scherza infida" from Ariodante remind us of her musical intelligence and vitality...The final tracks on each disc, Dido's Lament and "Bist du bei mir" from the Notebook of Anna Magdalena Bach, are almost unbearably moving in their characteristic simplicity and intensity. She is much missed.” The Observer, 24th July 2011
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