Written in 1740, Deidamia was the last of Handel’s Italian operas; thereafter he relinquished the form and turned his creative energies to English oratorio. The libretto is based on the myth of Achilles’ boyhood: disguised as a girl on the island of Scyros to escape his fate at Troy, Achilles is unmasked by Ulysses and joins the war, abandoning his lover Deidamia. Despite its heroic subject Deidamia is written with a light, almost comic touch, Deidamia herself providing a central seriousness as she moves from the ecstasies of young love to a tragic maturity, forced to release the boy she loves to his inevitable death. Simone Kermes is Deidamia and Anna Bonitatibus her cynical adversary Ulysses; Alan Curtis’ new recording reveals the many beauties of a very human and appealing work that marks a wistful end to the golden age of Baroque opera.
Alarm Will Sound's recording of Steve Reich's monumental orchestral/choral works The Desert Music and Tehillim, released on the Cantaloupe label in 2002, greatly benefits from the group's close connections with the composer: the ensemble's conductor, Alan Pierson, and several of the performers studied at the Eastman School with Brad Lubman, a conductor frequently enlisted by Reich. Also, Pierson's arrangements, which reconcile the chamber and orchestral versions that exist for both works, were prepared in close consultation with the composer; thus, this may well be the definitive recording of these pieces. Brilliantly sonorous in their climaxes – the burst of light near the end of Desert Music, the "Alleluias" that close Tehillim – the players also articulate Reich's intricate canonic textures with nimble precision. Voices and strings are always an Achilles heel within Reich's percussive textures (leading him to eliminate part doublings in favor of giving each line to a lone, amplified performer), but here the singers and strings maintain an impressive rhythmic vitality.