This generously programmed disc provides excellent value and outstanding performances of both major and lesser-known masterpieces of French choral music. The Fauré Requiem has been recorded many times, and several excellent versions of the original orchestration are available on disc. This one is among them, owing to John Eliot Gardiner's experience and perfectionist mastery of details overlooked by less-successful choral conductors. The real bonus here is the inclusion of the popular but very difficult Debussy and Ravel chansons, and the rarely heard but eminently worthy little part songs by Saint-Saëns. These pieces are a lesson in how to achieve maximum effect with the simplest materials.
The Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists are renowned of their spectacular performances of Bach’s epic masterpiece, which they have toured extensively. During their last tour (in Munich, Frankfurt, Lucerne, Aix-en-Provence and Paris) there was a stampede for tickets and they performed every night in full houses, to spellbound audiences. This album is the culmination of the tour: it was recorded in an open session in London, and captures the special atmosphere of the concerts. It is presented in a 2-CD casebook and contains a booklet featuring original notes by John Eliot Gardiner translated in English, German and French.
Listening to this work so soon after hearing Zauberflote one is amazed anew that Mozart could write two such totally contrasted pieces within months of each other. Here, in the composer's last opera seria, we are in another world, one of formality tempered by the deep emotions engendered by love and jealousy. Instead of birdcatchers and Masonic rights we are dealing with historic figures in a supposedly historic context with down-to-earth feelings. For each Mozart finds precisely the appropriate music.
“This is unquestionably the most vital and authentic account of Idomeneo to date on disc. We have here what was given at the work's first performance in Munich plus, in appendices, what Mozart wanted, or was forced, to cut before that premiere and the alternative versions of certain passages, so that various combinations of the piece can be programmed by the listener. Gardiner's direct, dramatic conducting catches ideally the agony of Idomeneo's terrible predicament – forced to sacrifice his son because of an unwise row. This torment of the soul is also entirely conveyed by Anthony Rolfe Johnson in the title role to which Anne Sofie von Otter's moving Idamante is an apt foil. Sylvia McNair is a diaphanous, pure-voiced Ilia, Hillevi Martinpelto a properly fiery, sharp-edged Elettra.