Cherubini’s major sacred works are generally quite marvelous. The two Requiems have a distinguished history on disc. Toscanini recorded the C minor, Markevitch the D minor, and my colleague David Vernier praised the recent release of the C minor piece on Carus. They are both truly excellent: grave and austere, but also dynamic, moving, and well worth hearing. The same is certainly true of the large-scale Masses: the Missa solemnis in D minor and E major and the Mass in F are especially memorable. Their grandeur never strains for effect and is always leavened with the composer’s Italian lyricism. Cherubini may not have been well-treated by history, but he knew what he was doing.
An acclaimed Italian guitar virtuoso and composer, Mauro Giuliani, along with Fernando Sor, was one of the last great classical proponents of his instrument until its revival in the early twentieth century. He studied counterpoint and the cello, but on the six-string guitar he was entirely self-taught, and that became his principal instrument early on. Italy abounded with fine guitarists at the beginning of the nineteenth century (Carulli remains the most familiar today), but few of them could make a living because of the public's preoccupation with opera. So Giuliani embarked on a successful tour of Europe when he was 19, and in 1806 he settled in Vienna, where he entered the musical circle of Diabelli, Moscheles, and Hummel. He solidified his reputation with the 1808 premiere of his Guitar Concerto in A major, Op. 30, and was soon heralded as the greatest living guitar virtuoso. Even Beethoven noticed Giuliani, and wrote of his admiration for him. Perhaps to return the favor, Giuliani played cello in the 1813 premiere of Beethoven's Symphony No. 7.
Set in classical antiquily, Mozart’s "Il re pastore" tells of the thwarted love of Aminta (the innocent ‘shepherd king’ of the title) for the well-born Elisa, and that of the nobleman Agenore for the deposed tyrant’s daughter Tamiri. No less a figure than Alexander the Great resolves these conflicts of private passion and public status. First performed in Salzburg in 1775, Sir Neville Marriner conducts a top international cast in this 1989 production of the opera from Salzburg’s Landestheater.
The protagonist of the film, set in 1700, is Figaro, the barber of Seville, who risks being arrested for opening his shop on Sundays despite a ban. Figaro is a friend of a young Count who's in love with Rosina, the governor's daughter. But her father doesn't consent to their marriage.
It is an oft-repeated saw, about life in the heavenly spheres, that the angels revere Bach but listen to Mozart. If they have DVD players, you can bet they're now watching this stunning production of Le Nozze di Figaro ("The Marriage of Figaro"), which comes about as close to Mozartian perfection as one could possibly hope to get. The faultlessly cast youthful performers bubble with infectious energy. Alison Hagley is a sprightly Susanna with a voice as clear as a bell, and brilliantly matched by a 28-year-old Bryn Terfel both acting and sounding in fine form. Hillevi Martinpelto demonstrates why she is one of the world's favourite Mozart singers with her melting tones, richly coloured voice and generous stage presence, and Rodney Gilfry gives a muscular, wonderfully controlled performance as the Count.