Tag Archive: Handel

A plus: The Boston Early Music Festival and the Commonwealth Lyric Theater present first operas by Handel and Rachmaninoff

Handel's Almira at BEMF. Photo by Kathy Wittman.

Here’s a weird coincidence. Two composers, nearly two centuries apart, almost polar opposites, were both 19 when their first operas were performed. Both operas are named after central characters whose three-syllable names begin with A. And both just received terrific Boston performances — simultaneously, in different parts of town.

There the coincidence ends.

Philippe Jaroussky Sings Handel and Porpora Arias with the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra, plus Locatelli’s L’Arte del Violino in Sydney

Philippe Jaroussky

City Recital Hall, Sydney: 13 March 2013 Philippe Jaroussky and the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra travel to Melbourne 18 March and play again in Sydney 20, 22, 23 and 25 March. A recording will be broadcast on ABC Classic FM on…
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Philippe Jaroussky Sings Handel and Porpora Arias with the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra, plus Locatelli’s L’Arte del Violino in Sydney

The challenge, the risk of counter-tenor singing, still fairly young as a revived technique, seems to appeal to modern audiences; it is a peculiar type of virtuosity just by virtue of the technique. It is only natural that the the counter-tenor revival took off in the 1950’s and developed in parallel with the historical performance practice movement. That was Alfred Deller who helped it take off, who started as a boy in a choir in the 1920’s and as an adult helped the Purcell revival in singing alto, and gave recitals of Italian madrigals and Elizabethan songs, but also singing contemporary opera, creating the role of Oberon for Benjamin Britten’s A Midsummer’s Night Dream.[1. See J. B. Steane writing for Grove Music Online.] Philippe Jaroussky cites Deller’s very distinctive voice, and also James Bowman, who too inspired Britten, creating the role of Apollo for Death in Venice, as voices he listened to in forming his own, and forming as an artist, Bowman especially. Bowman gave his farewell concert in Paris only last November, and many good recordings exist of Deller. Now with some hundreds of professional counter-tenors in the world and they inching up into the soprano range, the hole in the Baroque and classical “instrumentarium” left by the extremely distinctive and castrato voice which tickled so much enthusiasm in audiences — and composers — in the 17th and 18th century is filling, or at least better circumscribed, without needing to resort to a false general preference or dichotomy determined by fashions between counter-tenors and sopranos en travestie, in recital or in opera, or between counter-tenors and contraltos.

The Australian Brandenburg Orchestra Plays Johann Sebastian Bach and His Contemporaries

Paul Dyer says he sees playing Johann Sebastian Bach as the “ultimate experience for a musician,” rightfully so, the same goes for a listener too, and in naming his orchestra after the most famous of Bach’s instrumental works, he puts his money where his mouth is, but more importantly so in the fine, detailed playing, expressiveness and unforced enthusiasm, which show much care and thought in the preparation of this program. Sydney perhaps is not and never claimed to be a great Bach town, but either way, as a lover of his music, I can feel sorely deprived of him, despite the odd performance on period instruments or otherwise over the last two years. So it felt like a parched walker coming upon a water-hole to hear a program where the whole first half was devoted to Bach and the rest to contemporary (with a small ‘c’) music. The ABO has pulled out many of the stops (within reason), assembling a larger-than-usual group of 10 violins, four violas, three cellos, one bass, two flutes, three oboes, one bassoon, two horns, three trumpets, theorbo, timpani, organ and harpsichord, as well as a choir of about 35, though of course not all of these for all pieces.

Handel’s Messiah with Musica Sacra, Kent Tritle, Music Director, Conducting, at Carnegie Hall

In the interests of full disclosure I should reveal that your reviewer is a very elderly Messiah junkie who heard his first performance at a time when the earliest stirrings of the period performance movement were perceptible only to those with unusually sensitive ears and the world was still trying to wrench its collective consciousness away from six years of cataclysmic warfare. The event in question took place in December 1945 at the Pavilion, Bournemouth, on the south coast of England, only a few miles from the devastated port of Southampton, and was given by the Bournemouth Municipal Chorus and Orchestra. The orchestra, which has since achieved great distinction as the Bournemouth Symphony, had been reduced to twenty-four players during the war and while that number might now be considered appropriate for a Messiah performance, in 1945 it must have been quite a task to produce an orchestra deemed fit for Handel’s masterpiece.

The New York Philharmonic: Peter Schreier conducts Handel’s Messiah


There is nothing remarkable, I suppose, in the complex associations that surrounded my visit to Avery Fisher Hall to hear, once again, Handel’s Messiah. I love the work as much as anyone with absolutely no admixture of peevishness—except for a bad performance—but I certainly can’t take it every year. This time, although the name of Peter Schreier and his distinguished soloists should be enough to attract anyone, I was drawn by my fascination with singers as conductors following the outstanding—and profoundly vocal—performance of Bach’s B Minor Mass at Emmanuel Church in Boston a few months ago, conducted by Emmanuel Music’s new Music Director, Ryan Turner. Susan Davenny Wyner, for example, is another singer—a great one—who has made an especially valuable contribution as a conductor. In this respect this performance of Messiah was exactly what I expected it to be.

From the Stalls: Handel’s “Orlando” at the Scottish Opera, Edinburgh Festival Theatre

The terrain of the Scottish Opera company is very broad and rich, and as a result, it yields some strange, glorious fruit. Georg Friedrich Haendel’s baroque opera Orlando, replete with the classic themes of love, madness and redemption, hit the stages of Glasgow and Edinburgh this February and of course, all the audience could do was sit in their seats in awe. Scottish Opera gave this 1733 baroque masterpiece a complete face lift to lighten the drab northern winter, and has garnered nothing but four-star reviews for its efforts.

Vivica Genaux, Mezzo-Soprano, and Members of the Venice Baroque Orchestra at Carnegie Hall, 1/14/2009

Carnegie Hall, Weill Recital Hall Wednesday, January 14, 2009 at 7:30 PM Vivica Genaux, Mezzo-Soprano Members of the Venice Baroque Orchestra Luca Mares,violin; Giuseppe Cabrio, violin; Alessandra di Vincenzo, viola; Francesco Galligioni, cello; Alessandro Sbrogiò, double bass; Ivano Zanenghi, lute…
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