Cecilia Bartoli, soprano. Il Gardino Armonico / Giovanni Antonini, cond.
DECCA 485 0214 TT: 75:30

HANDEL: Agrippina
Joyce DiDonato (Agrippina). Franco Fagiolli (Nerone). Elsa Benoit (Poppea). Lucaa Pisaroni (Claudio). Jakub Jozef Orlinski (Ottone). Androni Mastroni (Pollonte). Carlo Visli (Narciso). Biagio Pizzuti (Lesbo). Mae-Nicole Limieux ( Il Pommo D'Oro / Maxim Emelyanychev, cond.
WARNER CLASSICS ERATO 01902953336585 (3 disks) TT: 74:44 / 75:58 / 79:39

ABRAHAMSEN: Left, Alone. PESSON: Future is a Faded Song. STRASNOY: Kuleshow.
Alexandre Tharaud, piano. Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra / Yannick Nézet-Séguin (Abrahamsen). Fankfurt Radio Symphony / Tito Ceccherini (Pesson). Les Violons du Roy / Mathieu Lossier, cond.

ERATO 0190295323073 TT: 62:55

VAUGHAN WILLIAMS: Symphonny No. 3 Pastorale. Symphony No 4 in F mino. Sarabande "Helen."
Elizabeth Warrs, soprano. David Butt Philip, tenor BBC Symphony Chorus and Orchestra . Martin Brabbins, cond.
HYPERION CD 7533 TT: 81 min.

Cecilia Bartoli;i's latest recording is devoted to the artistry of the greatest castrati of all time, Carlo Maria Michelangelo Nicola Broschi, whose stage name was Farineli. Born in 1705, he died in 1782. He apparently was castrated in 1717 supposedly necessary because if a fall from a horse, odd though that sounds. His family was highly musical, and he then studied with the greatest teachers of the time. His voice developed an incredible range and agility. He appeared often in Europe throughout his career, and many composers including his teacher, Nicola Porpora, wrote music to display his virtuosity. Bartoli provides a series of arias nd scenes written for Farinelli by his teacher (P{orpora), Johann Adolf Hasse, Riccardo Broschi (who was his brother), Geminano Giacomelli, and Antonio Caldara.. Stunning vocal dexterity and beauty throughout, and superb accompaniment is provided by the period instrument group Il Giardino Armonico led by Giovanni Antonini. The recordings were made January 2017 in Switzerland's Le Rosey Concert Hall, and August 2019 in Salzburg's Dorothea Porsche Saal, Odeïon. Audio is excellent, and a handsome 70-page booklet contains numerous program notes, photos and complete texts and translations Bartoli obviously has a great sense of humor. Her photos in the set show her with a beard and mustache, probably looking more handsome than Farinelli did. This is a terrific disk, not to be missed.

Handel's powerful opera Agrippina is the a hit of the Met in a new production by Sir David McVicar. There are two videos currently available of this oopera and we can be sure that eventually the Met production will show up on DVD. It stars the amazing Joyce DiDonato in the title role, with a sterling supporting cast and a pieriod orchestra conducted by Maxim Emelyamuycjev (Harry Bicket conducts the Met production). It is a very long opera (3 jours 31 min), a feast of Handel's magnificent music perfectly sung. The recording was made May 2019 in Sala Mahler, Centro Culturale Dobbiaco, and the audio is first-rate. This is a class production and it includes a 240-pge booklet with complete Italian libretto with English, French and German translation. A major issue indeed. The modest price is another plus.

The brilliant young French pianis tAlexandre Tharaud already has made recordings of varied epertory ranging from Bach, Debussy, Satie and Rachmaninoff. Now he offers this unusual CD of three works written for him.. Danish composer Hans Abrahamsen (b. 1952) is on the utting edge of the his country's musical scene His right hand did not develop properly, so he is particularly interested in music for the left hand.Left, Alone, was commissioned by Westdeutsche Rundfunk, City of Birmingham Symphony, Danish National Symphony and the Rotterdam Philharmonic. Thee are six short sections with a totall playig time of about 18 minutes. Gérard Pesson (b. 1958) was commissioned by the Zurich Tonhalle Orchestr, the Frankfurt Radio Symphony and and the Festival d'Automne. This is a fragment of the third verse of T. S. Eliot's The Dry Salvages, the third poem of his Four Quartets. Oscar Strasnov (b. 1970) was commissioned to write Kuleshov, a concerto for iano and chamber orchestra. It was inspired by the legendary 1920s Russian filmmaker Lev Kuleshov whose revolutionary repeated images changed the world of cinema. In this concerto we hear numerousminiature bursts of sound, often repeated iwith variations. Program notes by all three composer attempt to explain reasos why they composed this music and what is represents. We can be sure these performances do everything that can be done for this unique music, and audio is erxcellent. We are indevted to Erato for giving us these world premiere recordings of unknown music, but it is doubtful any of them will enjoy sustained listening.

There are countless authoritative recordings of Symphonies 3 and 5 of Vaughan Williams. This new disk with Martyn Brabbins and the BBC Symphony is a distinguished addition to the catalog, and has a special interest, the world premiere recording of an unknown work by this major composer: Sarabande Helen. Vaughan Williams started work on this in 19813 about the same time as the London Symphony.It is a 9-minutete e cantata for tenor soloist, chorus and orchestra, a setting of the famous lines from Marlowe's The Tragical History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus. "Was this the face that launched a thousand ships." —the face of Helen of Troy. The composer's draft and sketches only recently were discovered and Brabbins, a specialist in British music, has completed it in Vaughan Williams fashion. It is a lovely piece, a welcome addition to the composer's catalog. The brief text is provided. The recordings were made in England's Watford Colosseum November / December 2019; audio is rich and well balanced. Surely this should be in any Vaughan Williams colletion.

R.E.B. (February 2020)