The 50 Greatest Pieces of Classical Music is a selection of classical works recorded by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, with conductor David Parry. The result was solely for the digital market. This is the very first time a classical collection is recorded for digital release only and was 13th place on the Billboard classical music chart with more than 135,000 units sold (and counting).
Vincenzo Bellini’s third opera, Il pirata, marked an important step in his career. Not only was it the 27 year old’s first score for the brand leader of Italian opera houses, La Scala, Milan, it also represented his first collaboration with Felice Romani, the leading librettist of the day, who was to become his regular artistic partner. Based (via a French translation) on an English play by the Anglo-Irish Gothic writer Charles Maturin, Il pirata describes how Gualtiero (José Bros) is shipwrecked during a storm on the Sicilian coast, where his former love, Imogene, (Carmen Giannattasio) has been forced into an unwilling marriage by Ernesto, the local duke (Ludovic Tézier). Tensions build between the three until Gualtiero kills Ernesto in a duel, causing Imogene to go mad with guilt. David Parry conducts this exceptional example of early romantic opera at its most dramatically potent.
Back another two centuries, to 1640 and a late masterpiece by the first great figure in opera history: Claudio Monteverdi and his Il ritorno d’Ulisse in Patria – “The Return of Ulysses to his Homeland”. Raymond Leppard conducted a production at Glyndebourne in the early 1970s, based on his own edition of the textually problematic work – there are gaps in the only surviving score. Revived in 1979, the production – which has gone down in the annals of opera legend – was recorded by CBS. Gramophone’s reviewer declared the performance “gloriously vivid in humanity and splendour.