Alan Stivell is a Breton musician and singer, recording artist and master of the celtic harp who from the early 1970s revived global interest in the Celtic (specifically Breton) harp and Celtic music as part of world music.
The Florentine Francesco Bartolomeo Conti (1682-1732) was the finest theorbo player in early 18th-century Europe, and spent almost his entire career at the Habsburg court in Vienna. He composed sacred and secular vocal works special enough to warrant the attention of both Bach and Handel. Conti's oratorio David, a setting of a dramatic libretto by Apostolo Zeno, was first performed at Vienna in March 1724. The cast of singers included the tenor Francesco Borosini, soon afterwards a principal cast member for Handel in Tamerlano and Rodelinda (Conti's writing for Borosini descends to a low G, hence the decision here to cast baritone Furio Zanasi as Saul). Alan Curtis speculates that Borosini might have shown Conti's score to Handel because Conti's use of the theorbo to portray David playing the harp to soothe the insanely jealous Saul is neatly reflected in Handel's use of solo harp in his oratorio Saul (1738). Conti's difficult obbligato theorbo part in David's 'Quanto mirabile' is entrusted to the safe hands of Jakob Lindberg; the vocal part is sung by Marijana Mijanovic´, whose tuning and phrasing are better here than in her Handel recordings. Furio Zanasi's top register is stretched a notch too much for comfort at times but this never gets in the way of a convincing performance. Simone Kermes is beautifully emotive as Micol, Birgit Christensen's sparkling soprano is impressive, and Sonia Prina sings with exemplary sense of proportion and melodic line.
Fernando is the abandoned first draft of Handel’s opera Sosarme (performed at the King’s Theatre in February 1732)… Curtis’s pacing and shaping of Handel’s music is consistently subtle, astutely rhetorical and firmly connected to the libretto text. Although it might be possible to explore firmer muscularity and create a more vivid sense of surprise in the quicker music, there is something to be said for Curtis’s shrewd reservation of such effects for when it is truly vital for the drama. For instance, Marianna Pizzolato’s powerful arias “Vado al campo” and “Cuor di madre e cuor di moglie” are potently delivered moments of severe agitated passion that are all the more effective for the sweeter elegance that pervades much of this lovely score. The sublime duet “Per le porte” is sung with poetic intimacy by Lawrence Zazzo and Veronica Cangemi. Zazzo sings his elegantly heroic aria “Alle sfere della gloria” with supple clarity. Max Emanuel Cencic is impressive as the reticent Sancio, unwilling to be used as a pawn in his ruthless grandfather Altomaro’s Machiavellian plans to tear the royal family apart. Antonio Abete gives an ideal account of the villain’s arias… Fernando is one of Curtis’s most consistent and pleasing Handel opera recordings. (David Vickers, Gramophone)
Until recently, so much of this first opera that Handel wrote for Italy was lost that it was unviable to stage it. The rediscovery of the missing material, a triumph of scholarly detective work, reveals the confident high spirits which characterise so much of Handel’s music during his Italian visit. It lacks the instrumental colours of his more lavish London productions, with many arias supported by continuo alone. All are here, complete (even six which Handel himself discarded), but many are brief and, under Curtis’s lively direction, the dramatic tension builds up splendidly. He has also shortened the recitative, reflecting Handel’s own tendency later, in England, when writing for a non-Italian speaking audience. After a fleeting moment of uncertainty in the Overture, the orchestral playing is superb throughout. Both Banditelli (Rodrigo) and Calvi (Fernando) are well-characterised in their trouser roles, an apt touch of darkness in the voice reflecting Handel’s original castrati. Piau is appealing as Rodrigo’s forgiving wife in some of the most memorable arias – her first with delicate flutes, in Act II, confusing the ear with ambiguous up-beat rhythms. Fedi, as Rinaldo’s rejected mistress, is uncomfortably hard-edged when passions are roused. Outstanding is Müller, duetting alluringly with bassoon, strutting arrogantly in a victory celebration. (George Pratt, BBC Music Magazine)
The debut solo album by the Lindisfarne frontman, cut shortly after that band's initial breakup, Pipedream is very much the son of its father, a faintly folky collection of songs that, one presumes, were originally intended for the next Lindisfarne album before events finally overtook them. As usual with Alan Hull's post-Dingly Dell output, nothing here truly leaps out to grab your attention; rather, Pipedream is a meditative, reflective collection characterized as much by Hull's often-plaintive vocal than by any particular melody. But "Country Gentleman's Wife," "Song for a Windmill" and the gorgeous "Justanothersadsong" are latter-day Hull jewels, while the biting "The Money Game" reflects on the end of the band with grandiose venom. [Originally released in 1973, the LP was reissued on CD in 2005 and includes six bonus tracks.]
Alan Parsons delivered a detailed blueprint for his Project on their 1975 debut, Tales of Mystery and Imagination, but it was on its 1977 follow-up, I Robot, that the outfit reached its true potential…