François de Bedos de Celles (1709-1779), described as a "monk of notable erudition," was also a highly trained and supremely talented builder of organs in eighteenth century France. The greatest of his organs was Dom Bedos, built for the abbey of Saint-Croix in Bordeaux – a glorious instrument with rich blends and subtle colors, with nuanced balances and stark contrasts, with whispering pianissimos and roaring fortissimos. Leonhardt's chosen program opens with the organ extracts from François Couperin's Messe propre pour les couvents, deeply devout music that Leonhardt performs with absolute command and complete dedication. The remainder of the program is a collection of works by better- and lesser-known composers, ranging from three Voluntaries by John Blow and two Toccatas by Georg Muffat to a Fantasia by Abraham van den Kerchkoven and a Chaconne by Johann Caspar Ferdinand Fischer, but Leonhardt performs all of them with total commitment and rapturous ecstasy. Alpha's sound is once again the omega of recorded sound.
Donizetti considered Dom Sébastien, Roi de Portugal (1843), his final completed opera written for the Paris Opéra, to be his masterpiece. In spite of its relative obscurity, on the basis of this recording, one is inclined to agree with him. The opera has several attributes that in the past have proved to be obstacles to its popularity. The first is its length – it's in five substantial acts and lasts three hours, but that's not so onerous for contemporary audiences accustomed to Wagner and Strauss. Besides, the composer created an abbreviated version for Viennese audiences, who at that time wanted to be out of the theater by 10 p.m., and that version could be used if necessary. The extravagant scenic and musical demands (at the premiere, there were 500 people on-stage at one point) put the opera outside the capability of all but the largest companies. A third difficulty for early audiences was the relentlessly dark subject matter; besides the many personal tragedies that make up the plot, the opera is ultimately a national tragedy as well – at the finale, Portugal has been lost to Spain, whose ships are seen approaching over the horizon as the curtain falls. Donizetti's music is appropriately somber, and at times, chilling. For modern audiences, whose sensibilities can accommodate Wozzeck or Elektra, the sadness and brutality of Dom Sébastien shouldn't be a deterrent to its viability.
Classic Bob Dylan songs interpreted by British artists drawn from the 60s pop, folk, beat and underground scenes.