Gardiner illuminates Alceste's subtle colors and inflections, assisted by von Otter, whose perceptive performance as Alceste is one of emotional sincerity and spot-on vocal accuracy.
Despite being a watershed between baroque and classical opera - and a major influence on Mozart, Berlioz and even Wagner -Gluck (1714-87) is still best known today for one opera. Orfeo ed Euridice might be a masterpiece but it's one that has tended to overshadow his other fine achievements.
Tenor John Mark Ainsley with Timothy Roberts on harpsichord, spinet & chamber organ and Paula Chateauneuf on theorbo and baroque guitar, in an award-winning recording of eighteen songs and keyboard works by John Blow (1649-1708).
The teacher who has even one pupil who becomes even more distinguished than himself is fortunate; in Purcell, Blow had one such. And when that pupil's death precedes his own he has cause for genuine grief, as Blow did. One of the songs of Purcell, here alternated with instrumental pieces by Blow, contains the line 'Nor let my homely death embroider'd be with scutcheon or with elegy', but it is one with which Blow and others could not concur. In a programmatic tour de force Blow's profoundly beautiful vocal tribute to Purcell comes at the end.
Arguably Pachelbel's masterpiece, "Apollo's Lyre" is a series of six arias, each of which consists of a set of highly contrasted variations on the initial theme. As a composer, Pachelbel was perhaps most interested in the variation principal, in direct contrast to his great successor, Bach, who used the form only rarely (but then typically wrote the greatest variation work ever–the "Goldberg Variations"). The musical argument is easy to follow, and the tunes themselves simple and memorable. John Butt frames the work with two mighty chaconnes. A chaconne is basically the same thing as a passacaglia, namely a series of variations over a constantly repeating bass line. Try this disc. You're in for a pleasant surprise.
Haydn’s songs, German and English, have never quite had the standing they deserve: two of the English canzonettas and one of the German songs here are not even in the current catalogue. Most often they are sung by sopranos, but there is no reason why a tenor shouldn’t be used; Haydn, a tenor, is known to have sung them himself. The performances here, by all three singers and Roger Vignoles’ alert and thoughtful accompanying perhaps plays a key role take them seriously and show them as the substantial music they are.