Here we have the first complete recording of Gluck's charming one-act serenata teatrale for chamber orchestra and four treble voices, composed for the marriage of Hapsburg Archduke Joseph in January 1765. The Archduke's first wife had died. This time he was to marry the Bavarian princess, Maria Josepha. For this performance of the new Gluck work, four of the Archduke's daughters from his first marriage who were all accomplished musicians, sang roles in the new work. The new bridegroom's younger brother Leopold, conducted. That the four Archduchesses could successfully negotiate the florid soprano roles Gluck fashioned for them, is most impressive. One presumes that the youngest daughter, Marie Antoinette, was not so gifted. The serenata teatrale was presented as a surprise to the newly weds at Schonbrunn Castle in Vienna in the presence of the rest of the Hapsburg court. It was deemed such a success, that on the spot, Gluck was asked to compose another opera. The result was La Corona. The work was planned for November, but because the Emperor died suddenly, the work was not performed.
Here we have the first recording of Handel's final Italian opera with a period instrument orchestra, chorus and a superb American cast. Deidamia was Handel's last opera. He began work on it in October, 1740, at the same time he was completing its companion work, Imeneo, which he had begun two years earlier. On November 8, Handel presented his London winter season - with some new works, some revivals - and for this purpose had engaged the Theatre Royal at Lincoln's Inn Fields. Opening night saw a semi-staged version of the serenata Il Parnasso in festa; later in the month came the premiere of Imeneo. Despite a superb score and fine cast, the production was a failure and was offered only once again in early December. The fact is that opera - Italian opera - was passe in London by this time. The public had turned to other musical delights - stage works in English of a more frivolous nature than Handel's offerings.
It may seem surprising that this is the first complete recording of Gluck's one-act opera (or, as he called it, serenata teatrale) La corona (The Crown) after more than 240 years. The work was never performed during Gluck's lifetime; written for the name day of Francis I, husband of Habsburg empress Maria Theresa, it was rendered irrelevant by the dedicatee's death in 1765. The listener will discover soon enough why no one has thought to revive the work since then.