According to Christopher Hogwood, in his marvelous biography of Handel, "In the winter of that year , Handel received what was for him an unusual commission. Although closely associated with the London theatre, he wrote very little incidental music for plays. A request from John Rich to provide airs and dances for Smollett's 'Alceste' was undertaken, according to Hawkins, in repayment of a debt to Rich."
Christopher Hogwood was one of the first pioneers to introduce historically informed performances in England in the 70', following Nikolaus Harnoncourt's revolution that took place in the late 50'. With the Academy of Ancient Music, he published hundreds of fine recordings from different composers, with a special focus on Vivaldi. Here he presents the famous Four Seasons. I find Hogwood's lecture of the 4 Seasons perfect.
Christopher Hogwood has found himself a dream cast here, with even the smallest roles taken by big names. There are a couple of surprises along the way, such as the underage First Sailor (sung by a slightly quavery treble) and the cross-dressing Sorceress, here taken by a bass. Still David Thomas cackles and machinates with the best of them, so don't let that put you off.
For consistently amiable, if undemanding entertainment, Albinoni’s concertos, with or without oboe, or oboes, are hard to beat. Christopher Hogwood and the Academy of Ancient Music here perform the 12 concertos contained in the collection published in 1722 as the composer’s Op. 9.
For those who like their modernism light, buoyant, and lyrical, there's Bohuslav Martinu's prewar music. And for those who like their modernism big, bold yet still lyrical, there's Martinu's postwar music. On this 2007 Hyperion disc, the first of four devoted to the Czech composer's complete violin concertos, violinist Bohuslav Matousek with Christopher Hogwood and the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra present three wonderful works from both sides of the war: the Concerto for flute, violin, and orchestra from 1936 and the Duo concertante for two violins and orchestra from 1937 plus the Concerto in D major for two violins and orchestra from 1950.
In the second of four Hyperion discs dedicated to the works for violin and orchestra by Czech-French-American-Swiss composer Bohuslav Martinu, violinist Bohuslav Matousek with Christopher Hogwood and the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra join two of the composer's typically atypical works: the Concerto da camera for violin with string orchestra, piano and percussion and the Concerto for violin and piano with orchestra.
Nine cello sonatas by Vivaldi have survived. Six of them were published as a set in Paris in about 1740; that set, mistakenly known as the composer's Op. 14, contains the sonatas recorded in this release. The three remaining sonatas come from manuscript collections. All but one of the six works are cast in the slow-fast-slow-fast pattern of movements of the sonata da chiesa. The odd one out, RV46, in fact, retains the four movement sequence but inclines towards the sonata da camera in the use of dance titles. The music of these sonatas is almost consistently interesting, often reaching high points of expressive eloquence, as we find, for example, in the justifiably popular Sonata in E minor, RV40. Christophe Coin brings to life these details in the music with technical assurance and a spirit evidently responsive to its poetic content. Particularly affecting instances of this occur in the third movements of the A minor and the E minor Sonatas where Coin shapes each phrase, lovingly achieving at the same time a beautifully sustained cantabile.
Following his attractive performance of six of Vivaldi's cello sonatas, Christophe Coin has recorded six of the composer's 24 or so concertos for the instrument. Five of these, Michael Talbot tells us in an interesting accompanying note, probably belong to the 1720s while the sixth, the Concerto in G minor (RV416), is evidently a much earlier work. Coin has chosen, if I may use the expression somewhat out of its usual context, six of the best and plays them with virtuosity and an affecting awareness of their lyrical content. That quality, furthermore, is not confined to slow movements but occurs frequently in solo passages of faster ones, too. It would be difficult to single out any one work among the six for particular praise. My own favourite has long been the happily spirited Concerto in G major (RV413) with which Coin ends his programme. Strongly recommended. (Gramophone Magazine)
When Richard Maunder's editions get together with Christopher Hogwood and co, you know instantly that the result will be spot on. The sound of the boy treble line (singing alto as well) is earthy yet in tune, and well complemented by the strong lower parts. The orchestra is supportive yet unobtrusive. The dynamics and phrasing are all well chosen and executed. The choice of soloists is inspired, especially Arleen Auger - such a beautiful voice. It is just a pity that there is not more on the disc - some have argued in the 'Dona ut Kyrie' tradition that an Agnus Dei could be tacked on at the end using the music of the Kyrie. An excellent recording.