This is the sixth set in this comprehensive and excellent Handel edition from Warner. This volume deals with an important oratorio in the shape of "Saul" as well as the "Utrecht Te Deum" and the famous "Ode for St. Cecilia's Day" and "Alexander's Feast", another splendid cantata. The recordings date from the early 1970's to 1990 and come from the prolific Teldec stable under the indefatigable Nikolaus Harnoncourt who conducts in his exemplary no nonsense fashion. "Saul' is a fine interpretation although I still feel that John Eliot Gardiner comes to the core of the work better. "Ode for St. Cecilia's Day' is also given a pomp and circumstance treatment whilst the Utrecht Te Deum is winningly done. The team of soloists is also very good and the recordings are fine and well balanced in proper Teldec tradition. There are also some rarities thrown in for good measure such as the excerpts from "Giulio Cesare" and the ubiquitous cantata, "Apollo e Dafne", both which receive splendidly invigorating performances. Full texts and translations of the works are available online and the booklet is well presented with some interesting photographs. Those who are new to Handel could do far worse than collect this exemplary edition.(Gerald Fenech)
Nikolaus Harnoncourt has received numerous international awards for his work: Nikolaus Harnoncourt is an honorary member of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde and the Konzerthausgesellschaft in Vienna (since 1992), he holds honorary doctorates from the University of Edinburgh and the Mozarteum music college in Salzburg, and is an honorary member of the Graz and Vienna colleges of music. He was awarded the Ernst von Siemens Music Prize in 2002 and the Stockholm Polar Prize, and in 2005 he was honoured with the Kyoto Prize, the world's most important independent cultural award bestowed on outstanding international personalities from the arts and sciences. There are nearly 500 recordings in Nikolaus Harnoncourt's discography, which have been awarded all the major international Classical prizes, including a Grammy in 2002 for his recording of the St Matthew Passion
Nikolaus Harnoncourt and his period orchestra, Concentus Musicus Wien, never recorded a complete cycle of the symphonies of Ludwig van Beethoven, and this 2016 Sony release is their only recording of the Symphony No. 4 in B flat major and the Symphony No. 5 in C minor, made almost ten months before the conductor's death. Harnoncourt planned for this to be his last recording before his retirement, so it inevitably has the feeling of a valedictory performance, and one can also hear it as the orchestra's warm tribute to its leader and his sterling musicianship.
Because Mozart's earliest symphonies are performed less often than the later masterpieces and are consequently underrepresented on disc, Nikolaus Harnoncourt's period performances with Concentus Musicus Wien may have an added value beyond sheer musical excellence. Much has been written about how these works are miraculous manifestations of the young Mozart's genius, and their consistently high quality obviates criticism for their few shortcomings. But these symphonies really do sound magical and even startling in Harnoncourt's vital renditions, and Concentus Musicus delivers them with boisterous enthusiasm and full bow, with absolutely no precious Rococo affectations. Brisk tempi, tight ensemble playing and the clear timbres of original instruments contribute to the authenticity of the performances, but these may count less than the gusto, humor, and freshness that the musicians display in each work. The woodwinds and horns are especially robust and earthy, and Harnoncourt draws out their distinctive colors and striking rhythms to contrast them more effectively with the strings. Deutsche Harmonia Mundi's sound is immaculate, without doubt the best the label can offer, and the acoustics of Kasino Zögernitz are ideal for balance and resonance.(Blair Sanderson)
Filmed and directed by Jean-Pierre Ponnelle in the unique interiors of Vicenza's Teatro Olimpico in 1986, this DVD offers an intimate glimpse of Mozart's first major opera, written when the precocious composer was just fourteen. Nikolaus Harnoncourt leads a stellar cast in portraying the inner circle of the Roman Empire's fiercest enemy: Mithridates, king of Pontus.
A brand-new label from one of the world's finest early music ensembles makes an auspicious debut with this stunning new recording of Handel's oratorio Belshazzar. Les Arts Florissants, led by the great William Christie, have launched their new label with the goal of expanding the ensemble's connection to the listening public on a scale far beyond the concert hall. Belshazzar was first performed in 1745, and was frequently revised. Christie has chosen what he considers to be the most successful of the various versions of Belshazzar, resulting in the restoration of the piece in all its splendor. The libretto's subject, which focuses on the decline of a once glorious society and the ephemeral nature of Empire, is especially relevant today. This deluxe set also includes a bonus essay by Jean Echenoz entitled In Babylon, printed separately on special paper and included alongside the regular booklet. This specially commissioned work draws the reader deep into the ancient, majestic city, the seat of power of Belshazzar the King.
Nikolaus Harnoncourt created an interpretation in which Haydn’s work can become a veritable gem of opera literature. Renowned actor and director Tobias Moretti relates the story as a light-footed, magical fairy tale infused with slapstick, witty details and fantasy costumes.