Here is a case of expectations richly rewarded. Telemann's flute quartets are vibrant and tuneful, at times making great demands on the soloists. The Musica Antiqua Koln are in all ways up to the challenge, delivering a musical bouquet that is at various turns elegant, soothing, and exciting.
“This magnificent production is a complete and blissful success. Don’t miss it.” Those were the words of the French website Classique News when Leonardo Vinci’s rediscovered Artaserse was staged by Silviu Purcãrete at the Opéra National de Lorraine in Nancy. Complementing the CD version of the opera released in Autumn 2012, this DVD features no fewer than five of the world’s leading countertenors – assuming both male and female roles: Philippe Jaroussky, Max Emanuel Cencic, Franco Fagioli, Valer Barna-Sabadus and Yuriy Mynenko.
If you're one of those who feel Telemann has gotten a bad rap, your day has come. Here's a disc that will make even diehard skeptics take another listen to this Baroque master. Reinhard Goebel and the Musica Antiqua Köln perform a program of Telemann's chamber music for strings, including a pair of symphonies (which didn't mean nearly the same thing to Telemann as it did to Mozart or Beethoven), a suite, and a series of concertos (which also meant something else to him).
In 1835 Felix Mendelssohn became music director of the Gewandhaus Orchestra in his native city of Leipzig. 135 years later, Kurt Masur became the orchestra’s Kapellmeister, remaining in the post for 26 years, so there is an indisputable seal of authenticity on these interpretations of the complete Mendelssohn Symphonies. Joining them in this collection, and making it unparalleled in its scope, are the complete early String Symphonies; they are performed on period instruments – and without a conductor – by Concerto Koln.
No less than five brilliant countertenors – including Max Emanuel Cencic and Philippe Jaroussky – join conductor Diego Fasolis and Concerto Köln for Artaserse by Leonardo Vinci (1690-1730). In early 18th century Italy, the Neapolitan-born composer was one of the brightest stars in opera, and Artaserse is considered his masterpiece.
Very little is known about Charpentier's life (1643-1704). The main source of information is an obscure rival composer named de Brossard. According to de Brossard, Charpentier was originally from Paris but studied music in Rome under the composer Carissimi. In 1696 he beat out de Brossard for the post of choirmaster at the Sainte Chapelle Cathedral in Paris, where he remained until his death in 1704. As Goebels writes in the album liner notes, there are several reasons for Charpentier's neglect as a composer.
The music of Bach's 'St. John Passion', which the composer wrote for Holy Week in 1724 immediately after his appointment as cantor of St Thomas's Church in Leipzig, still retains all its freshness and vitality nearly 300 years later, and is a true Baroque delight. The two main choruses Herr, unser Herrscher and Ruht wohl, ihr heiligen Gebeine form the beginning and culmination of a large-scale orchestral and vocal structure in which Bach reveals his absolute mastery of polyphony. Inwardly reflective chorales are as much interwoven into the events of the Passion as the haunting arias which comment on the biblical texts of the Gospel of St John. Throughout this solemn Passion oratorio, there is a constant emphasis on Baroque musical magnificence. What makes this live recording of the concert version of March 7, 2015 in the Herkulessaal of the Munich Residenz so special? The fresh voices of the young and excellent vocal soloists, the regularly praised "astonishing three-dimensionality" and "crystalline clarity" of the Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks under the direction of Peter Dijkstra and, of course, the renowned period instrument ensemble Concerto Köln.
Markus Stenz and the Gürzenich Orchestra Köln have demonstrated a special aptitude for performing large scale post-Romantic works, notably the symphonies of Gustav Mahler, which they recorded for Oehms Classics as a series of hybrid SACDs. They have followed that impressive cycle with what is probably the most Mahlerian work Arnold Schoenberg ever composed, the massive Gurrelieder for solo voices, multiple choruses, and large orchestra. This 2015 Hyperion release is impressive in its crisp details, vibrant tone colors, and startling clarity, all of which are evident in the opening instrumental passages in the Prelude, and which continue through the nearly operatic vocal parts, which have remarkable presence in the face of an orchestra that exceeds Wagnerian proportions. The recording is presented on two CDs that offer extraordinary sound for digital stereo, and the only disappointment is that this wasn't released as a multichannel recording. Listeners who find Schoenberg's modernist music difficult may be more receptive to this cantata, which is his most openly Romantic score and strongly reminiscent of Wagner's music dramas. Highly recommended.