…Although aficionados of English sacred music of the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries may already have recordings of the works of Byrd and Gibbons included here, few will be likely to have recordings of much by Humfrey – and that may be this set's most persuasive recommendation. Harmonia Mundi's digital sound, which ranges from 1987 for the Byrd through 1992 for the Humfrey to 2003 for the Gibbons, is consistently clear, deep, and warm.
"Orlando Gibbons is my favorite composer -always has been, I can't think of anybody who represents the end of an era better than Orlando Gibbons does." This profession of faith in the great English virginalist is more than an act of defiance: it harks back to Gould's early childhood experiences with Puritanism.– Michael Stegemann
Born into an English musical family, organist and composer Christopher Gibbons (1615-1676) probably received early training from his famous father Orlando Gibbons. He sang in the choir of the Chapel Royal and went on to a distinguished career at Westminster Abbey and in the court of Charles II. With this showcase programme of motets, anthems, fantasias for strings, and organ voluntaries (all of which are receiving their first recording), Richard Egarr, the Academy of Ancient Music and the Choir of the AAM, aim to rescue the composer from unjust obscurity.
Royal Rhymes and Rounds is the King's Singers' contribution to the 60th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II's accession to the throne in 2012. There are ballads, part songs, madrigals, rounds, and anthems written during the reigns of (and some also in honor of) Henry VIII, Elizabeth I, Victoria, and Elizabeth II. The music from the times of Henry and Elizabeth I is especially strong since it was the era of a flowering of English song, which then lay relatively dormant for several centuries. The composers include such luminaries as William Cornysh, Orlando Gibbons, John Dowland, and Thomas Weelkes, as well as Henry himself, whose rousing ballad Pastime with good companie opens the album. It's in this transparent repertoire that the group sounds its absolute best. The singers' immaculate intonation, focused tone quality, and sensitive musicianship are remarkable.
Westminster Abbey has been the focus of British royal occasions for centuries, and the early seventeenth century saw the most dazzling musicians of the age writing music for the Court in all its various incarnations. This fascinating disc presents a selection of works from the reign of King James I.
“Orlando finto pazzo ('Orlando feigns madness') was the second of Vivaldi's numerous operas, and his first for the Venetian stage. The story of Orlando's madness is taken not from the usual source, Ariosto's poem Orlando furioso, but Boiardo's earlier Orlando innamorato, a similarly tragicomic mix of love, intrigue and magic. In Ariosto's poem Orlando's madness is real, but here he pretends it for no obvious reason; in fact it's no more than a couple of episodes in a convoluted and unengaging plot built around a lovepentangle (no less), and further complicated by various disguises and rampant dissembling. As it happens, Vivaldi doesn't on this evidence appear to have been a natural musical dramatist. Yet what makes this music worth hearing is his evident desire to make an operatic splash at his first major attempt: there's music of irrepressible zest and personality; this early attempt deploys all the fiery and ebullient energy of his concertos and allies it to vocal music of neck-tingling excitement. Like Haydn, Vivaldi may not have been a great opera composer, but he did write operas full of great music. Alessandro de Marchi's joyous recording brings together a typical Italian Baroque cast for a performance and recording of skill and enthusiasm.” (The Gramophone)
Diving into Vivaldi's Orlando furioso with Jean-Christophe Spinosi, Matheus Ensemble, and a shockingly good cast is enough to make even the most jaded listener smile. It is fresh, unrelentingly impressive, and entertaining to a fault. The opera is over-plotted: the first paragraph of the synopsis is enough to confuse anyone not taking notes. And listening to the entire thing would amount to more flowery, athletic vocalism than most can stand in one sitting. But those with the remotest interest in Vivaldi opera, or opera at all, will be hard pressed not to marvel at the quality of what's recorded here. Spinosi is a brilliant Vivaldian who pulls sweet-toned lyricism and down-and-dirty sawing from his Matheus Ensemble, making the most of the composer's rich orchestration. And the cast pulls one rabbit after another out of its collective hat, tackling Vivaldi's consummately difficult arias with élan.