Johann Sebastian Bach – 3 Sonatas For Viola Da Gamba And Harpsichord

Johann Sebastian Bach – 3 Sonatas For Viola Da Gamba And Harpsichord

Recorded at Schloss Wannegem-Lade, Germany between 15-17/05/1974

About the work:
It has now been determined that Johann Sebastian Bach’s sonatas for viola da gamba and harpsichord were written in the early 1740s, a time when the great virtuosos of the viola da gamba had either passed on or were soon to do so. This becomes especially poignant when considering the Sonata No. 2 in D major, BWV 1028, the most outwardly virtuosic of the three viola da gamba sonatas, especially in its vigorous finale. Of course, the harpsichord is an equal partner in all of these works, but the proficiency required of the viola da gamba player in the Sonata No. 2 demands an art which Bach must have known was in decline. This, of course, is all the more reason to celebrate the fact that today, thanks to the period performance movement, there are masters of the viola da gamba once again.

Track List:
01. Sonata G-major, BWV 1027 1. Adagio (4:03)
02. Sonata G-major, BWV 1027 2. Alegro ma non tanto (3:58)
03. Sonata G-major, BWV 1027 3. Andante (2:49)
04. Sonata G-major, BWV 1027 4. Allegro moderato (3:22)
05. Sonata D-major, BWV 1028 1. Adagio (2:01)
06. Sonata D-major, BWV 1028 2. Allegro (4:07)
07. Sonata D-major, BWV 1028 3. Andante (5:23)
08. Sonata D-major, BWV 1028 4. Allegro (4:27)
09. Sonata G-minor, BWV 1029 1. Vivace (5:30)
10. Sonata G-minor, BWV 1029 2. Adagio (6:47)
11. Sonata G-minor, BWV 1029 3. Allegro (3:57)

Gustav Leonhardt: harpsichord
Wieland Kuijken: viola da gamba

Stereo, ADD, mp3, 320 kbps, 46:26 minutes. Covers & info included.

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Giuseppe Verdi – Simon Boccanegra

Giuseppe Verdi – Simon Boccanegra

Recorded in 1973

About this Opera:
In 1855, the Fenice Theatre of Venice asked Verdi for a new opera, but the contract was signed only a year later, when the composer had already seen the outline of a work by the playwright Antonio Garcia Gutiérrez: Simon Boccanegra. The Maestro started writing his own version while in Paris, where he got Giuseppe Montanelli to shave down and model the libretto Francesco Maria Piave had already finished, communicating to Piave his modifications by letter, fait accompli. The opera opened on March 12th, 1857, with baritone Leone Gilardoni as Simon Boccanegra, bass Giuseppe Etcheverry as Fiesco, baritone Giacomo Vercellini as Paolo, and soprano Luigia Bendazzi as Maria/Amalia. The opera was a clamorous flop, almost as bad as La traviata four years earlier. Twenty-two years later, urged by his publisher and friend Ricordi, Verdi took the old score of Simon Boccanegra in hand once again, turning to Arrigo Boito for the modifications to Piave’s libretto. The first act was completely revised; Verdi was inspired by two letters of Francesco Petrarca, one to the Doge of Genoa, Boccanegra himself, and the other to the Doge of Venice, condemning the fratricidal wars between the two republics; Petrarca’s letter was to be used not only in the libretto, it was to appear on the stage as well. With this and other modifications Simon Boccanegra was presented to the public at the Scala Theatre in Milan on March 24th, 1881.

Prologue: Genoa in the 14th century. The ex Corsair Simon Boccanegra, a plebeian, is elected Doge through the manoeuvres of Pietro and Paolo. He marries Maria, daughter of the aristocratic Fiesco, and they have a daughter. But the baby disappears and Maria dies.
Act I: Twenty-five years have passed. Fiesco has brought up a foundling. No one knows it, but the girl is none other than Simone Boccanegra’s daughter. Now her name is Amelia Grimaldi. Gabriele Adorno, of aristocratic family, is in love with her. Boccanegra wants to have her marry his faithful Paolo, and Amelia, to escape the danger, asks Gabriele to marry her right away. Boccanegra in the meantime sees a locket preserved by Amelia: it contains the picture of Maria, and he understands who the girl is and annuls the plans of marriage with Paolo. Adorno is arrested, accused of having killed a suitor who tried to abduct Amelia. She accuses Paolo of the attempted abduction. A curse will fall on the true guilty one.
Act II: In prison, Gabriele is persuaded by Paolo of an impure relationship between Boccanegra and Amelia. Once out of prison, he tries to kill the Doge, but Simon manages to explain the truth to him. In the meantime, Paolo has secretly administered to Simon Boccanegra, mixed in the wine, a slow poison.
Act III: A revolt of Genoese Guelphs against the Doge breaks out, but Gabriele manages to calm the agitation. By now Simon Boccanegra is dying. The perfidious Paolo is conducted to the gallows and the Doge, before expiring, blesses the marriage of Amelia and Gabriele. The young man is elected Doge, to the joy of the Genoese who appreciate his gifts of justice and moderation.

Track List:
01. PROLOGO: Introduzione (6:35)
02. L’altra magion vedere? (2:55)
03. A te l’estremo addio (1:26)
04. Il lacereto spirito (6:49)
05. Del mar sul lido (4:46)
06. Eco d’inferno è questo! (1:27)
07. ATTO 1 Scena 1: Introduzione (1:43)
08. Come in quest’ora bruna (4:01)
09. Cielo di stelle orbato (2:45)
10. Vieni a mirar la cerula (6:43)
11. Vieni a me, ti benedico (3:40)
12. Dinne, perchè in quest’eremo (1:43)
13. Orfanella il tetto umile (5:22)
14. Figlia! a tal nome io palpito (5:02)
01. ATTO 1 Scena 2: Messeri, il Re di Tartaria (5:04)
02. Evviva il Doge! (2:56)
03. Nell’ora soave (2:16)
04. Plebe! Patrizi! Popolo (5:25)
05. Paolo! Mio duce! (3:24)
06. ATTO 2: Introduzione (0:55)
07. Vilipeso, reietto (4:28)
08. Sento avvampar nell’anima (5:02)
09. Parla, in tuo cor virgineo (11:59)
10. Perdon, Amelia (4:16)
11. ATTO 3: Introduzione (2:16)
12. Dal sommo delle sfere (6:24)
13. Delle faci festanti al barlume (1:38)
14. Come un fantasima (1:49)
15. Piango, perché mi parla (5:32)
16. Gran Dio, li benedici (6:20)

The Players:

Stereo, ADD, mp3 (320 kbps), 387.93 Mb, 2 hours 4 minutes .Covers & info included.

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Richard Strauss & Sergei Rachmaninoff – Sonatas For Cello And Piano

Richard Strauss & Sergei Rachmaninoff – Sonatas For Cello And Piano

Recorded between 21 & 22/12/1987 at the Studio 3 of Bayerischen Rundfunk.

About the Work:

Though Strauss is known primarily as a composer of tone poems and operas, he nonetheless made several important contributions to the chamber literature, including the present work. Highly praised following its premiere, the Cello Sonata is dedicated to cellist Hans Wihan, with whose wife, Dora, Strauss fell in love prior to his own marriage to Pauline de Ahna. The Sonata is in three movements — Allegro con brio, Andante ma non troppo, and Finale: Allegro vivo — and showcases both Strauss’ lyrical melodic writing for cello and his considerable understanding of the piano. Many of the formal difficulties evident in Strauss’ earlier efforts, such as excessive repetition, are resolved in this piece as variation reveals itself as a burgeoning and important aspect of his compositional style. The first movement, in sonata form, features a multiplicity of themes in a kind of dialogue. Each theme is actually a group consisting of two contrasting themes: the first and second groups contrast with one another — per the typical practices of sonata form — but the themes are also internally divided, each group having one strong, declamatory theme and one of a more gentle, lyrical nature. The movement otherwise closely follows standard first-movement principles and is notable also for the incorporation of a skillful fugato. The second movement is a chorale and, as elsewhere in his music, Strauss is less comfortable with homophonic texture than with polyphony. The final movement is a humorous, canonic Allegro, marked by adventurous harmonies and a lighthearted and rhetorical use of silence that foreshadows Strauss’ later works. Though the influence of Mendelssohn is clearly present, early indications of Wagner’s increasing influence on Strauss are also in evidence.

The common wisdom on Rachmaninov’s Sonata for Cello and Piano is that it is really a piano sonata with cello accompaniment. While this assessment may be a slight exaggeration, it cannot be denied the piano is the dominant instrument in the work. The composer completed this sonata in November 1901, and gave the premiere in Moscow with cellist Anatoly Brandukov, on December 2 of that year, but apparently made several alterations over the next ten days, since he wrote the date of December 12, 1901, on the final page of the score. The work is cast in four movements. The first is marked Lento – Allegro moderato – Moderato and is the longest of the four, especially when the exposition repeat is observed. It begins with a slow introduction in which the piano presents a six-note theme that at first appears insignificant, but in fact plays a key role throughout. The tempo picks up and the cello presents a passionate, beautiful theme. A slower, somewhat more wistful melody follows, after which comes the stormy development section. The reprise ensues and the movement ends in typical Rachmaninovian fashion: the tempo speeds up as thematic morsels appear in a race to the finish, the piano crowning the coda with three resolute chords. The second movement, marked Allegro scherzando, begins with piano writing reminiscent of the faster and more sinister passages in the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. The cello presents a rhythmic idea in the opening moments of marginal interest. Two other themes are also presented, the latter of which is quite beautiful and recalls the mood of much of the slow music in the Second and Third Piano Concertos, especially in the piano writing. The third movement is viewed by many as the strongest of the four. Marked Andante, it begins on the piano with a lovely theme of intimate and passionate character. After the cello enters, the material expands much the way the melody does in the second movement of the Second Piano Concerto. A powerful climax is reached, and the third movement ends softly. The finale starts off with a robust theme on the cello that rather lacks the individual stamp of the composer. Still, the music is bright and vivacious and has strong appeal. There follows a second subject more in the Rachmaninovian vein, full of passion and beauty and seeming to soar to the heavens. The two themes reappear throughout, the composer deftly manipulating their interplay. In the beginning of the coda, the cello recalls the piano’s opening (six-note) theme from the first movement, and then the work ends brilliantly.

Track List:
1. Richard Strauss – Sonata F-dur op.6 1. Allegro con brio (9:40)
2. Richard Strauss – Sonata F-dur op.6 2. Andante ma non troppo (9:31)
3. Richard Strauss – Sonata F-dur op.6 3. Finale. Allegro vivo (9:03)
4. Sergei Rachmaninoff – Sonate G-moll op.19 1. Lento – Allegro moderato (11:00)
5. Sergei Rachmaninoff – Sonate G-moll op.19 2. Allegro scherzando (6:26)
6. Sergei Rachmaninoff – Sonate G-moll op.19 3. Andante (5:58)
7. Sergei Rachmaninoff – Sonate G-moll op.19 4. Allegro moso (10:52)

The Players:
Werner Thomas: cello
Carmen Piazzini: piano

Stereo, DDD, FLAC, 62:30 minutes. Covers & info included.

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Gaetano Donizetti – Lucrezia Borgia

Gaetano Donizetti – Lucrezia Borgia

Recorded in May 1966 at the RCA Italiana Studios, Roma

About this opera:
Lucrezia Borgia is a melodramma, or opera, in a prologue and two acts by Gaetano Donizetti. Felice Romani wrote the Italian libretto after the play by Victor Hugo, in its turn after the legend of Lucrezia Borgia. Lucrezia Borgia was first performed on 26 December 1833 at La Scala, Milan with Lelande and Pedrazzi. The first London production was at Her Majesty’s Theatre in 1839 with Giulia Grisi and Mario. When the opera was staged in Paris (Théâtre des Italiens) in 1840, Victor Hugo obtained an injunction against further productions within the domain of French copyright law. The libretto was then rewritten and retitled La Rinegata, with the Italian characters changed to Turks, and the performances were resumed. The first English-language production was in London on 30 December, 1843. The English tenor Sims Reeves was a noted Gennaro. Lucrezia was presented at New York (Astor Place Opera House) in 1847: with Giulia Grisi in 1854; and with Therese Tietjens and Brignoli in 1876. It was given at the Academy of Music in 1882, and at the Metropolitan Opera House in 1902 with Enrico Caruso as Gennaro. Therese Tietjens was a particularly famous 19th century Lucrezia, who made her debut in the role at Hamburg in 1849, and in her day was unequalled and completely identified with the role. (She was also a superb Norma, Donna Anna, and Agathe.) In later life she became very fat, and collapsed on stage at Her Majesty’s Theatre, London during her last performance, in this role, in 1877: she died soon afterwards. A famous performance of Lucrezia Borgia given in 1965 at Carnegie Hall with soprano Montserrat Caballé (her American debut) was soon followed by a recording featuring Caballé, mezzo soprano Shirley Verrett, tenor Alfredo Kraus, and bass Ezio Flagello, conducted by Jonel Perlea. This performance and recording helped reintroduce the work to the opera-loving public. Lucrezia’s aria “Com’è bello”, Orsino’s Brindisi “Il segreto per esser felice”, the tenor’s “Di pescator ignobile”, and the bass aria “Vieni, la mia vendetta!” are all very effective and famous melodic moments from the opera and have been performed and recorded frequently. Lucrezia Borgia is still performed from time to time as a vehicle for a star soprano, and there are several recordings available.

Track List:
01. Prologue: Bella Venezia (5:31)
02. Prologue: Nella fatal di Rimini (4:32)
03. Prologue: Senti. La danza invitaci (2:55)
04. Prologue: Tranquillo ei posa (5:41)
05. Prologue – Com’e bello! (5:40)
06. Prologue – Si voli il primo a cogliere (3:00)
07. Prologue – Ciel!-Che vegg’io (2:58)
08. Prologue – Di pescatore ignobile (7:45)
09. Prologue – Gente appressa – io ti lascio (1:44)
10. Prologue – Maffio Orsini, signora, son io (5:28)
11. Act I, Scene 1: Nel veneto corteggio (1:58)
12. Act I, Scene 1: Viva! Evviva! Viva! Viva! (5:30)
13. Act I, Scene 1: Addio, Gennaro. (3:11)
14. Act I, Scene 1: Qui che fai? (5:13)
01. Act I, Scene 2: Tutto eseguisti? (1:37)
02. Act I, Scene 2: Cosi turbata? (4:28)
03. Act I, Scene 2: Soli noi siamo (3:29)
04. Act I, Scene 2: E si avverso a Gennaro (4:55)
05. Act I, Scene 2: Scene 2 – Trafitto tosto ei sia (4:13)
06. Act I, Scene 2: Guai se ti sfugge un moto (3:35)
07. Act I, Scene 2: Infelice! Il Veleno bevesti (3:09)
08. Act II, Scene 1: Rischiarata e la finestra (4:00)
09. Act II, Scene 1: Sei tu? Son io (3:30)
10. Act II, Scene 1: Onde a lei ti mostri grato (7:05)
11. Act II, Scene 1: A noi s’invola (2:44)
12. Act II, Scene 2: Viva il Madera! (8:22)
13. Act II, Scene 2: Il segreto per esser felici (4:18)
14. Act II, Scene 2: La gioia de’ profani (4:00)
15. Act II, Scene 2: Tu pur qui? Non sei feggito? (3:43)
16. Act II, Scene 2: M’odi, ah! m’odi (2:33)
17. Act II, Scene 2: Maffio muore (2:47)
18. Act II, Scene 2: Era desso il figlio mio (5:02)

The Players:

Stereo, ADD, mp3, 320 kbps, 2 hours 34 minutes. Covers, info & synopsis included.

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Francesco Geminiani – 12 Concerti Grossi Op.2, 3 & 4

Francesco Geminiani – Concerti Grossi Op.2, 3 & 4

Recorded in 1975-76.

About the artist:
Francesco Geminiani was born at Lucca, in Tuscany, in December 1687. At an early age he showed considerable talent on the violin after being taught by his father. Later he studied the violin under Carlo Ambrogio Lonati in Milan and then in Rome under the celebrated master, Corelli. It is also considered possible that he studied composition with Alessandro Scarlatti whilst staying in Naples. At the age of 20 he returned to his home town of Lucca where he played the violin in the Town Orchestra for three years. He then moved to Naples in 1711 to take up the position as Leader of the Opera Orchestra. By this time he had become recognized as a brilliant violin virtuoso; indeed the orchestra appears to have experienced some difficulty in following him due to his improvisational virtuosity, or, as the music historian Dr. Burney put it, “his unexpected accelerations and relaxations of measure”. In 1714, he tried his fortune in England, where his brilliant violin playing immediately met with great success. London had become a major European music center, thanks in part to Handel, who had himself studied in Rome under Corelli and thus brought a measure of Italian musical style with him. Geminiani gained much support from the aristocracy and leading figures at the Royal Court, and was invited to play the violin before George I, accompanied at the harpsichord by no less than Handel. He soon established himself in London as the leading master of violin-playing, with his concerts, his published compositions, and his theoretical treatises, the first and most important being “The Art of Playing the Violin” (1731) which included all the technical principles of essential violin performance. He also had aristocratic pupils, among them the Earl of Essex who in 1728 tried unsuccessfully to arrange for Geminiani to become Master and Composer of the State Music of Ireland. It was also the Earl of Essex who had to rescue him from prison after he ran into debt through his consuming passion for art-dealing and collecting. This may have led him to leave London for a period in Dublin in 1733, where he rapidly built up a fine reputation as a teacher, performer, concert promoter and musical theorist. In that same year, he opened a Concert Room in Dublin, using the upstairs premises for music and the rooms below for trading in pictures. However, he was soon to return to London to make it his permanent home, although he did pay another visit to Dublin a few years later. At this period of English musical life, as the essayist Roger North testified, Corelli’s music had rapidly become the staple diet of players and music clubs alike: “Then came over Corelly’s first consort that cleared the ground of all other sorts of musick whatsoever,” wrote North in about 1726. “By degrees the rest of his consorts, and at last the conciertos [0p. 6] came, all of which are to the musitians like the bread of life.” Whether out of respect for his teacher, or to “cash in on” his teacher’s popularity is a matter of speculation; whatever his motive, Geminiani based his earliest published Concertos on Corelli’s Sonatas for Violin and Continuo, Op.5. He later made further concerto arrangements from Corelli’s Trios Op.1 and Op.3, as well as having made arrangements from his own Violin Sonatas Op.4. His own Concertos, Op.2 and 3, appeared in 1732 and 1733, the Op.3 Concerti Grossi being amongst his most popular works at the time. He revised and reissued them in full score in about 1755. In the opinion of Burney – usually a stern critic of Geminiani – the Op.3 concertos “established his character, and placed him at the head of all the masters then living, in this species of composition” (General History of Music, Vol. 4, 1789). He also published further Concertos as Op.7 (1746), and The Enchanted Forest, a staged pantomime scored for two violins and cello with an orchestra of two trumpets, two flutes, two horns, strings and timpani, was presented in Paris at the Tuileries palace in 1754. As a renowned violin virtuoso, he published several challenging collections of his Violin Sonatas which require dramatic flair from the player; indeed such was the difficulty of his Op.1 and 4 in particular that very few contemporary violinists dared play them in public. Among the Sonata movements are fugues and double fugues, strong in imitative counterpoint, and idiomatic passages of multiple stopping. Geminiani provided ornaments for both slow and fast movements as well as cadenzas; he advocated the use of vibrato ‘as often as possible’. The expressiveness of his playing was much admired by both Hawkins and Burney; Tartini tellingly described him as ‘il furibondo’. Geminiani was undoubtedly fond of arranging his own works: among his transcriptions are Harpsichord versions (1741) of his Op.1 and 4 and Concerto Grosso versions of Op.4 (1743). His Op.5 Cello Sonatas (published in Paris), together with a transcription for Violin (issued in London and The Hague), appeared in 1746. In about 1755 he published ‘modernized’ versions of the Op.2 and 3 Concertos, and in 1757 a final arrangement of Op.1 in trio format. He gained further fame from the publication of a series of practical treatises which were much reprinted, translated and paraphrased. In addition to The Art of Playing on the Violin, Geminiani produced Rules for Playing in a True Taste (1748), revised a year later as A Treatise of Good Taste in the Art of Musick, a Guida harmonica with supplement (c.l754), The Art of Accompaniment (c.l754) – written from the soloist’s point of view – and The Art of Playing the Guitar or Cittra (Edinburgh, 1760). When considered together with his music and the implications of the alterations he made when reissuing collections such as Op.1 and 4, Geminiani’s treatises represent an important source of post-Corellian performance practices.

About this work:
Geminiani’s first set of concertos had merely been arrangements of violin sonatas by his teacher Corelli. By the time of his Op. 3 collection, though, Geminiani is clearly his own master, although still steeped in the practices of Corelli. Geminiani follows the usual concerto grosso format, with a small solo group, the concertino, playing off the main body of strings with keyboard continuo, the ripieno players. But his figurations, harmonies, and textures are rather eccentric compared to Corelli’s smoother models. Furthermore, he takes the unusual step of adding a viola to the concertino ensemble, filling out its texture, but neglects to provide for a viola section in the ripieno group. A 1755 revision corrects this “oversight,” but musicians today tend to prefer Geminiani’s original version. In all but the fourth concerto, Geminiani adheres to the standard slow-fast-slow-fast pattern of movements. His part-writing is full and complex for the period, leading some contemporaries, notably Charles Burney, to complain of “confusion” resulting from the busy, dissimilar lines for each instrumental section. Also striking is Geminiani’s habit of moving through an unlikely sequence of harmonies along the way to establishing or reestablishing the tonic key. Meanwhile, especially in the fast movements, Geminiani tends to rely on jagged, emphatically repeated little motifs in the manner of Domenico Scarlatti. The music sounded remarkably wild in its time. Highlights among the six concertos include the virtuosic writing for the solo group, particularly the violin, in the first concerto; the relatively (and unusually) independent viola writing in the last movement of the second concerto; the imaginative contrapuntal material in the fast movements of the third concerto (including a four-part fugue on a chromatic subject); and the dramatic harmonic swings of the second movement of the fifth concerto, ranging through B flat major, C minor, D minor, and even F major along the way to the home key of G minor.

Track List:
1. Concerto Grosso No.1 in C Minor, Op.2 (7:31)
2. Concerto Grosso No.2 in C minor op. 2 (8:17)
3. Concerto Grosso No.3 in D minor op. 2 (7:29)
4. Concerto Grosso No.4 in D minor op. 3 (7:19)
5. Concerto Grosso No.5 in B-flat Major Op.3 (8:23)
6. Concerto Grosso No.6 In E Minor Op.3 (7:24)
7. Concerto Grosso No.4 in A minor op. 4 (8:05)
8. Concerto Grosso No.5 in A Major op. 4 (10:07)
9. Concerto Grosso No.6 in G minor op. 4 (12:45)
1. Concerto Grosso No.4 in D Major op. 2 (7:10)
2. Concerto Grosso No.5 in D minor op. 2 (7:24)
3. Concerto Grosso No.6 in A Major op. 2 (6:13)
4. Concerto Grosso No.1 in D Major op. 3 (9:43)
5. Concerto Grosso No.2 in G minor op. 3 (9:47)
6. Concerto Grosso No.3 in E minor op. 3 (8:10)
7. Concerto Grosso No.1 in D Major op. 4 (9:32)
8. Concerto Grosso No.2 In B Ominor Op.4 (9:39)
9. Concerto Grosso No.3 in E minor op. 4 (10:56)

The Players:

Stereo, ADD, mp3, 320 kbps, 2 hours 35 minutes. Covers & info included.

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Gioacchino Rossini – Il Barbiere Di Siviglia

Gioacchino Rossini – Il Barbiere Di Siviglia

Recorded at the RAI studios on 16/04/1968

About the author:
Rossini was born in Pesaro on 29 February, 1792 and died in Passy on 13 November, 1868. Both his parents were musicians, his father a horn player, his mother a singer; he learnt the horn and singing and as a boy sang in at least one opera in Bologna, where the family lived. He studied there and began his operatic career when, at 18, he wrote a one-act comedy for Venice.
Further commissions followed, from Bologna, Ferrara, Venice again and Milan, where La pietra del paragone was a success at La Scala in 1812. This was one of seven operas written in 16 months, all but one of them comic.
This level of activity continued in the ensuing years. His first operas to win international acclaim come from 1813, written for different Venetian theatres: the serious Tancredi and the farcically comic L’italiana in Algeri, the one showing a fusion of lyrical expression and dramatic needs, with its crystalline melodies, arresting harmonic inflections and colourful orchestral writing, the other moving easily between the sentimental, the patriotic, the absurd and the sheer lunatic. Two operas for Milan were less successful. But in 1815 Rossini went to Naples as musical and artistic director of the Teatro San Carlo, which led to a concentration on serious opera. But he was allowed to compose for other theatres, and from this time date two of his supreme comedies, written for Rome, Il barbiere di Siviglia and La Cenerentola. The former, with its elegant melodies, its exhilarating rhythms and its superb ensemble writing, has claims to be considered the greatest of all Italian comic operas, eternally fresh in its wit and its inventiveness. It dates from 1816; initially it was a failure, but it quickly became the most loved of his comic works, admired alike by Beethoven and Verdi. The next year saw La Cenerentola, a charmingly sentimental tale in which the heroine moves from a touching folksy ditty as the scullery maid to brilliant coloratura apt to a royal maiden.
Rossini’s most important operas in the period that followed were for Naples. The third act of his Otello (1816), with its strong unitary structure, marks his maturity as a musical dramatist. The Neapolitan operas, even though much dependant on solo singing of a highly florid kind (to the extent that numbers could be, and have been, interchanged), show an enormous expansion of musical means, with more and longer ensembles and the chorus an active participant; the accompanied recitative is more dramatic and the orchestra is given greater prominence. Rossini also abandoned traditional overtures, probably in order to involve his audiences in the drama from the outset. In Naples the leading soprano was Isabella Colbran, mistress of the impresario, Barbaia. She transferred her allegiance to Rossini, who in 1822 married her; they were not long happy together.
Among the masterpieces from this period are Maometto II (1820) and, written for Venice at the end of his time in Naples, Semiramide (1823). Barbaia gave a Viennese season in 1822; Rossini and his wife returned to Bologna, then in 1823 left for London and Paris where he took on the directorship of the Théâtre-Italien, composing for that theatre and the Opéra. Some of his Paris works are adaptations (Le siège de Corinthe and Moïse et Pharaon); the opéra comique Le Comte Ory is part-new, Guillaume Tell wholly. This last, widely regarded as his chef d’oeuvre, and very long, is a rich tapestry of his most inspired music, with elaborate orchestration, many ensembles, spectacular ballets and processions in the French tradition, opulent orchestral writing and showing a new harmonic boldness.
And then, silence. At 37, he retired from opera composition. He left Paris in 1837 to live in Italy, but suffered prolonged and painful illness there (mainly in Bologna, where he advised at the Liceo Musicale, and in Florence). Isabella died in 1845 and the next year he married Olympe Pélissier, with whom he had lived for 15 years and who tended him through his ill-health. He composed hardly at all during this period (the Stabat mater belongs to his Paris years); but he went back to Paris in 1855, and his health and humour returned, with his urge to compose, and he wrote a quantity of pieces for piano and voices, with wit and refinement that he called Péchés de vieillesse (‘Sins of Old Age’) including the graceful and economical Petite messe solennelle (1863). He died, universally honoured, in 1868.

About the Opera:
This 1815 masterpiece is widely considered the greatest of comic operas. Even when operas of the bel canto period (Rossini’s period of flourishing) were rarely performed, its frequent presence on operatic stages of the world was unabated. The first performance, in Rome in 1816 was a fiasco. The older opera composer Giovanni Paisiello had composed an opera on the same story, also called The Barber of Seville, in 1782. Rossini had misgivings about composing a new opera on the same text, so he first obtained Paisiello’s gracious permission to go ahead, and originally called his new opera Almaviva. This did not prevent Paisiello’s claque from sabotaging the premiere, a feat in which they were aided by under-rehearsal, sloppy production, and stage effects which failed to work properly. Soon afterward, with some changes, the opera was presented again. Without Paisiello’s fans creating an uproar, the performance was a success, and by the third performance it resulted in ovations and quickly went on to sweep the operatic world. (As for Paisiello’s opera, it was soon eclipsed by Rossini’s, but more recently it has regained some appreciation in the operatic world.)
The Barber of Seville is the first of a trilogy of plays by the French dramatist Beaumarchais. These plays, which tended to depict nobility as buffoons dependant on and manipulated by their wily servants, were considered subversive in the late 1700s. (The Marriage of Figaro, the second of the plays, was turned into an opera by Mozart in 1786. It is Rossini’s opera, by the way, not Mozart’s, which has the comic aria “Largo al factotum” containing the call: “Figaro, Figaro, Figaro.”) Figaro is the barber of the title. The plot involves the efforts of the amorous young Count Almaviva to woo and win the lovely Rosina, in the process outwitting her ward, Dr. Bartolo, who fancies her for himself. There are textual difference among production of the opera. The primary decision is whether Rosina’s part should be sung by a mezzo-soprano (as Rossini originally intended) or by a soprano, as it has commonly been done since 1826, apparently with Rossini’s permission. An aria for Bartolo was lost, and has been replaced by one composed by a composer named Romani. And the “Lesson Scene” is also lost, so the soprano gets to choose music by another composer to use in its place. Some of the great popular numbers in the opera are Almaviva’s serenade “Ecco ridente in cielo” and the more passionate “Se il mio nome.” Rosina’s”Una voce poco fa” is probably the most popular of all coloratura arias, while Bartolo gets his own aria, “La Calunnia” (“Calumny”), all about the evil power of slander. Incidentally, the famous overture to the opera, which is probably among the most frequently heard compositions of Rossini’s in the concert hall, was not composed originally for this opera at all! Rossini was short of time, so he simply grabbed an overture he had written earlier.

Track List:
01. Sinfonia (6:54)
02. ATTO I – Piano pianissimo (3:30)
03. Ecco ridente in cielo (8:15)
04. Largo al factotum (9:18)
05. Se il mio nome saper voi bramate (3:50)
06. All’idea di quel metallo (5:23)
07. Numero quindici a mano manca (2:54)
08. Una voce poco fa (9:21)
09. La calunnia e’ un venticello (7:17)
10. Dunque io son .. tu non m’inganni (6:52)
11. A un dottor della mia sorte (5:43)
01. Ehi, di casa!…buona gente! (9:05)
02. Alto là! Che cosa accadde (4:13)
03. Freddo ed immobile: come una statua (8:18)
04. Ma vedi il mio destino! (0:45)
05. Pace e giosia sia con voi (5:44)
06. Contro un cor che accende amore (10:16)
07. Don Basilio! Cosa veggo (11:22)
08. Il vecchiotto cerca moglie (3:36)
09. Temporale (4:02)
10. Ah! qual colpo inaspettato! (4:34)
11. Zitti, zitti, piano, piano (3:57)
12. Di sì felice innesto (1:22)

The Artists:

Stereo, ADD, mp3, 320 kbps, 2 hours 16 minutes. Covers, info & synopsis included.

Part1   —–   Part2 —-   Part3 —–   Part4

Maurice Duruflé – Requiem & Quatre Motets

Maurice Duruflé – Requiem & Quatre Motets

Recorded on 4 & 5 October, 1985 in London.

About the author:
Maurice Duruflé (11/01/1902, Louviers – 16/06/1986 – Louveciennes) was a French composer, organist, and pedagogue, who became in 1912 chorister at the Rouen Cathedral Choir School, where he studied piano and organ with Jules Haelling. At age 17, upon moving to Paris, he took private organ lessons with Charles Tournemire (whom he assisted at Ste-Clotilde until 1927), Guilmant and Vierne. In 1920 Duruflé entered the Conservatoire de Paris, where he took courses in organ with Gigout (Premier Prix, 1922), harmony with Jean Gallon (Premier Prix, 1924), fugue with Caussade (Premier Prix, 1924), and composition with Ducas (Premier Prix, 1928). He graduatied with first prize also in piano accompaniment.
In 1927, Louis Vierne nominated Maurice Duruflé as his assistant at Notre-Dame. Duruflé became titular organist of St. Étienne-du-Mont in Paris in 1929, a position he held for the rest of his life. In 1939, he premiered Francis Poulenc’s Organ Concerto (the Concerto for Organ, Strings and Timpani in G minor); he had advised Poulenc on the registrations of the organ part. In 1943 he became professor of harmony at the Conservatoire de Paris, where he worked until 1970. In 1947, Duruflé wrote what is probably the most famous of his very few pieces: the Requiem Op. 9, for soloists, choir, organ and orchestra. The same year, Marie-Madeleine Chevalier became his assistant at St-Étienne-du-Mont. They married in 1953. The couple became a famous and popular organ duo, going on tour together several times throughout the sixties and early 1970’s.
Maurice Duruflé suffered severe injuries in a car accident in 1975, and as a result he gave up performing; indeed he was largely confined to his apartment, leaving the service at St-Étienne-du-Mont to his wife Marie-Madeleine (who was also injured in the accident).
As a composer, Maurice Duruflé was extremely self-critical. He only published a handful of works and often continued to edit and change pieces after publication. For instance, the Toccata from Suite, Op. 5 has a completely different ending in the first edition than in the more recent version, and the score to the Fugue sur le nom d’Alain originally indicated accelerando throughout. The result of this perfectionism is that his music, especially his organ music, holds a very high position in the repertoire. His best known compostions are a Requiem (1947) and a Mass (1967)

About these works:

The Requiem:
In 1947, Maurice Duruflé was already working on a suite of pieces for organ based on the Gregorian chants for the requiem mass (the service for the dead), when he was commissioned by his publisher Durand to write a large-scale work based on those texts. The resulting Requiem, originally for orchestra and chorus, is the culmination of Duruflé’s style, mixing chant, quasi-Renaissance counterpoint, and sumptuous harmony derived from Fauré, Debussy, and Ravel. Duruflé made three versions of this work; the final one, completed in 1961, is for choir, string orchestra, trumpets, and organ; it is the most practical and the most commonly used. He used the same text as Fauré had done in his Requiem of 1889, omitting the Dies Irae (Day of Wrath) section which, although it provided some of the most spectacular music in the Mozart, Berlioz, and Verdi settings, was not compatible with the gentler, more reassuring tone of the work. This peaceful quality is in many ways simply a reflection of the Requiem’s indebtedness to Gregorian chant, the flowing, easy quality of which serves as a musical template for many of the movements (chant formed a large part of Duruflé’s musical upbringing: from 1912 to 1918 he was a boy chorister at the cathedral in Rouen, where the services were almost entirely chanted, and his professional education was at the Paris Conservatoire, where harmonizing chant melodies was a large part of the training for organists). Duruflé presents the chants quite clearly, much as in the Four Motets on Gregorian themes. The serene mood is enhanced by pervasive imitative counterpoint in a quasi-Renaissance melodic style. There is often a similarity of sound between Duruflé’s music and that of Vaughan Williams, who briefly studied in France and also used modal melodies and counterpoint, though for him these archaic-sounding techniques were inspired by English folk music and the composers of the Tudor era. With Duruflé, the modal counterpoint is supported by rich, and very French, added-note harmonies. Duruflé’s grounding in the past is evident throughout the Requiem. The opening movement, one of the most beautiful in twentieth century music, sets a mood for the rest of the piece: running sixteenths (a favorite device of Duruflé’s) create a wash of sound, preparing the entrance of the tenors and basses intoning the requiem chant, soon accompanied by a wordless vocalise from the women’s voices. The original chant melodies are present in many of the movements; a striking instance is the Kyrie, where the trumpets sound the chant melody in long notes over a busy contrapuntal texture in the choir (which in turn is based on a rhythmicized version of the chant). The effect is similar to that of Bach’s famous cantus firmus cantata opening movements — Wachet Auf and Ein’ feste Burg are good examples. Another striking section is the Pie Jesu, which Duruflé sets in a style very similar to Fauré, with a mezzo-soprano solo accompanied only by organ and cello. In the final movement, In Paradisum, the sopranos, supported by full chords in the strings, sing the incantatory chant promising the deceased a peaceful welcome into heaven. At the words “chorus angelorum te suscipiat” (May the choir of angels receive you), the other singers enter with a beautiful, slowly descending passage to end the work. Duruflé’s wife has said that while composing his Requiem, which is dedicated to the memory of his father, Duruflé “cried several times”; it is indeed one of the most moving religious works of the twentieth century.

Quatre Motets:

Duruflé’s choral setting of “Ubi caritas” is one of the most popular sacred a cappella works of the twentieth century; it is, however, only one of a group of four works of equally high caliber. The Four Motets, written just before the final version of the composer’s Requiem, are dedicated to Auguste Le Guennant, the director of the Gregorian Institute in Paris at the time. Each is based on a different Gregorian chant tune which remains prominent throughout; this process is similar to that employed in the Requiem, lending the pieces a flexible, speech-like rhythm. The incipit (the first few notes) of the original melody is given in neumatic chant notation at the beginning of each motet. Each of the motets is quite short — a trait that is typical of Duruflé (even the Requiem, his largest work, is composed of nine much smaller units). Also typical is his use of Renaissance contrapuntal techniques in the service of a rich harmony derived from that of Fauré and Ravel. Performed as a set, the Four Motets have a classic arch shape, reaching a climax in the third motet (“Tu es Petrus”), then, in “Tantum ergo,” returning to the mood of serene contemplation first established in “Ubi caritas.” The text of “Ubi caritas” (“Where charity and love are, there is God”) is an antiphon usually sung on Maundy Thursday during the washing of the feet. This is the most famous of the motets, and an example of Duruflé’s style at its best: rhythmic flexibility, strong part-writing, and rich harmony provide a serene background for the chant melody. The opening phrase returns briefly at the end (Duruflé, like Chopin and other composers who tended toward shorter compositions, usually composed in ternary form), and leads to an appended “amen.””Tota pulchra es” (“You are all-beautiful”) is a setting of antiphons from the feast of the immaculate conception of the Virgin Mary, and is sung only by the sopranos and altos. The opening melody serves as a kind of refrain, coming back twice. The pace is rather faster than in the “Ubi caritas,” and leads into the climactic third motet.
“Tu es Petrus” (“You are Peter”) is the shortest of the motets, and is a setting of the Jesus’s renaming of his disciple Simon by the Greek for “rock,” and then saying that “upon this rock will I build my church” (Matthew 16:18). The latter phrase is stated three times in Duruflé’s setting, perhaps reflecting Peter’s later three denials of Jesus. “Tu es Petrus” is much more rhythmic than the other motets, and builds to a loud climax.
In “Tantum ergo” (the last two verses of the “Pange lingua” eucharistic hymn traditionally attributed to Thomas Aquinas), the chant is sung in long notes by the sopranos. The melody is imitated and varied by the tenors, while the other voices are freely composed, with an effect similar to cantus firmus settings of chants from the Renaissance period. There are no accidentals (notes outside the key in which it is written), and very little harmonic tension. The motet, like the “Ubi caritas,” ends peacefully on a low chord with the word “amen.”

Track List:
01. Requiem -I- Introit (3:50)
02. II. Kyrie (3:57)
03. III. Domine Jesu Christe (9:08)
04. IV. Sanctus (3:24)
05. V. Pie Jesu (3:58)
06. VI. Agnus Dei (3:51)
07. VII. Lux Aeterna (4:04)
08. VIII. Libera me (6:00)
09. IX. In Paradisum (3:14)
10. Quatre Motets sur des thèmes Gregoriens op.10 – I. Ubi caritas et amor (2:45)
11. ii – Tota pulchra es (2:13)
12. III. Tu es Petrus (0:58)
13. IV. Tantum ergo (3:06)

The Artists:
English Chamber Orchestra
Matthew Best: conductor
Ann Murray: mezzo soprano
Thomas Allen: baritone
Thomas Trotter: organ

Stereo, DDD, mp3, 320 kbps, 50:28 minutes. Covers & info included.

Part1 —–   Part2