Brandenburg Celebrates

Australian Brandenburg Orchestra
Brandenburg Choir
Artistic Director: Paul Dyer
ABC 481 1929

You can’t go past some of the great works of the Baroque if you want to celebrate joy, passion, triumph and elegance, all traits of the astounding Australian Brandenburg Orchestra.

Brandenburg CAfter 25 years of continued success and audience favour, the ABO has carved its well-earned place in the history books for its attention to Baroque performance practice, its engaging programmes (both in live concert and in recorded format), as well as its ability to bring relevance to such music through its dynamic and striking performances.

Here on this CD, Paul Dyer not only has produced a recording of immense pleasure, but one which showcases the orchestra’s great mastery of the 17th and 18th century repertoire.

From a vibrant and driven opening of Handel’s Zadok the Priest, from Coronation Anthem No 1, to the Telemann Concerto in E minor for flute, violin and strings, this is virtuosity on an orchestral scale that is rarely heard. Take the 3rd movement (Presto) of the Telemann, for instance, which is truly breathtaking as the violin soloist powers through with the greatest of resolve.

Impeccable intonation and rhythmic vitality are hallmarks of this great ensemble and on this superb recording, listeners will rejoice with the orchestra, as they are swept up into a Baroque frenzy of decorative dazzle and elegant sparkle.

Vivaldi’s Cello Concerto in A minor (RV 421) has exceptional solo passages played on a Baroque cello, providing an obviously different timbre, and executed with virtuosity.

Two examples of vastly different Concerto Grossi are included, with Geminiani’s No 12 in D minor “La Follia”, and Handel’s work in D, Op 3 No 6 (HWV 317), the former being a set of most intriguing variations, and the latter being unusual for its first movement, which is an ensemble piece (with short outbreaks of solos for oboes and bassoons), and the second movement, which is for solo organ, with orchestra providing an accompanying role.

Being introduced to many for the first time perhaps is the music of Brescianello, whose vivacious Violin Concerto in E minor, Op 1, No 4, and Chaconne in A is recorded here. A relatively unknown composer, his music is full of grace and Vivaldi influence.

To finish this recording is a premiere recording of a commissioned piece by Australian composer, Elena Kats-Chernin – Prelude and Cube. In the words of Paul Dyer, Prelude and Cube “pays homage to Bach, offering a glimpse into the world of the Baroque and a triumphant celebration of the Brandenburg.”
“My biggest challenge in writing this work,” said Kats-Chernin “was to feature every instrument”, a challenge even greater, with the inclusion of saxophone. Whilst Bach may be Kats-Chernin’s favourite composer, she did not want to quote directly from Bach’s works, but rather use devices and stylistic characteristics as references, albeit some of the vocal texts are drawn from Bach’s Magnificat.

Despite coming some 300 years later, Kats-Chernin’s new work fits within the output of the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra, for its highly acclaimed status within the Baroque music cognoscenti, since it has the same life, elegance, and sense of triumph. The Brandenburgers bring to this new work a similar passion and respect, making it a recording of great beauty and worth. It is a work of considerable merit sitting easily alongside the greats of the Baroque.

Richard Bonynge: Gems of the Baroque

ABC 482 1059

It is impossible to suggest that one CD could contain all the highlights of an extensive recording career of Richard Bonynge, one of the world’s great maestros.

Gems of the BaroqueThis CD however, attempts to capture some of the gems of the Baroque era which Bonynge so loved and revived. Masterpieces (no less than seven overtures) by Handel, Scarlatti, Pergolesi, Vivaldi, Gassmann and Bononcini, along with six arias sung by the incomparable Renata Tebaldi, make this a splendid foray into both the familiar and new.

Composed by Gassmann in 1767, the Overture from L’amore artigiano (Artisans in Love) is engaging with its sparkling vigour. Gassmann wrote an opera nearly every year for the Venice Festival, and is known as a composer transitioning between the Baroque and Classical periods.

Handel’s Berenice, one of his more than 40 operas, was written in 1709. Its Overture is an extended movement featuring contrasting slow and fast sections. Considered a failure (the opera was performed only 4 times in only one season at Covent Garden), it has been revived throughout the world in recent times.

Ariodante (1735) is another Handel opera that fell into oblivion for 200 years. Its Overture is a fine specimen of Handelian glory, which includes a charming harpsichord solo section, and later an oboe and bassoon duo. Similarly, Faramondo (1738) was not revived after its initial short run until 1976.

Sosarme (1732) experienced more success with its London audiences, and this Overture retains much of the sparkle and elegance, typical of Handel.

Rinaldo (1711) was the first opera written by Handel when he arrived in London. Its Overture contains three contrasted sections, the slow (middle) section featuring a poignant oboe melody.

The oratorio, Solomon, written in 1748, was richly orchestrated (against the traditions of the day) requiring larger forces of woodwind, percussion and brass.

A great interest of Bonynge was ballet, and here, a set of keyboard sonatas by Domenico Scarlatti, arranged as instrumental music by Tommasini, is known as The Good-Humoured Ladies. The orchestral setting of these works, therefore, sounds more nineteenth century, than Baroque, however, its inclusion on this recording is a delight, just the same.

These orchestral works were all recorded with the renowned English Chamber Orchestra. The six arias, sung by soprano, Renata Tebaldi were with the New Philharmonia Orchestra.

Tebaldi’s vocal artistry is well-known in lyric and dramatic roles. She sings with an evocative pathos in Handel’s Serse (Xerxes), Ombra mai fu, Vivaldi’s Piango, gemo, sospiro, and Handel’s Verdi prati, from Alcina.

More agility and charm are found in Bononcini’s Deh piu a me non v’ascondete, and Alessandro Scarlatti’s Le violette, from the 1694 drama Il Pirro e Demetrio, whilst comic colouring is a real joy in Pergolesi’s Stizzoso, mio stizzoso from La serva padrona.

Tebaldi and Bonynge worked together on a number of occasions, not only in concert, but also in recording solo albums of arias. This is a truly delightful recording of selected operatic instrumental and vocal excerpts from the Baroque era, which have been revived by the great Maestro Bonynge.

3: Trios by Handel, Vivaldi and Telemann

Genevieve Lacey, Neal Peres Da Costa, Daniel Yeadon

ABC 476 5105

From the outset, the exuberance and clarity of tone of this recording makes a huge impact. It is an enormously gratifying aural experience, in which three of the country’s finest exponents of early music perform works written hundreds of years ago, whilst bringing to life the joys and drama of music by Handel, Vivaldi and Telemann.

In the trios chosen here, the melifuous phrasing and oftentimes exquisite virtuosity of recorder player, Genevieve Lacey is beautifully aligned with the tone of both organ and harpsichord played by Neal Peres Da Costa, whilst cellist Daniel Yeadon added a depth of sonority, as in Vivaldi’s three-movement Concerto (for 2 violins) in D minor (an arrangement here), and the well-known Concerto in D RV 91 (Largo movement), as well as the two recorder & continuo sonatas by Handel (Sonata in A minor, HWV 361, Op 1 No 4, and Sonata in C, HWV 365).

Ravishingly beautiful playing in the other trios, both by Telemann (F major, TWV 42:F3 & B minor, TWV 42:h4), in which conversational aspects to the playing of thematic ideas are artfully passed between the players, and delectable contrasts in tonal colour are achieved in the diverse movements.

The thoroughly delightful arrangement of aria, Par che mi nasca in seno, from Handel’s opera Tamerlano HWV 18, is calmly stated in a dialogue of melodic lines interspersed between recorder and cello, with organ providing a constant harmonic basis throughout.

All three performers have opportunity to shine individually. Exhilarating virtuosity is displayed by Da Costa in the decorative variations of Handel’s Harpsichord Suite No 5 in E, HWV 430. Lacey’s recorder solo in Handel’s Fantasia in C shows how fluidly she manages the disjoint melodic layers, giving to them an evenness of tone and agility. Yeadon’s solo Sonata in D, TWV 40:1:1 by Telemann balances the solo lines with underlying harmonic gestures.

This is one of the seriously fine releases from ABC Classics of late, and is testament to the early music skills of Australians who rate highly on the international stage.