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The Classic Sound - The Age Of Bel Canto / Sutherland, Et Al


Release Date: 05/22/2009 
Label:  Decca   Catalog #: 448594   Spars Code: ADD 
Composer:  Niccolò PiccinniGeorge Frideric HandelGiovanni LampugnaniGiovanni Bononcini,   ... 
Performer:  Dame Joan SutherlandRichard ConradAmbrose GauntlettMarilyn Horne,   ... 
Conductor:  Richard Bonynge
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New Symphony OrchestraLondon Symphony OrchestraLondon Symphony Chorus
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 49 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Sutherland’s dramatic attack and the sheer force of the sound make this one of the few records that accurately conveys the impact her voice made in public. A great classic of the gramophone.

Starting with “The Art of the Prima Donna” in 1960, Decca presented their star soprano in a series of double-album excursions into what was then rare repertory. “Command Performance”, “Romantic French Arias”, “Love Live Forever” and finally a three-disc recital with Richard Bonynge at the piano (“Serate Musicali”) all provided a rich survey of bel canto singing. The reissue of “The Age of Bel Canto” in its original form (just Sutherland’s contributions were on a single CD five years ago), confirms that with the added stimulus of
Read more Marilyn Horne’s presence (this was their first recording together) and the contribution from Richard Conrad, of all the recitals, this is the most exciting.

Thirty years and more on, one has to remember that when this set first came out, there had been no complete recordings of Bellini’s Beatrice di Tenda or La straniera, Donizetti’s Lucrezia Borgia or Rossini’s Semiramide. For the majority of the record-listening public these were great rarities. As for the arias and duets from operas by Piccini, Lampugnani, Bononcini, Arne, Shield and Boieldieu, they remain almost as recherche now as they were then.

Sutherland is in fantastic voice throughout. There is a bit of the ‘drooping’ mannerism that was so savagely criticized at the time, but in retrospect, like the Callas wobble, one accepts this as part of Sutherland’s individual style. The opening “Furia di donna” from Piccini’s La buona figliuola, shows the wonderful facility she had for singing staccato-in-legato, every note clear and precise but joined in a seamless stream of sound. And the words are clear, the fury of the irate heroine perfectly characterized. It is a great tribute to Richard Conrad’s singing that the succeeding track, “Care selve” from Handel’s Atalanta, isn’t a jolt; he opens it with a very convincing trill. Of course, compared with the two great ladies, his voice is a fragile instrument, but as Bonynge writes in his introduction, “coloratura tenors were almost unheard of” in the 1960s. The longest track on the set is the duet from La straniera, not one of Bellini’s greatest melodies, but one of those fascinating ‘might have beens’, for Sutherland never undertook the role. Both she and Conrad impress with their fervour.

Horne, at the beginning of her recording career, was already a seasoned performer. “Iris, hence away” from Semele, the drinking song from Lucrezia Borgia, her duet with Sutherland from Semiramide (perhaps a shade less spectacular than on the complete recording, Decca, 2/90) and above all the final, dizzy Arditi Bolero remain among her best records. From the eighteenth-century items on the first CD, Sutherland’s “Light as thistledown” from Shield’s Rosina and Conrad’s elegant account of “Ich baue ganz” from Entfuhrung are especially pleasing. Sutherland was never happy with the role of the Queen of Night in Die Zauberflote, and although her German isn’t too bad, one can hear that the music doesn’t sit well for her.

There are too many delightful and intriguing items to detail; suffice to say that this set includes two examples of singing that would demonstrate to anyone who wanted to find out, exactly why Sutherland was such a sensation. The trio from Boieldieu’s Angela, “Ma Fanchette est charmante” has a brilliance and lightness of touch from all three singers that makes one quite breathless. Then there is the famous account of Odabella’s aria from Act 1 of Verdi’s Attila, “Santo di patria”. Sutherland’s dramatic attack in this, her security throughout its great leaps and soaring phrases, and the sheer force of the sound, make this one of the very few records that to me accurately conveys the impact her voice made in public. The recording engineers were Arthur Bannister and Arthur Lilley, with producer Christopher Raeburn – it can’t have been an easy task to contain Sutherland’s voice, or to balance it with such a delicate instrument as Richard Conrad’s.

Both orchestras under Bonynge rise to the challenge as well; throughout, the accompaniments have such a sense of style, and the programme moves fluidly from one era to another. Bonynge here provides one with a rich lesson in what happened to opera and singing during the century or more that the survey charts (roughly from 1730 to 1850). The sound is vintage Decca. Congratulations to all concerned for reinstating this set, with its photographs, texts and translations all in place. A great classic of the gramophone.

-- Patrick O'Connor, Gramophone [11/1996]
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Works on This Recording

1. La buona figliuola "La Cecchina": Furia di donna by Niccolò Piccinni
Performer:  Dame Joan Sutherland (Soprano)
Conductor:  Richard Bonynge
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New Symphony Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: by 1760; Italy 
2. Atalanta, HWV 35: Care selve by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Richard Conrad (Tenor), Ambrose Gauntlett (Cello)
Conductor:  Richard Bonynge
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New Symphony Orchestra
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1736; London, England 
3. Meraspe: Superbo di me stesso by Giovanni Lampugnani
Performer:  Marilyn Horne (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  Richard Bonynge
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New Symphony Orchestra
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1742 
4. Samson, HWV 57: With plaintive notes by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Dame Joan Sutherland (Soprano)
Conductor:  Richard Bonynge
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New Symphony Orchestra
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1743; London, England 
5. Semele, HWV 58: Hence, Iris, hence away by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Marilyn Horne (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  Richard Bonynge
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New Symphony Orchestra
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1744; London, England 
6. Astarto: Mio caro ben by Giovanni Bononcini
Performer:  Richard Conrad (Tenor), Dame Joan Sutherland (Soprano)
Conductor:  Richard Bonynge
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New Symphony Orchestra
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1714; Rome, Italy 
7. Artaxerxes: O too lovely, too unkind by Thomas Augustine Arne
Performer:  Douglas Cameron (Cello), Marilyn Horne (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  Richard Bonynge
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New Symphony Orchestra
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1762/1777; England 
8. Rosina: Light as thistledown by William Shield
Performer:  Dame Joan Sutherland (Soprano)
Conductor:  Richard Bonynge
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New Symphony Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1782; England 
9. Rosina: When William at eve by William Shield
Performer:  Dame Joan Sutherland (Soprano)
Conductor:  Richard Bonynge
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New Symphony Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1782; England 
10. Il rè pastore, K 208: Voi che fausti ognor donate by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Richard Conrad (Tenor)
Conductor:  Richard Bonynge
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New Symphony Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1775; Salzburg, Austria 
11. Die Zauberflöte, K 620: O zittre nicht...Zum Leiden bin ich by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Dame Joan Sutherland (Soprano)
Conductor:  Richard Bonynge
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New Symphony Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1791; Vienna, Austria 
12. Die Entführung aus dem Serail, K 384: Ich baue ganz auf deine Stärke by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Richard Conrad (Tenor)
Conductor:  Richard Bonynge
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New Symphony Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1782; Vienna, Austria 
13. Angéla: Ma Fanchette est charmante by François Boieldieu
Performer:  Richard Conrad (Tenor), Dame Joan Sutherland (Soprano), Marilyn Horne (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  Richard Bonynge
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1814; France 
14. Semiramide: Serbami ognor...Alle più calde immagini by Gioachino Rossini
Performer:  Dame Joan Sutherland (Soprano), Marilyn Horne (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  Richard Bonynge
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1823; Italy 
15. La muette de Portici: Ferme tes yeux by Daniel-François Auber
Performer:  Richard Conrad (Tenor)
Conductor:  Richard Bonynge
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1828; France 
16. Der Freischütz, J 277: Und ob die Wolke by Carl Maria von Weber
Performer:  Nelson Cooke (Cello), Dame Joan Sutherland (Soprano)
Conductor:  Richard Bonynge
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1817-1821; Dresden, Germany 
17. Beatrice di Tenda: Angiol di pace by Vincenzo Bellini
Performer:  Marilyn Horne (Mezzo Soprano), Dame Joan Sutherland (Soprano), Richard Conrad (Tenor)
Conductor:  Richard Bonynge
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1833; Italy 
18. Don Pasquale: Tornami a dir by Gaetano Donizetti
Performer:  Dame Joan Sutherland (Soprano), Richard Conrad (Tenor)
Conductor:  Richard Bonynge
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1843; Italy 
19. Lucrezia Borgia: Il segreto per esser felice "Brindisi" by Gaetano Donizetti
Performer:  Marilyn Horne (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  Richard Bonynge
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra,  London Symphony Chorus
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1833; Italy 
20. Attila: Santo di patria...A lor che i forti...Da te questo by Giuseppe Verdi
Performer:  Dame Joan Sutherland (Soprano)
Conductor:  Richard Bonynge
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra,  London Symphony Chorus
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1846; Italy 
21. La straniera: Sventurato il cor by Vincenzo Bellini
Performer:  Dame Joan Sutherland (Soprano), Richard Conrad (Tenor)
Conductor:  Richard Bonynge
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1829; Italy 
22. Il barbiere di Siviglia: Ecco ridente in cielo by Gioachino Rossini
Performer:  Sydney Del Monte (Guitar), Richard Conrad (Tenor)
Conductor:  Richard Bonynge
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1816; Italy 
23. Leggero invisible "Bolero" by Luigi Arditi
Performer:  Marilyn Horne (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  Richard Bonynge
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: Italy 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 At Last. January 10, 2014 By Timothy W. (Biggar, United Kingdom) See All My Reviews "Some fifty years ago, while living in Australia, I bought this recording on two black vinyl disks. It has always been one of my favourite recordings, and much played. The recording quality was very good, though from being played a lot, the surface has become noisy! I occasionally tried to find a CD version, but could not find it on this format. Until now! It's a very good transfer, unlike many. Sutherland has always been one of my favourite singers, and Marilyn Horne often partnered her. I had never heard Richard Horne and he has the most wonderful lyrical tenor voice. The selection of music is excellent, fully covering the Bel Canto style, and with some less popular numbers such as 'Ferme Tes Yeux' from 'La Muette de Portici' by Auber, or 'Light as Thistledown' from 'Rosina' by Shield. There are also a range of more popular favourites such as the Queen of the Night's aria from 'Die Zauberflöte' or 'Serbami ognor si fido' from 'Semiramide'. Altogether, a highly recommended recording." Report Abuse
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