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Contre-tenors

Purcell / Jaroussky / Scholl / Bowman / Lesne
Release Date: 05/28/2013 
Label:  Naive   Catalog #: 5328   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Antonio VivaldiJohann Sebastian BachHenry PurcellChristoph W. Gluck,   ... 
Performer:  Philippe JarousskyDavid D. Q. LeeDominique VisseAndreas Scholl,   ... 
Number of Discs: 1 
In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews

This collection of baroque arias - and a couple of Elizabethan lute songs - is a splendid taster for those who haven’t yet exploited this niche of the music: the counter-tenors. This voice-type has existed at least since the 14th century, mainly in polyphonic compositions and later it was also common in solo songs and arias. During the 19th century it fell out of fashion. It was only in the second half of the 20th century that the voice-type was revived, and it was Alfred Deller (1912 - 1979) who was the ground-breaker. In 1948 he founded his Deller Consort, specializing in historically informed performances. Among his early followers can be mentioned James Bowman (b. 1941), Paul Esswood (b. 1942) and René Jacobs (b. 1946) - the Read more latter nowadays pursuing a highly successful career as conductor. During the last two-three decades there has been an increased interest in the counter-tenor voice, both from performers and audiences. Eight singers of undisputed high quality can be heard here, and they are only the tip of the iceberg.

Repertoire-wise very little is standard fare - only the aria from Orfeo ed Euridice (tr. 4) is really well-known - but the composers’ names should be a guarantee that this is music on a high level. Antonio Vivaldi is primarily known for his instrumental music but he composed enormous amounts of sacred choral music and more than forty operas that are musically on a par with Handel’s. Nisi Dominus is both personal in style and melodically pleasing, and as sung here by the superb Philippe Jaroussky it could very well become a favourite aria: what beauty, what breath-control, what musical phrasing. The other track with Jaroussky, the aria from Orlando furioso (tr. 8), is equally fine. Here the singer shares the stage with the flautist Jean-Marc Goujon. This is superb music making on all fronts. The pioneer James Bowman, supposedly recorded in the 1970s or 1980s, is more alto-ish in timbre in the Dixit Dominus (tr. 5). A lively aria from Griselda (tr. 9) is exquisitely sung by Iestyn Davies, a great admirer of Bowman. His technique is superb. The Korean David DQ Lee sings the long phrases in an aria from Orlando (tr. 12) with a seemingly inexhaustible supply of air and beautiful tone. Dominique Visse, born 1955, has a leaner, thinner voice but his coloratura and trill are masterly in the dramatic aria from Montezuma (tr. 13). Another Frenchman, Gerard Lesne, belongs to the same generation. He offers the only French number, from Charpentier’s oratorio (tr. 10) and displays an uncommonly deep and dark voice - but impeccable technique in the fast finale. He also executes two songs by John Dowland with good feeling for the text (trs. 6 and 14) and in Purcell’s O solitude (tr. 3) with plaintive tone.

James Bowman sings Che faro fromOrfeo ed Euridice (tr. 4) with the same rounded tone as Kathleen Ferrier on an old Decca recording from the 1940s - one of earliest records. Where Ferrier feels drowsy at a very expansive tempo, Bowman’s Orfeo, though sad, is more positive and alive. In the aria from Handel’s Giulio Cesare (tr. 11) he is dramatic and duets boldly with an impertinent French horn.

The German Andreas Scholl has become one of the foremost Bach interpreters and his two cantata arias (trs. 2 and 7) are lessons in powerful and robust singing with a focus on the texts.

The bonus track, from the motion picture soundtrack for the film Farinelli, il castrato, was no doubt what triggered the interest in high male voices back in 1994. This is, it has to be admitted, a falsification, insofar as they have mixed Derek Lee Ragin’s counter-tenor with Ewa Mallas-Godlewska’s soprano to create a sound as close as possible to that of the castrato singer. The result is an exhibition in virtuoso singing, almost incredible. In recent years Cecilia Bartoli has recorded the same aria, from Broschi’s Artaserse in the album Sacrificium. If you haven’t heard that disc I urge you to invest in it without delay. However, for a wider spectrum of the counter-tenor voice the present disc is an excellent sample.

– Göran Forsling, MusicWeb International Read less

Works on This Recording

1.
Orlando furioso, RV 728: Sol da te mio dolce amore by Antonio Vivaldi
Performer:  Philippe Jaroussky (Countertenor)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1727; Venice, Italy 
2.
Orlando furioso, RV 728: Piangerò sinché l'onda by Antonio Vivaldi
Performer:  David D. Q. Lee (Countertenor)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1727; Venice, Italy 
3.
Montezuma, RV 723: Gl' oltraggi della sorte by Antonio Vivaldi
Performer:  Dominique Visse (Countertenor)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1733; Venice, Italy 
4.
Er rufet seinen Schafen mit Namen und führet sie hinaus, BWV 175: no 2, Komm, leite mich, es sehnet by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Andreas Scholl (Countertenor)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1725; Leipzig, Germany 
5.
Nisi Dominus in G minor, RV 608: Cum dederit delectis suis sommum by Antonio Vivaldi
Performer:  Philippe Jaroussky (Countertenor)
Period: Baroque 
Written: Venice, Italy 
6.
O solitude, my sweetest choice, Z 406 by Henry Purcell
Performer:  Gérard Lesne (Countertenor)
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1687; England 
7.
Orfeo ed Euridice: Che farò senza Euridice? by Christoph W. Gluck
Performer:  James Bowman (Countertenor)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1762/1774; Vienna, Austria 
8.
Dixit Dominus in D major, RV 595: De torrente by Antonio Vivaldi
Performer:  James Bowman (Countertenor)
9.
Earl of Essex, his Galliard, P 42a by John Dowland
Performer:  Gérard Lesne (Countertenor)
Period: Renaissance 
Written: England 
10.
Ich bin ein guter Hirt, BWV 85: Jesus ist ein guter Hirt by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Andreas Scholl (Countertenor)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1725; Leipzig, Germany 
11.
Griselda, RV 718: La rondinella amante by Antonio Vivaldi
Performer:  Iestyn Davies (Countertenor)
Period: Baroque 
12.
Mors Saülis et Jonathae, H 403: Ecquid ad spurgos nunc spargo carmina? by Marc-Antoine Charpentier
Performer:  Gérard Lesne (Countertenor)
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1680; Paris, France 
13.
Giulio Cesare, HWV 17: Va tacito e nascosto by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  James Bowman (Countertenor)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1724; London, England 
14.
Second Booke of Songes or Ayres: no 2, Flow, my teares by John Dowland
Performer:  Gérard Lesne (Countertenor)
Period: Renaissance 
Written: 1600; England 
15.
Artaserse: Son qual nave by Riccardo Broschi
Performer:  Derek Lee Ragin (Countertenor)
Period: Baroque 
Written: Italy 

Sound Samples

Nisi Dominus, RV 608: Cum dederit
Er rufet seine Schafen mit Namen, BWV 175: Aria: Komm, leite mich
O solitude, my sweetest choice, Z. 406
Orfeo ed Euridice: Act III: Aria: Che faro senza Euridice?
Dixit Dominus, RV 594: De torrente in via
Book of Songs, Book 1: Can she excuse my wrongs, P. 42
Ich bin ein guter Hirt, BWV 85: Aria: Jesus ist ein guter Hirt
Orlando furioso, RV Anh. 84: Act I: Sol da te, mio dolce amore
Griselda, RV 718: Act II: Aria: La rondinella amante
Mors Saulis et Jonathae , H. 403: Part I: Seconde symphonie de l'enchantement, "Ecquid ad surdos nunc spargo carmina?"
Giulio Cesare in Egitto, HWV 17*: Giulio Cesare in Egitto, HWV 17, Act I: Aria: Va tacito e nascosto
Orlando furioso, RV Anh. 84: Act II: Aria: Piangero, sin che l'onda del pianto
Motezuma, RV 723: Act I: Aria: Gl'oltraggidella sorte
Book of Songs, Book 2: Flow, my tears, fall from your springs
Farinelli, il castrato: son qual nave ch'agitata

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