Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

"Music, both vocall and instrumental, so good, so delectable, so rare, so admirable, so super excellent, that it did even ravish and stupifie all those strangers that never heard the like." - Thomas Coryat, after hearing 3 hours of music at the Scuola di San Rocco in Venice, 1608.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

A pastorale of astonishing beauty

What a great way to start off the New Year! One of the musical highlights of 2016 (and a Top Ten pick of mine) was the Purcell Choir/Orfeo Orchestra recording of Mondonville Grands Motets from György Vashegyi on Glossa. This new 3-CD album of the opera Isbé, premiered in 1742, brings the same musical forces to a work that makes just as positive an impression. Isbé is a pastorale with a libretto by Henri François de La Rivière, and while I never pay much attention to the ins and outs of the plots of these sorts of entertainments, there are plenty of opportunities here for Mondonville to do what he does best: write music, and especially choral music, of astonishing sweetness.

It's not only the Purcell Choir that excels here, though. The Orfeo Orchestra play with style and verve under the direction of Vashegyi, who seems to have a special feeling for French Baroque music that belies the Hungarian origin for the Mondonville projects. One of Mondonville's many accomplishments was his integration of the latest trends in Italian orchestral music into French opera. The innovations of composers like Vivaldi become part of the richness and wonder of Mondonville's presentation. And Vashegyi's vocal soloists impress as well; especially Katherine Watson, who provides a full and rich sound for the title role, but also communicates a full measure of charm.

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