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.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

A musical, scholarly and cultural triumph

The Other Cleopatra, Queen of Armenia: Arias by Hasse, Vivaldi, Gluck

This remarkable album is more than a classical music recording; it's also a work of original scholarship and an effective cultural advocacy project. I hasten to add that it works especially well musically. Isabel Bayrakdarian is in fine voice, and she receives stellar support from the very fine conductor Constantine Orbelian and the excellent Kaunas City Symphony in Lithuania. As a bonus, the superb harpsichordist Jory Vinikour is on hand to add special zest to the continuo parts. He and Bayrakdarian are especially fine partners in the recitatives.

In the 18th century Abate Francesco Silvani wrote a libretto based on the story of King Tigranes II, the greatest king in Armenian history, and his wife Cleopatra of Pontus. It was set by a number of composers, including three who feature on this album: Johann Adolph Hasse, Antonio Vivaldi and Christoph Willibald Gluck. Bayrakdarian put this program together as part of her research at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where she is Associate Professor of Voice and Opera,  choosing these arias and recitatives, which fit her "voice and temperament". There are some exciting moments here: "Squarciami pure il seno" by Vivaldi and Gluck's "Presso l’onda" are stand-outs. But even better are the slower, more contemplative, moments: Hasse's "Parte, parte" and "Presso a l'onde", and Gluck's "Priva del cara bene". This is lovely, graceful music. Even more impressive, though, is Vivaldi's aria "Qui mentre mormorando", introduced by the recitative "Lasciatemi in riposo". It's music worthy of the mature Mozart, full of sadness and pathos, but always dramatic. Like Mozart, Vivaldi has a keen sense of the psychology of his characters. So it doesn't matter what actually happens with the plot (alas, Abate Silvani was no Da Ponte!); what is key is how the music helps us to understand what the character is feeling. And, of course, that communication also requires a singer of some psychological awareness as well as technical and dramatic skills, and we are indeed lucky to have in this project such a remarkable soprano as Isabel Bayrakdarian. I couldn't recommend this album more highly.

This album will be released on March 30, 2020

No comments:

Post a Comment