Classical music on CD, on air and online
It’s taken two years, but Opera Rara’s five-star recording of Rossini’s epic Babylonian opera Semiramide is released at last. Keen radio listeners may remember a sensational performance at the Proms in September last year, when Mark Elder and his cast, fresh from making this recording, knocked the audience flat with a bravura display of spectacular bel canto singing. Now it’s possible to listen again to Albina Shagimuratova in the hugely challenging title role and Daniela Barcellona as the warrior Arsace, both singers at the top of their game.
But be warned. This piece requires serious commitment. Elder has restored all the passages normally cut in modern performances, making the whole thing cover four CDs. It’s worth parcelling it out to really appreciate the quality of the dazzling singing from a classy cast that also includes Mirco Palazzi, Barry Banks and David Butt Philip. And there is wonderfully crisp and alert playing from the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment.
From mature Rossini to juvenile Mozart. Also out last week on the Signum label was the latest in Ian Page’s complete Mozart opera series with his Classical Opera company, this time featuring works written when Mozart was only 11 and 12. Grabmusik (“Grave Music”) is hardly an opera at all, but a miniature cantata in which a tormented soul is comforted by an angel. It’s reported that the piece was the product of test set by a Salzburg prince who did not believe that the young Mozart was capable of writing the music already ascribed to him. He shut him away for a week with a text and some manuscript paper and Grabmusik was the convincing result. A year later, Mozart wrote Bastien
und Bastienne for private house performance. It’s a bucolic tale with bucolic music to match, but much of it charming and bearing the promise of the glories to come, particularly in the duet writing. By a nice coincidence, Matthew Truscott leads the orchestras in both the Rossini and the Mozart recordings.
If you missed the recent Proms performance of Handel’s Theodora (left), with the glorious combination of Louise Alder, Iestyn Davies and Ann Hallenburg, there’s still time to catch it on Radio iPlayer and swoon at the beauty of it all.