The Orlando Consort once again shows its intelligence and educated approach to Renaissance-era music, while not denying the beauty of the pieces. The album is a demonstration, in varied works, of the contenance angloise, the sound that distinguished English music of the fifteenth century from that of the continent.
'Orlando' is an operatic masterpiece by the Neapolitan Composer Nicola Porpora (1686-1768) who left an indelible mark on the 18th century and the careers of its greatest masters, from Hasse, Jommelli and Handel to Joseph Haydn, who was his pupil in Vienna. Against the background of the old Carolingian epic, the valiant knight Roland is transformed here into a lover before becoming 'Orlando furioso' in this encounter of three mythical figures: Ariosto, Metastasio and Porpora. The gamut runs from epic to tragedy in this vibrant, crackling performance under the inspired direction of Juan Bautista Otero.
This delightful "dramma eroicomico" ("heroic-comic drama"–-a made-up phrase brimming with irony) tells the story of the noble knight Orlando, who goes mad being torn between duty and love, his love, Angelica, who actually wants Medoro, and Alcina, an evil sorceress out to get Orlando, and turns it into a type of farce, with great results. There is some lovely music, mostly for Angelica and Medoro, but most of it is fun and light, with characters whistling, trying to impress people with how well they sing, etc. The scoring wittily underlines their foibles… –Robert Levine