Rumon Gamba: ‘Having recorded symphonies and film music by Malcolm Arnold and knowing how well his music is received by audiences around the world, I was surprised that there was no disc dedicated solely to his music for the ballet. The four scores featured here on this disc have such strong musical ideas and dramatic narrative, to say nothing of their sheer beauty and passion, that they come alive as pieces of music in their own right. And such contrasts on this programme – brutality and energy (Electra), sweeping romanticism (Rinaldo and Armida) and humour in all its guises (Sweeney Todd). I particularly enjoyed recording Rinaldo and Armida which deserves its place in the repertoire alongside those ballet scores we hear all too often in the concert hall.’
During the 1920s many French composers reacted against the Wagnerian influences of the late nineteenth century, the impressionism of Debussy, and the dominating atmosphere of the circle round César Franck, and turned instead to the everyday world – the circus, the music hall, the fairground and jazz – for inspiration. The two French ballet scores presented here combine many of these elements and being collaborative efforts, provide a unique cross-section of the work of a dozen composers – some well-known, others barely mentioned in textbooks on the period……..
As well as recording for, and eventually publicly falling out with, Deutsche Grammophon, John Eliot Gardiner made a series of recordings for Erato, which Warner Classics are now bundling together at bargain price. Pairing the opera Tamerlano with the joyously exuberant choral setting of Milton (with a disc of ballet music from the operas too) makes no obvious sense, except that both rank among Gardiner's finest Handel performances; and his versions of each (L'Allegro from 1981, Tamerlano from five years later) arguably remain the most recommendable in the current catalogue. The cast in Tamerlano is led by a pair of outstanding counter tenors, Derek Ragin and Michael Chance, then both at the start of their careers, with tenor Nigel Robson as Bajazet, while the soloists in L'Allegro include Marie McLaughlin, Jennifer Smith and Martyn Hill; dramatic energy and vitality course through both performances.(Andrew Clements)
Joseph Martin Kraus was an innovative 18th Century composer, acclaimed by Haydn as one of the only two geniuses he knew (Mozart was the other). Small wonder that intense interest has been ignited by his forward-looking music, especially the epic six act opera (a prologue and five acts) Aeneas in Carthage, a retelling of the famous story of Dido and Aeneas. Originally intended for the inauguration of the new opera house in Stockholm, the première was delayed for ten years until 1791 allowing Kraus to refine his titanic score into a true magnum opus.