In the famous Preface to Alceste (1767), Christoph Willibald Gluck and his librettist Ranieri de' Calzabigi posited a new direction for opera. They spoke of moving beyond Baroque forms, of striving for a new naturalism in opera. They wanted, in Calzabigi's lovely phrase, to liberate the language of the heart. Taken from the height of this Reform period, the arias on this disc reveal composers exploring and experimenting, at struggle and at play, as they create the new forms that bring to opera the noble simplicity of the Classical era.
This is an album that vigorously serves up a compelling cross-section of 18th-century opera: it s music making at its most visceral and exciting (and, if you want just one example, check out track 11, Gluck s Se il fulmine sospendi the reasons Gluck was the Classical era s first great opera composer remain convincingly intact). Mehta is fully in his element, no technical or expressive stone going unturned. And Jacobs draws playing from the Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin that brims with energy and nuance, while the RIAS Kammerchor makes the most of their two brief appearances. Highly recommended. --Jonathan Blumhofer, Artsfuse - 20th November 2013
EDITOR S CHOICE 'Always acutely alive to text and dramatic situation, Mehta is equally vivid in two contrasting arias from Gluck s Ezio, one all tender concern, the other heroically flamboyant, with Jacobs and the Berlin period band in no-holds-barred support ... the most enjoyable, intelligently planned countertenor recital to have come my way in years.' --Richard Wigmore, Gramophone Feb 2014
OPERA CHOICE ***** / ***** 'Jacobs s abrupt tempo twists, the instrumentalists boldness and the chorus s power make such ensemble sections as electrifying as Mehta s solos. This is a daring and important retelling of the story of classical opera.' --Berta Joncus, BBC Music Magazine Feb 2014