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Berlioz: Nuits d'Ete, Handel: Arias

4.9 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Product Description

In conjunction with the Orchestra s 30th Anniversary Season, Music Director Nicholas McGegan and Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra announce the launch of the ensemble s own recording label, Philharmonia Baroque Productions. The label s début release showcases the late Lorraine Hunt Lieberson in a live 1995 recording of Berlioz s Les Nuits d été and a live 1991 recording of arias from Handel s Giulio Cesare, Ottone, Arianna, Radamisto, and Agrippina. Hunt Lieberson had a long and fruitful relationship with McGegan and Philharmonia Baroque. The Berlioz is the last of seven acclaimed recordings she made with the orchestra and the first time she ever sang the full Berlioz song cycle in performance. Lorraine was in her element, and the result was splendid. These incredibly moving performances are now available to a wide audience for the first time.

Review

Hunt Lieberson s sings with refreshing honesty and self- effacement. The result is a level of musical truth that is rarely encountered. --Opera News
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Product Details

  • Orchestra: Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra
  • Conductor: Nicholas McGegan
  • Composer: Hector Berlioz, George Frideric Handel
  • Audio CD (March 8, 2011)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Philharmonia Baroque Productions
  • ASIN: B004K4T6E8
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #148,827 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By I. Martinez-Ybor on March 14, 2011
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I had so longed for a recording of Nuits d'Eté by Lorraine Hunt Lieberson not knowing that this one existed that when I first read of its publication I wasted no time in ordering it. No degree of anticipation exceeded the pleasure of actually hearing it. The Berlioz is taken from live concerts in Berkeley in November 1995. Though not strictly speaking a cycle, indeed, not even written for a specific single voice, the Berlioz songs have a kinship of soul that holds them together with a special magic. The songs are sublime, individually and collectively. Hunt Lieberson luxuriates. She chooses a contralto reading that shows off the deep luster of her rich, perfectly equalized voice, but always at the service of the music, and with a thorough understanding of Gautier's text. She is helped immesurably by Nicholas McGegan and the Philharmonia Baroque. For example, the measured tempo he takes for Le Spectre de la Rose always preserves the hidden waltz behind the music and allows us to wallow in the incomparable richness and beauty of Hunt Lieberson's voice at its freshest, most ample, most communicative and most exquisite. Le Spectre is one of the greatest songs ever written by any composer. This is a performance that makes such truth self-evident. These songs have been well served by many (even if Maggie Teyte did not give us a complete cycle). I have or have heard most if not all. However there are a select few that stand out, that are marked for me with special vocal and interpretative qualities that set them apart, such as Brigitte Baileys, Regine Crespin, and Victoria de los Angeles. Lorraine Hunt Lieberson's performance now joins this less than a handful group of my preferred performances.Read more ›
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Those who have commented in the past regarding the savagery of some of my reviews may be quite surprised by the tone of this review. The hagiography which inevitably is attached to this artist, her early death and the omnipresent clique of her worshipers would normally make her a ripe object for a reality check. But lo and behold, I find myself one of the vanquished!

Having followed the usual trail of Steber, Baker, Crespin, et al, I find that Hunt Lieberson excels as no other. She sings the LYRICS as only a Sinatra could in "pop" music. She gives feeling and meaning to the words as no other singer has that I have heard. She breaks the formalism which adorns her Bach and even to a degree Handel. But she gives life to Berlioz's great song cycle with a feeling that no other singer even approaches.

Enjoy...
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Format: Audio CD
Nicholas McGegan and his Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra pay homage to the late great Lorraine Hunt Lieberson in this recording on their newly created label by issuing two live performances they created together - one in 1991, offering the honored mezzo-soprano's inimitable Handel gifts in arias from Handel's operas 'Giulio Cesare in Egitto', 'Ottone, re di Germania', 'Arianna in Creta', 'Radamisto', and 'Agrippina'. The ease with which Hunt Lieberson sails through these treacherous arias reminds us of how fine this artist was in roles few others would even attempt. Her voice is even and lovely throughout the range. The collaboration with McGegan and his orchestra is, as always, first rate.

The surprise for some devoted fans of Lorraine Hunt Lieberson will be this live performance from 1995 of the luminous French song cycle by Hector Berlioz, 'Les Nuits d'été.' This live performance was the artist's first concert performance of the cycle and the fact that she seems so completely in synch with both the poetry and the music is remarkable. There are many recordings made in the studio of this famous Berlioz work, often by sopranos who push the sensuality of the music to the limits. Not so with Hunt Lieberson. Her respect for the period of the work's composition and the quality of sound of French music would be difficult to match. It is yet another loving tribute, captured by her dear friend and colleague Nicholas McGegan, for those of us who will always treasure the memories of being in the audience, in the presence of a gentle genius of music. Grady Harp, April 11
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Format: Audio CD
I admit that it has taken me a while to "get" Lorraine Hunt Lieberson but this is the disc to make me a wholehearted convert. I suppose I was resistant to the hagiography that inevitably surrounds a great artist who has met a premature demise but this is singing of such delicate voluptuousness and graded nuance to disarm any criticism.

Let me get the possible drawbacks out of the way first. These are live recordings with a bit (not much) of audience coughing and, which is more germane, a lot of space around the sound. The microphones are placed a way back from the performers and you must get away from the expectation of the usual proximity which registers creates an artificial intimacy. The advantage, however, is that you feel that you are present at an actual live performance and the ambience conveys the immediacy and thrill of a beautiful voice filling a large space.

And what a beautiful voice it is: the flickering vibrato of Von Stade, the velvet warmth of Janet Baker, the flexibility of Te Kanawa - she has it all, including superb French and extraordinary sensitivity to words and dynamics. Her lower register is plush and trenchant. The subtlety of her interpretation is greatly enhanced by the grainy quality of the strings in the McGegan's Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra. While some might miss the silky allure of a more cushioned, Romantic sound, I love the way orchestral details emerge, such as the harp arpeggios in the climax of "Le spectre de la rose", and the slight edge on the strings and the reedy tone of the oboe adds poignancy and bite to what can sometimes sound a tad sentimental in the wrong hands. But these are not the wrong the hands: McGegan's tempi are perfect; no unseemly rush but music which breathes and sighs.
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