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Barbara Hendricks, Chœurs de Radio France, ONF, Georges Pretre - Francis Poulenc: Gloria; Stabat Mater (2006)

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Barbara Hendricks, Chœurs de Radio France, ONF, Georges Pretre - Francis Poulenc: Gloria; Stabat Mater (2006)

Francis Poulenc: Gloria; Stabat Mater (2006)
Barbara Hendricks, soprano; Chœurs de Radio France; Michel Tranchant, chorus master
Orchestre National de France, conducted by Georges Prêtre

EAC | WV | Image (Cue&Log) ~ 244 Mb | Mp3 (CBR320) ~ 161 Mb | Scans included
Classical, Choral, Vocal | Label: EMI Classics | # 0946 3 55688 2 0 | 00:59:20

Understandably, Poulenc's Gloria and Stabat Mater have almost invariably been coupled together on LPs and CDs. Similarly scored for solo soprano, chorus, and orchestra, the two works are arguably the twin peaks of Poulenc's sacred music, that is, they are irresistibly melodic, energetically rhythmic, directly emotional, conservatively harmonic, and fervently religious. That said, however, the difference in tone between the two works is as striking as their similarities. Where the Gloria is light, bright, and at times even funny, the Stabat Mater, as befits its subject matter, is dark, heavy, and always deeply sorrowful. In this pair of performances with Georges Prêtre leading the Orchestre National de France and the French Radio Choir from the '80s, both works are given the deluxe French treatment. Prêtre is as skilled at balancing his forces as he is at keeping the music moving, and, as importantly, he is as capable of expressing the Gloria's joyous wit as he is of articulating the Stabat Mater's profound suffering. But the real star of these performances is American soprano Barbara Hendricks whose clear, warm voice and excellent diction breath vibrant life into all Poulenc's glorious melodies.

Carlo Maria Giulini, Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Renato Bruson, Katia Ricciarelli - Verdi: Falstaff (2007/1982)

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Carlo Maria Giulini, Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Renato Bruson, Katia Ricciarelli - Verdi: Falstaff (2007/1982)

Carlo Maria Giulini, Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Renato Bruson, Katia Ricciarelli - Verdi: Falstaff (2007/1982)
NTSC 4:3 (720x480) VBR | Italiano (LinearPCM, 2 ch) | 7.59 Gb (DVD9) | 139 min
Classical | NVC ARTS | Sub: English, Deutsch, Espanol, Francais, Italiano

When Carlo Maria Giulini returned to conducting public performances of opera after an absence of fourteen years, he chose for the occasion one of the enduring comic masterpieces - Verdi's Falstaff. The composer was almost eighty when he broke the six-year silence following the premiere of Otello, and startled the musical world by revealing his complete mastery of comic invention. Renato Bruson, the renowned interpreter of Verdi and one of the leading lyric baritones of the day, sings the title role.

John Eliot Gardiner, Orchestre de l'Opéra de Lyon, Monteverdi Choir - Gluck: Orphée et Eurydice (1989)

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John Eliot Gardiner, Orchestre de l'Opéra de Lyon, Monteverdi Choir - Gluck: Orphée et Eurydice (1989)

John Eliot Gardiner, Orchestre de l'Opéra de Lyon, Monteverdi Choir - Gluck: Orphée et Eurydice (1989)
EAC | FLAC | Image (Cue & Log) ~ 508 Mb | Total time: 41:45+46:51 | Scans included
Classical | Label: EMI | # 7 49834 2 | Recorded: 1989

In spite of the French title, and the conductor known for his interest in period performance, this is not the French Orphee et Eurydice of 1774; it is a different 'period version', the period in question being not Gluck's but that of Berlioz (or, as we shall see, nearly so). In 1859, Berlioz, always a passionate admirer of Gluck, prepared a version of the opera for the contralto Pauline Viardot. The alto version of the opera was of course the original Italian one, of 1762, for a castrato, but Berlioz wanted to incorporate some of the changes Gluck had made in 1774 and to use a French text. His compromise version has served as the basis for most revivals of the opera, in whatever language, from then until relatively recent times, though its four-act structure has rarely been followed.

Barbara Hendricks, Radu Lupu - Schubert: Lieder (1999)

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Barbara Hendricks, Radu Lupu - Schubert: Lieder (1999)

Barbara Hendricks, Radu Lupu - Schubert: Lieder (1999)
EAC | FLAC | Image (Cue & Log) ~ 375 Mb | Total time: 58:37+63:16 | Scans included
Classical | Label: EMI Classics | 5 73308 2 | Recorded: 1985, 1992

Ms Hendricks has allied herself with one of the truly great pianists of the last thirty years, and a masterly Schubertian at that: Radu Lupu. His Schubert impromptus on Decca are to my mind only challenged by Brendel. I can’t remember hearing him as accompanist anywhere else, which makes his partnership with Barbara Hendricks special indeed. He doesn’t dominate the proceedings as some other soloists have tended to do but neither is he too reticent. It seems that they have found a good balance. Once or twice I reacted to his approach. Der Wanderer an den Mond seems too jolting but otherwise there are no eccentricities.

Eve Queler, Opera Orchestra of New York, Shirley Verrett, Alfredo Kraus - Donizetti: La Favorita (2001)

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Eve Queler, Opera Orchestra of New York, Shirley Verrett, Alfredo Kraus - Donizetti: La Favorita (2001)

Eve Queler, Opera Orchestra of New York, Shirley Verrett, Alfredo Kraus - Donizetti: La Favorita (2001)
EAC | FLAC | Image (Cue & Log) ~ 635 Mb | Total time: 72:40+68:21 | Scans included
Classical | Label: Gala | # GL 100.588 | Recorded: 1975

Eve Queler has her shortcomings as a conductor. But a conductor's main task is to make a performance happen, to bring all the elements together, and Ms. Queler has been doing this with scrappy determination for 30 years in her role as music director of the Opera Orchestra of New York. Her invaluable mission has been to present concert performances of little-known or problematic operas with the best casts available.

Alain Guingal, Alfredo Kraus, Barbara Hendricks - Offenbach: Les Contes d'Hoffmann [2003/1988]

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Alain Guingal, Alfredo Kraus, Barbara Hendricks - Offenbach: Les Contes d'Hoffmann [2003/1988]

Offenbach - Les Contes d'Hoffmann (Alain Guingal, Alfredo Kraus, Barbara Hendricks) [2003/1988]
NTSC 4:3 (720x480) VBR | Francais (Dolby AC3, 2 ch) | 7.38 Gb (DVD9) | 166 min
Classical | Hardy Classic | Sub: Italiano, English, Francais, Espanol

The exceptional nature and high artistic quality of this performance justify publication of this video even though the filming was done only to preserve the performance for Teatro Regio's archives and therefore offers few close-up shots and occasionally unclear lighting.