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Hyperion Records

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Head of John the Baptist. Spanish School, 18th century
Basilica de San Juan de Dios, Granada, Spain / Bridgeman Art Library, London
Track(s) taken from CDA67617
Recording details: March 2007
Oratorio Santa Croce, Mondový, Italy
Produced by Mark Brown
Engineered by David Hinitt
Release date: January 2008
Total duration: 2 minutes 57 seconds

'When you learn that Handel owned an early copy of the manuscript all the pieces begin to fall into place; here is a perfect example of the Italian manner that was to influence him so fundamentally … each soloist is given masses of opportunity to display their bravura technique, both as individuals and jointly, when they comment on the action in some lovely choruses and madrigals … De Marchi really scores in his choice of soloists. Salome is sung by the exquisite soprano Anke Herman, Battista by the firm-voiced countertenor Martin Oro and the court counsellor by the excellent tenor Fredrik Akselberg, but the star of the disc is the bass Antonio Abete who as Herod thunders through some truly stunning arias' (The Observer)

'Stradella's score, characterized by constant variety, is ravishing throughout … the whole band plays with tremendous panache and stylistic aplomb' (International Record Review)

'Stradella is probably more famous for having been murdered … than for his music. That's a pity, for the latter, vital, free-flowing and bold, is well worth exploration. The oratorio San Giovanni Battista, composed in 1675, is one of his finest works, a thrilling drama calling for virtuoso singing of the highest order. The Academia Montis Regalis's playing is wonderfully alive' (The Sunday Times)

'If you haven’t heard this recording, you won’t believe your ears … this is as stunning a piece and performance as I’ve heard from this era since Noah Greenberg introduced Salamone Rossi to us a half-century ago—possibly better, because the music is far more modern for its time. The strings of the Montis Regalis Academy dig and bite into the music with a relish far too rare nowadays. The singers … perform this music as if they really mean it, with a proper legato, vocal shading, and dramatic commitment that you must hear to believe. By the time the disc is ended, you are not only emotionally drained but also stunned. This is not just another 17th-century oratorio; this is a major masterpiece, musically and dramatically so original, innovative, and advanced … this one is the performance I’ll savor for a long time to come' (Fanfare, USA)

'Alessandro De Marchi, sympathetic and stylistically informed, keeps things moving thus producing a sense of dramatic continuity … Academia Montis Regalis employ no vibrato at all; however, their clean tone and intonation and balanced, full-bodied sonority make for present, supportive accompaniments, while the players are vital and sensitive in their solo passages and movements … the sound quality is excellent' (Opera News)

'The performance is very good, with some superb singing and great playing—the contrast between the concertino group and the orchestral tutti is very dramatic' (Early Music)

Sinfonia a 3, W-K32
composer

Adagio  [1'38]
Largo  [0'45]
Allegro  [0'34]

The opening Adagio of Colista’s Sinfonia a 3, W-K32, acts as an introduction to the second act and serves to express the pomp of the birthday celebrations. Later in the act (track 29) the Largo of the same piece, with its tortured, chromatic saraband rhythm, fittingly describes the drama of the decapitation (an event not set by Stradella). Finally, we have placed the Allegro from the same Sinfonia at the close of the oratorio. This gives Salome the very last word, and it allows us to imagine her leaving the stage victoriously or dancing voluptuously.

from notes by Alessandro de Marchi ę 2008
English: Hugh Ward-Perkins

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