Berlioz: Les Nuits d'Été; Handel: Arias / Hunt Lieberson

Audio Samples

>Berlioz, Hector : Les nuits d'été, Op. 7, song cycle
>Handel, George Frideric : Giulio Cesare
>     Figlio non è
>     L'angue offeso mai riposa
>     La giustizia ha già sull'arco
>Handel, George Frideric : Ottone
>     Ben a raggion
>     Vieni, o figlio, e mi consola
>Handel, George Frideric : Arianna
>     Mirami altero in volto
>Handel, George Frideric : Radamisto
>     Ombra cara di mia sposa
>     Qual nave smarrita
>Handel, George Frideric : Agrippina
>     Ogni vento, ch'al porto lo spinga

Album Summary

>Berlioz, Hector : Les nuits d'été, Op. 7, song cycle
>Handel, George Frideric : Giulio Cesare
>Handel, George Frideric : Ottone
>Handel, George Frideric : Arianna
>Handel, George Frideric : Radamisto
>Handel, George Frideric : Agrippina
Performer Conductor Ensemble
  • >
Composers

Notes & Reviews:

“This is music for the gods." -San Francisco Examiner

"There are certain musical performances you always remember, and I can remember exactly what it felt like standing there next to her for the Berlioz. It was thrilling. You don’t forget that. Her artistry shines through on this recording." -Nicholas McGegan (PBO's Music Director)

“Hunt Lieberson’s sings with refreshing honesty and selfeffacement. The result is a level of musical truth that is rarely encountered.” -Opera News

“Nothing short of breathtaking." -San Francisco Chronicle

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.

"Heartbreakingly beautiful. Berlioz’s Sur les lagunes shows her voice at its most lustrous: a tragic tour de force. But the arias show her range best: consoling in Vieni, o figlio from Ottone; proud in La giustizia from Giulio Cesare; poised and noble in Ogni vento from Agrippina." -The Times

"The Handel arias...are glorious, exquisitely polished performances, every role inhabited comprehensively...But it is Berlioz's song cycle that is the real revelation...the astonishing velvety evenness of her singing in a number such as Sur les Lagunes, symbiotically entwined with the string textures around her, is worth the price of the disc alone." -The Guardian

"Her warm and maternal tone combine with her interpretative commitment and spontaneity to produce wonderful results...Hunt Lieberson's inimitable approach makes a wonderful thing, for instance, out of 'Vieni, o figlio' from Ottone, which is about as close to vocal heaven as it gets" -BBC Music Magazine

"[Her Theodora] is the most youthful and vulnerable-sounding on disc...Her voice glints and darts in the exultant bravura arias [from Ariodante], the coloratura always perfectly even...While never stinting on the impassioned climaxes, Hunt Lieberson shows an uncanny feel for the [Berlioz] cycle's mysterious half-lights...In sum a cherishable memento of a great artist who always sang, as a colleague once said, 'as if every performance were her last'." -Gramophone

All Music Guide - Stephen Eddins
Mezzo-soprano Lorraine Hunt Lieberson made relatively few studio recordings, but particularly since her death in 2006, more and more live recordings of recitals have been surfacing. This album draws on two live performances with the Boston-based Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra led by Nicholas McGegan, one from 1991 and one from 1995.

Hunt Lieberson had the kind of voice, musicianship, and presence that left critics groping for superlatives, but in his program notes for this recording, Stephen Wadsworth did a good job encapsulating her unique qualities, her "... music-making of thrilling passion yet absolute freedom... singing of shape-shifting colors and sounds which draw word and note, melody and harmony into a darkly tinged, heat-seeking truth.

The inclusion of Berlioz's Les Nuits d'été makes this release particularly valuable because the 19th century was a segment of the repertoire in which Hunt Lieberson was not frequently engaged. The warmth and focus of her interpretation make it clear that she would have as easily excelled in this repertoire, had she chosen it, as she did in music of the Baroque and Contemporary eras. Berlioz was a composer with whom she had a special affinity; two of her very few 19th century operatic roles were Dido in Les Troyens and Béatrice in Béatrice et Bénédict. Her voice is sensuous and richly colored, with a shimmering luminescence, and she brings her typically penetrating musical and psychological integrity to each of the songs in the cycle. "Villanelle" practically shivers with energy, and the melting loveliness of "Le Spectre de la rose" is intoxicating. Handel was the composer with whom Hunt Lieberson was most closely associated and these arias are evidence of her absolute mastery of his style and her uncanny ability to invest his characters with indelible individuality. In "L'angue offeso mai riposa," from Giulio Cesare, she conveys Sesto's swerving dangerously out of control with alarming fury and abandon. At the other end of the expressive spectrum is the aching tenderness she brings to "Vieni, o figlio, e mi consola," from Ottone.

The performances by Nicholas McGegan and Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra are world class in their nuanced subtlety and attention to period detail. The players use original instruments or reproductions, and the wind sound, particularly in the Berlioz, is revelatory; his music is normally played using modern instruments, but these are the wind sounds the composer would have known and written for. The audio fidelity is excellent for live recordings, immediate and life-like with a warm, finely detailed ambience. There is some stage and audience noise, but it's at a low level and rarely intrusive. In the Handel selections, tape bleed-through is occasionally evident in quieter passages, and some distant traffic noise is audible.

Notes & Reviews:

Recording information: First Congregational Church, Berkeley, CA (1991-10-19&1995-11-11_1995-).



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Works Details

>Berlioz, Hector : Les nuits d'été, Op. 7, song cycle
  • Performer: Lorraine Hunt Lieberson (Mezzo Soprano)
  • Conductor: Nicholas McGegan
  • Notes: First Congregational Church, Berkeley, CA (1991-10-19&1995-11-11_1995-)
  • Running Time: 30 min. 30 sec.
  • Period Time: Romantic
  • Form: Vocal
  • Written: 09/1841

>Handel, George Frideric : Giulio Cesare :: Figlio non è
  • Performer: Lorraine Hunt Lieberson (Mezzo Soprano)
  • Conductor: Nicholas McGegan
  • Notes: First Congregational Church, Berkeley, CA (1991-10-19&1995-11-11_1995-)
  • Period Time: Baroque
  • Form: Opera/Operetta
  • Written: 1724

>Handel, George Frideric : Giulio Cesare :: L'angue offeso mai riposa
  • Performer: Lorraine Hunt Lieberson (Mezzo Soprano)
  • Conductor: Nicholas McGegan
  • Notes: First Congregational Church, Berkeley, CA (1991-10-19&1995-11-11_1995-)
  • Running Time: 5 min. 46 sec.
  • Period Time: Baroque
  • Form: Opera/Operetta
  • Written: 1724

>Handel, George Frideric : Ottone :: Ben a raggion
  • Performer: Lorraine Hunt Lieberson (Mezzo Soprano)
  • Conductor: Nicholas McGegan
  • Notes: First Congregational Church, Berkeley, CA (1991-10-19&1995-11-11_1995-)
  • Running Time: 1 min. 7 sec.
  • Period Time: Baroque
  • Form: Opera/Operetta
  • Written: 1722

>Handel, George Frideric : Ottone :: Vieni, o figlio, e mi consola
  • Performer: Lorraine Hunt Lieberson (Mezzo Soprano)
  • Conductor: Nicholas McGegan
  • Notes: First Congregational Church, Berkeley, CA (1991-10-19&1995-11-11_1995-)
  • Running Time: 7 min. 9 sec.
  • Period Time: Baroque
  • Form: Opera/Operetta
  • Written: 1722

>Handel, George Frideric : Arianna :: Mirami altero in volto
  • Performer: Lorraine Hunt Lieberson (Mezzo Soprano)
  • Conductor: Nicholas McGegan
  • Notes: First Congregational Church, Berkeley, CA (1991-10-19&1995-11-11_1995-)
  • Running Time: 3 min. 55 sec.
  • Period Time: Baroque
  • Form: Opera/Operetta
  • Written: 1733

>Handel, George Frideric : Giulio Cesare :: La giustizia ha già sull'arco
  • Performer: Lorraine Hunt Lieberson (Mezzo Soprano)
  • Conductor: Nicholas McGegan
  • Notes: First Congregational Church, Berkeley, CA (1991-10-19&1995-11-11_1995-)
  • Running Time: 4 min. 32 sec.
  • Period Time: Baroque
  • Form: Opera/Operetta
  • Written: 1724

>Handel, George Frideric : Radamisto :: Ombra cara di mia sposa
  • Performer: Lorraine Hunt Lieberson (Mezzo Soprano)
  • Conductor: Nicholas McGegan
  • Notes: First Congregational Church, Berkeley, CA (1991-10-19&1995-11-11_1995-)
  • Running Time: 8 min. 59 sec.
  • Period Time: Baroque
  • Form: Opera/Operetta
  • Written: 1720

>Handel, George Frideric : Agrippina :: Ogni vento, ch'al porto lo spinga
  • Performer: Lorraine Hunt Lieberson (Mezzo Soprano)
  • Conductor: Nicholas McGegan
  • Notes: First Congregational Church, Berkeley, CA (1991-10-19&1995-11-11_1995-)
  • Running Time: 5 min. 18 sec.
  • Period Time: Baroque
  • Form: Opera/Operetta
  • Written: 1709

>Handel, George Frideric : Radamisto :: Qual nave smarrita
  • Performer: Lorraine Hunt Lieberson (Mezzo Soprano)
  • Conductor: Nicholas McGegan
  • Notes: First Congregational Church, Berkeley, CA (1991-10-19&1995-11-11_1995-)
  • Running Time: 3 min. 16 sec.
  • Period Time: Baroque
  • Form: Opera/Operetta
  • Written: 1720