Philippe Jaroussky, with more than a little help from Danielle
de Niese, William Christie and others, recently convinced me
that Monteverdi’s L’Incoronazione di Poppea
is not the also-ran to L’Orfeo and Il Ritorno
d’Ulisse that I’d always considered it (Virgin
Classics DVD 0709519: Recording of the Month - review).
Consequently I had high hopes of this recording, especially
as there are three items from that opera here, sung this time
not with de Niese but with Nura Rial, L’Arpeggiata and
Christina Pluhar (tracks 11, 12) and Marie-Nicole Lemieux and
Ensemble Artaserse (tr.30).
I was certainly not disappointed; this surely is for me, as
the French title puts it, a dream recital. Jaroussky enjoys
everything that he does - even in concert he’s performing
as well as singing - and everyone involved clearly enjoys working
Some of the items here have already appeared on CD; from a a
two-disc set entitled Une Fête Baroque which I
reviewed some time ago come Venti turbini from Handel’s
Rinaldo (tr.4), the duet with Anne Sofie von Otter as
Cornelia and Jaroussky as Sesto, Son nata a lagrimar
(tr.5), and the Purcell duet Come ye sons of Art (tr.6).
Just to confuse the issue, the new 2-CD set mentioned below
includes a different, new version of Venti turbini. I
thought Une Fête Baroque an ideal place to start
to appreciate the music of that period - review
- and the performances included here are all the more recommendable
for being able to see them.
More seriously, the DVD/blu-ray hit the shops at the same time
as an inexpensive 2-CD set, Philippe Jaroussky: the Voice
(Virgin 6026602) where most of the items are duplicated, albeit
recorded at different times, mostly in the studio and with different
ensembles. For reasons which I’ve set out below, I recommend
the DVD or blu-ray in preference to the CDs and the blu-ray
in preference to the DVD. In addition to those considerations,
only six tracks of the 32 on the 2-CD set are new to that format.
I should add, however, that Philippe Jaroussky’s very
light counter-tenor - almost more soprano in timbre than alto
- is not to all tastes. It’s worth persevering to acquire
it but if it just isn’t for you, then this will be the
programme not of your dreams but of your nightmares. I think
that will be a decidedly minority response, mainly from those
who have trouble relating to the counter-tenor voice at all.
Such listeners could try some of Jaroussky’s CD recordings
from Naxos Music Library or Spotify.
Not only Nura Rial but all the distinguished partners with whom
Jaroussky joins in duet in some of the items give of their best.
I was a little disappointed with Pascal Bertin’s performance
as the second counter-tenor in Purcell’s Sound the
trumpet (tr.6); what would normally have been a very adequate
contribution is somewhat drowned by Jaroussky’s greater
force. He’s out-sung by Marie-Nicole Lemieux in Nel
profondo cieco mondo, but that’s intended as part
of the fun.
A strange consequence of the lightness of the timbre of Jaroussky’s
voice is that when singing with a soprano he sometimes appears
to be singing in a higher register than his partner.
As on the new 2-CD set and as a demonstration of Jaroussky’s
versatility, not all of the music here is from the baroque era.
Latin American features, for example: there’s a fun item
in the form of the title track from the recent Virgin Classics
CD Los Pájaros perdidos - review
- and a ‘cadenza’ to the performance of Sound
the trumpet when you might be forgiven for thinking that
Edmundo Ros had invaded the stage. It’s a shame that we
couldn’t have the Pie Jesu from Fauré’s
Requiem which he sings so beautifully on the 2-CD set,
but there’s a compensatory bonus in that the Shostakovich
on track 29 reminds us that he’s also an extremely accomplished
With that 2-CD set released at the same time, containing Jaroussky
performances of some of the same repertoire, what is to be gained
by having the blu-ray? Well, for starters, there’s very
little difference in price between the two and if you have a
good blu-ray player linked not just to your television but to
an audio set-up - see below for a recommendation - the sound
quality of blu ray exceeds that of a CD.
If you’d like to educate yourself in different styles
of conducting (or not conducting) and the various and varied
instruments employed by different ensembles - all manner of
sizes of lutes, archlutes, chitarrone, theorbos, baroque guitars
in the continuo; single strings as against multiple strings
- this would be a good place to start.
The blu-ray picture is stunningly clear. I haven’t seen
the DVD equivalent but, as I see that most dealers are charging
only a little extra for the blu-ray, I’d go for that if
you can. If you haven’t yet launched into blu-ray and
you have a suitable wide-screen television with HDMI inputs,
there are some good and unbelievably inexpensive players on
the market now; if your budget will run to it, however, I’d
recommend spending a little extra on the Cambridge Audio 651BD
for £500 from Richer Sounds; it also handles SACD, CD,
DVD and mp3 discs superbly well. Played via its predecessor,
the 650BD which is linked to my audio set-up, the sound is every
bit as excellent as the picture quality. Even played through
the television, the sound is good, allowing for the different
acoustic properties of the various venues. There’s absolutely
no unwanted picture ‘noise’ from the candelabra
in the Versailles recording.
One disadvantage of the clarity of picture is that the camera
dwells in too much detail on individual performers in some of
the programmes - I really don’t want to see them warts,
wrinkles and all, nor do I want to have the screen split in
three or to see multiple reflections of the performers. In fact,
there is as much variety of camera-work between the various
concerts as there is of baroque instruments, with some of them
filmed in a much more conservative manner.
The booklet is barely adequate, with no information about any
of the music, not even the first names of the composers. I’d
have loved to know more, for example, about Barbara Strozzi’s
secular cantata Eraclito amoroso and whether the Heraclitus
in question is, as I take it, the Greek philosopher who maintained
the principle of constant change (panta rhei). I assume
that it is, since he laments the change (la cagione)
that has overtaken him through falling in love. I can, however,
point you to a free online score - here.
The on-screen information varies in quality from venue to venue;
in some cases we are told which castrato originally performed
the role, but not in others.
For all my reservations about the printed presentation and despite
the availability of a very similar Jaroussky programme on a
slightly less expensive 2-CD set, you should find this blu-ray
release both instructive and enjoyable. If you decide also to
buy the CDs your satisfaction should be even greater; at the
prices currently being advertised by some dealers online you
should be able to have both and still have change from £30
- that’s over five hours of music for less in real values
than we used to pay for one full-price LP in the 1960s.
Track listing and other information:
Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741) Giustino: Vedrò
con mio diletto [4:57]
Antonio VIVALDI Orlando finto pazzo : Se in ogni guardo
Antonio VIVALDI Orlando furioso : Sol da te [8:28]
George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759) Rinaldo
: Venti, turbine [3:46]
George Frideric HANDEL Giulio Cesare in Egitto : Son
nata a lagrimar [8:04]
Henry PURCELL (1659-1695) Come, ye Sons of
Art : Sound the trumpet [4:59]
George Frideric HANDEL Alcina : Mi lusinga il dolca
Antonio VIVALDI Ercole sul Termodonte : Sento con
qual diletto [4:10]
George Frideric HANDEL Alcina : Verdi prati [4:36]
George Frideric HANDEL Ariodante : Scherza, infida
Claudio MONTEVERDI (1567-1643) L’incoronazione
di Poppea : Pur ti miro [4:20]
Claudio MONTEVERDI L’incoronazione di Poppea
: Adagiati, Poppea [2:48]
Barbara STROZZI (1619-1677) L’Eraclito
Antonio VIVALDI Orlando furioso : Nel profondo cieco
Antonio VIVALDI Nisi dominus : Cum dederit dilectis
suis somnum [4:29]
George Frideric HANDEL Aminta e Fillide : Se vago
George Frideric HANDEL Rodelinda : Io t’abbraccio
Nicola PORPORA (1686-1768) Polifemo : Alto
Antonio CALDARA (1670-1736) L’Olimpiade
: Lo seguitai felice [4:06]
Luigi ROSSI (c.1597-1653) L’Orfeo : Lasciate
Anonymous Ciaccona di Paradiso e dell’Inferno
Claudio MONTEVERDI Ohimè ch’io cado
Mario TREJO (1926-2012)/ Astor PIAZOLLA
(1921-1992) Los pájaros perdidos [3:49]
Reynaldo HAHN (1875-1947) À Chloris
Guillauime LEKEU (1870-1894) Sur une tombe
Solomon LINDA/Henri SALVADOR (1917-2008) Le
lion est mort ce soir [4:01]
George Frideric HANDEL Rinaldo : Lascia ch’io
Jules MASSENET (1842-1912) Élégie
Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975) (arr Levon
ATOVMYAN) Prelude for two violins and piano* [2:41]
Claudio MONTEVERDI L’incoronazione di Poppea
: Sento un certo non so che [5:24]
Francesco CAVALLI (1602-1676) Erismena : Uscitemi
dal cor, lacrime amare [5:34]
Barbara STROZZI Sul Rodano severo [3:52]
Giovanni Felice SANCES (1600-1679) Cantata
a due sopra la ciacconna : Lagrimosa beltà [4:05]
Bonus: Philippe Jaroussky and his friends comment on the programme
Philippe Jaroussky (counter-tenor and *violin)
Ensemble Matheus/Jean Christophe Spinosi - rec. Lyons, 2 February
Anne Sofie von Otter (soprano); Pascal Bertin (counter-tenor);
Le Concert d’Astrée/Emanuelle Haïm - rec.
Paris, 19 December 2011.
Ensemble Artaserse - rec. Versailles, 16 June 2009.
Nura Rial (soprano); L’Arpeggiata/Christina Pluhar - rec.
Metz, 7 October 2009.
Marie-Nicole Lemieux (soprano); Ensemble Matheus/Jean-Christophe
Spinosi - rec. Paris, 4 June 2007.
Ensemble la Fenice/Jean Tubéry - rec. Lyon, 10 November
Nuria Rial (soprano); Ensemble Artaserse - rec. Rueil-Malmaison,
28 February 2008.
Concerto Köln - rec. Munich, 24 November 2010.
L’Arpeggiata/Christina Pluhar - rec. Ambronay, 18 September
2008 and Paris, 31 January 2012.
Jérôme Ducros (piano) - rec. Verbier, 27 July,
Quatuor Ebène - rec. Paris, 17 December 2010.
Gautier Capuçon (violin), Jérôme Ducros
(piano) - rec. Paris, 17 December 2010
Marie-Nicole Lemieux (soprano); Ensemble Artaserse - rec. Baden-Baden,
24 June 2012.