Thomas Hampson just seems to refine his beautiful voice and intelligent musicality as the years pass. This fine album is no exception. He has elected to perform comic arias ('basso buffo' if you will) that most baritones save for their declining years when the glory of their voice is waning. But here is Hampson, his voice sounding ever more lush and rich throughout the register, adding his musical insights to this varied group of arias.
Though equally at home in all languages on the concert and operatic stage, Hampson's affinity for the German language reflects his living there for so many years. Two arias by Beethoven - `Mit Mädeln sich vertragen' and `Prüfung des Küssens' - are miniatures in style and vocal acting. In two arias (alternative versions) from 'Cosi Fan Tutte' he rolls his Italian sound with his consonants, making each version of the aria a prize. But for this listener the glory of the recital is the rarely heard 'Sei mir gegrüßt, O Sonne' from Schubert's 'Alfonso und Estrella' - ardently sung and vocally resplendent.
The important presence of Nikolaus Harnoncourt and the Concentus Musicus cannot be emphasized enough. This is period music playing at its finest. The balance between Hampson and Harnoncourt goes far beyond studio technicalities: these two fine artists understand their united mission and produce a unity of vision that defies comparison! Highly recommended. Grady Harp, October 05