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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Their Artistry Is Their Legacy, 7 Sept. 2008
Thomas H. Moody "Music Enthusiast" (Nobleboro, ME United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Lorraine at Emmanuel: Bach Cantatas / Handel Arias (Audio CD)
As a Boston resident from 1985-1994, I attended numerous Emmanuel Music events ranging from the Sellars production of Handel's "Giulio Cesare" (brought to Boston by Sarah Caldwell & the Opera Company of Boston) to several of the weekly Bach Cantatas that they performed Sundays at the Emmanuel Church services. I even returned to Boston once to specifically hear the ensemble's performance of Handel's "Solomon."

Emmanuel Music, under the directorship of its founder Craig Smith, never made much of a misstep in any of its performances. Undoubtedly the people who played and sang for Smith did so out of a love for the ensemble and a high respect, admiration of and love for him. The performances were outstanding because the performers were driven to perform for the experience and the musical involvement Smith provided them with, not for great sums of money.

Craig Smith was not a flashy showman kind of conductor (in fact he was quite the opposite) and one always suspected that he might be a bit eccentric in an endearing sort of way. However, what he was was a musician/conductor searching for truth in music and in character. And it's in that regard that he singularly stood out - not just in Boston, but also internationally. He always paid great attention to the finest of details in the music he conducted and he knew how to get refined, genuine and transcendent performances from those working with him. He was, in some regards, one of the musical world's best kept secrets.

I first heard Lorraine Hunt (later Lorraine Hunt Lieberson) in her phenomenal performance of Sesto in the Sellars' "Giulio Cesare" in Boston. I heard her on several other occasions as well, including a commanding performance of Cleopatra in Handel's oratorio "Alexander Balus" with Emmanuel Music under Smith's direction.

It could be argued that no one knew how to conduct Hunt Lieberson better than Smith. Likewise it could be said that Hunt Lieberson excelled in her singing for Smith, who had played such a crucial role in the rise of her vocal career, because they were musically on "the same page." She had evolved out of Smith's brand of musicality while individually searching for and finding command of her own voice and interpretative skills.

This recording is taken from the archives of Emmanuel Music (I wonder what else they have sitting around waiting for the world to hear) and is a tribute to both Smith and Hunt Lieberson. As expected from both of these artists, the performances here are more than "lovely", "pretty" or "splendid". What they are is music at its elemental truth - a representation of the finest of these two artists. These performances take the listener to the place in music where truth and art are whispered to them - not shouted. Here, both musicians understand that less is more when one knows how to strip away the gimmicks that music sometimes has thrust on it by conductors and/or performers.

The orchestra has a bit of a hollow sound to it, but the sound is quite true to what the performances at the Emmanuel Church sanctuary sounded like. Emmanuel's main sanctuary is quite large and Smith generally had a very small orchestra.If one likes recorded performances miked close, then the orchestral sound may be a bit of a disappointment. However, don't think that the "hollow" sound detracts any from the detail or articulation of the performances. Furthermore, these are live performances that were probably never intended to be internationally released. (But maybe any other recorded performances should be. The "Alexander Balus"?)

For those of us who heard Emmanuel Music so often, the recording is bittersweet. Somehow one thought Craig Smith and the ensemble would go on forever. It was simply expected. The same can be said for Hunt Lieberson. Who thought such a glorious voice would ever be silenced. But they both have passed on now. However Emmanuel Music still thrives - and I expect will continue to do so even though it may have to mourn for awhile. But I have no doubt that they will prosper because of Smith's dedication and love of them and because of their dedication and love of him.

If you have ever wondered what all the fuss was about regarding Emmanuel Music, Lorraine Hunt Lieberson or Craig Smith, this recording should stop that wondering. One rarely hears such refined and soulful performances. The Bach is sublime and Dejanira's arias from "Hercules" are, to this listener, without peer in their execution, depth, and character. The "Mad Scene" is stunning! This release will likely make many "best of " lists for 2008.

Although I never met or knew any of the members of Emmanuel Music, I will forever remember and treasure their gifts to me.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a singer to cherish, 18 Jun. 2008
This review is from: Lorraine at Emmanuel: Bach Cantatas / Handel Arias (Audio CD)
as with her bach (ASIN: B0000AOVTI) and handel (ASIN: B00022LZW8) recitals, the late (and very much lamented) lorraine hunt lieberson reaches heights in interpretation here that go beyond singing, one can really speak of identification. captured in live recordings of items she has not recorded elsewhere (two bach arias and most of the role of dejanira from handels hercules), this is singing that not only moves the heart but captures the soul of the music. perfectly partnered by the orchestra of emmanuel music (where she started off as a viola player!), it is an experience profoundly moving. one can only hope that there will be more live recordings to emerge in the coming years, as sadly mrs hunt lieberson passed away two years ago and this cd only shows us once again what a wealth of talent the world has lost...
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Much beloved artist, who truly gave herself at her best, 18 Jun. 2008
This review is from: Lorraine at Emmanuel: Bach Cantatas / Handel Arias (Audio CD)
I think very few people with such a low profile approach in the operatic world held and still holds the iconic status that Lorraine achieved.
She did possess one of the most gorgeous voices of all time but she also had the qualities of the greatest singers: bear perfect technique and a fiery passion for everything she sang, but she would limit herself to pu that the service of the composer and the music.
She is a much missed artist and a beloved human being!

Thanks Lorraine, thanks a lot!
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Lorraine at Emmanuel: Bach Cantatas / Handel Arias
Lorraine at Emmanuel: Bach Cantatas / Handel Arias by Lorraine Hunt Lieberson (Audio CD - 2008)
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