Well, she is no longer with us - and that gives her recorded legacy both an added poignancy and value. She is, above all, a communicator - her passion for the music, combined with refined musicianship and consummate technique, come straight to the listener. Every word she sings is invested with such colour and meaning without being in the slightest bit 'arty'. She sings with a blazing conviction which goes straight to the gut.
If you buy this disk, not knowing her artistry - and of course you should as it is so far from the commonplace, anodyne food which is so often put out by the recording companies - then you will be led on a voyage of discovery. I am not such a great fan of opera on DVD but please do buy Theodora by Handel from Glyndebourne - to see her as well as hear her while she sings irene's arias is to pass beyond an awareness of singing and acting into a realm of being. An altogether superlative artist who is sorely missed.
There's not a lot to add to the other reviewer's thoughtful and accurate assessment except for some notes on sound and a comparison or two. Ms Lieberson gives us Handel, and Lucrezia et al. Unlike Fleming in her recent recital, she doesn't just give us the diva, but explores this wonderful music fully. I, too, was reminded of Janet Baker in Lucrezia, but to my ears Ms Lieberson is not only as intelligent and dramatic as Baker, she produces a lovelier sound. This must be the best recording Lucrezia has ever received (and special plaudits here to Bicket and co's wonderful accompaniment). As for the Theodora excerpts, not only are they soulful, they're characterful too. I'm not normally a big mezzo fan but Ms L. could change anyone's mind. Bravo. The disc was recorded in (pure) DSD and that helps set it apart from the other two Handel recitals on SACD, the Fleming and La Maga Abandonata). Both of those showed the limitations of even 24 bit PCM recordings in a tendency to saturate, - but Avie's recording is as spacious, noble and clean as Ms L's singing. M/C affects are both discreet and discrete: the sound is marvellous but never gimmicky. In short, this is a disc in a million, a real Rosette record. And at the price you can find it at on amazon, you'd be mad not to buy it. Get this disc now, - it will improve your life!!
The female voice is the most poignant weapon available to a composer, and it is used here with power, control, elegance, and delicacy. Lorraine Hunt Lieberson sang some of this music at Glyndebourne (Handel's opera Theodora, available on DVD-ASIN B00023BN4M) and it was, according to the reviewers, "one of the most vocally beautiful and dramatically committed characterizations imaginable." It is much, much more than that. It is an emotional ambush, and the music lover who does not weep on hearing this beautiful recording has no soul. Sometimes you get more than perfection, and this is one of those times. Lieberson is magnificent, but there are many heroes on this recording--Harry Bicket (conductor of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment-a wonderful, true name), still at the time of the recording a half-year away from his triumph at the Met, and the recording engineers. But perhaps most of all, second only to Lieberson, Phoebe Carrai and the celli of the Orchestra who cradle her voice in a mother's hands. I wasn't prepared for this experience, and the emotional impact was amazing. I had heard part of the recording ("Ombra mai fu") at a Christmas party full of musicians. Everyone hushed, even the children--it was that compelling. I knew this was going to be special, but at home, playing the whole CD for the first time, I heard "As with rosy steps..." from Theodora and was stunned. Of course Lorraine has a beautiful voice, but she also has breath control which allows her an interpretative freedom that simply sets her apart and above her contemporaries. The notes may be as fragile as dandelion seeds on the wind, but they alight where she wills them to, and with an intelligence, taste, and delicacy that is hard to believe. What we hear is years of effort spent developing the instrument and the interpretative insight that directs it. On the other hand, one of the true glories of this recording is the orchestral playing, directed by Bicket. The strings are ravishing, especially the celli. I have never heard playing like this; it is rich, glowing, elegant, and emotive. I have to say that, however beautifully Lorraine Hunt Lieberson sings, if it were not for the strings that surround and support her voice, this disk would not have been a leading Grammy candidate. But paired, the vocal and instrumental lines create something without parallel. This is one of "The Great Recordings."
Fifteen years ago this disc would probably have received a less extatic welcome. At that time we were still in thrall to the expressionless white tone of the Early Music specialists. To an extent we have moved away from this way of singing and listening to Bach and Handel through singers such as Ann Sophie von Otter. However, with Hunt Lieberson we are back, in the best sense, to the supra-expressiveness and wide range of tone colours of the likes of Janet Baker. Here we see the 'face' of the singer. Hunt Lieberson has been lauded for the spiritual aspect of her singing and in the Theodora items she pours out beautiful tone getting to the heart of this music expressing faith. 'As with rosy steps' becomes a benediction and she fines her tone down to a penetrating but tender thread. Throughout the disc she also makes the silences work dramatically rather than simply exist between the notes. It says much for the singer that the conductor of the disc, Harry Bicket, part financed the disc to ensure these performances were preserved. He and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment serve her and the music well. The other major item here is the early Italian cantata, 'La Lucretia' We and Hunt Lieberson know this through Janet Baker's first rate performance. However, the new performance finds different light and shades and again the singer inhabits rather than illustrates the character of Lucretia. A performance full of detail and flashes of temperament marvelously sung. Finally two arias from Serse; where even 'Ombra mai fu' comes up fresh and tender. A must have disc. Please, we need some more from this singer, now surely in the prime of her vocal and interperative powers. This is art that illuminates truth and experience.
This is a wonderful record of a treasurable artist, who died at the very height of her career. Her repertoire was a broad one, but few singers of recent times have shown themselves to be such accomplished and sensitive Handelians. Her singing is especially moving and, at times, extremely intense, but it is never at the expense of line or good taste. Irene's arias from "Theodora" are particularly beautiful and Lorraine Hunt Lieberson had, of course, enjoyed tremendous success in the role at Glyndebourne. Her performance is, I believe, available on DVD. The cantata "La Lucrezia" was written almost 40 years earlier and is more florid in approach; Hunt Lieberson dispatches Lucretia's frenzy and anguish with considerable aplomb. Almost by way of an encore, the disc ends with two well-known arias from "Serse," including that most famous song to a tree, known to most people, I suspect, as "Handel's Largo." The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment under Harry Bicket provide classy accompaniment. Buy this disc, but prepare to weep...
I saw her in Theodora (DVD).. What a marvelous, delicate mezzo voice.. This CD will delight all baroque lovers. She sings very inteligently and with deep emotion all this arias from Theodora and La Lucrezia.. with a special gift, "Ombra mai fu", one of the best versions I've heard. We have lost one of the best mezzo voices...
Some singers are good others are great but few are exceptional; the late Lorraine Hunt is in that last category and that CD give a good idea of what true great singing is. Yes I will recommend it to my friends
Lorraine Hunt Lieberson had a deeply expressive,beautiful mezzo voice, perfect in Handel e.g. Theodora ("As with rosy steps the morn" is exquisite), Bach and in most everything she sang. This CD conveys her musicality very well indeed, a fitting tribute to an artist whose early death at 52 was a great loss to the world of music and drama.