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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 21 February 2013
Nikolaus Harnoncourt is fondly known by some fellow reviewers as "The Wild Man of Borneo" - and not without reason given the excesses of some of his more experimental assaults upon core repertoire. However, we have a good deal to thank him for, not least his pivotal role in restoring the three great operas of Monteverdi both to the performing and recording canon, and also to something resembling the composer's original intentions.

My recent and rewarding re-acquaintance with his "L'incoronazione di Poppea" Monteverdi: Lincoronazione Di Poppea prompted me to return to this seminal recording made as long ago as 1968. It is a remarkable achievement and apart from the obvious anachronism of casting a tenor as Orfeo for the sake of dramatic verisimilitude, seems wholly steeped in the requisite ambience and spirit of the age.

The most noticeable thing about this recording is how sensitively and beautifully the work is sung and played by an array of gifted performers. There is a gentle pathos about the whole performance wholly in sympathy with the ambiguous mood of the opera and its avoidance of a wholly tragic conclusion whereby Euridice is not restored to Orfeo but he is transported by Apollo up to Parnassus. The collective timbre of the woodwind - a dulcian, a recorder and two cornetts - and the brass - period trombones and natural trumpets - is captivating and the result of extraordinary facility on the part of the Concentus Musicus Wien musicians, who were presumably still grappling with the conventions and technical challenges of period instruments.

The cast of singers features some famous names such as Nigel Rogers, Kurt Equiluz, Max von Egmond and Cathy Berberian who were early music specialists but I was especially struck by the purity and musicality of the lesser-known soprano Rotraud Hansmann as both La Musica and Euridice. Hungarian tenor Lajos Kozma had an elegant, plaintive voice which contrasts well with Rogers' grainier tone or Equiluz's tougher sound. Vocal embellishments and ornamentation are limited, restrained and tasteful: the occasional "shake" and grace note or acciaccatura but nothing which draws attention to itself.

All three of Harnoncourt's Monteverdi opera recordings have stood the test of time and are also available in a bargain box set. The third is "Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria".
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on 5 February 2015
Superb!
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on 14 December 2012
Purchased this item as a Xmas gift. It arrived with no cellophane wrapping again. Not the first time.The album was a twin CD, but it arrived with only one Cd in Cd case. I am sick of returning Cd and complaining about Cd's like this. I will not be buying any more.
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