Daniel Behle / George Petrou

Gluck: Opera Arias

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Christoph Willibald Gluck has a place in the history books for a few big hits and for the idea of reforming the ornate style of opera seria -- serious opera -- in the 18th century, replacing it with a more natural ideal of melody. This reputation has rested on a very few pieces, and both bibliographic control and recorded explorations of Gluck's music are perhaps more sparse than for any other major composer. Accordingly, the major label Decca deserves commendation for this collection of Gluck arias, four of which receive their world premieres here. The album is roughly divided between the sort of pastoral melody exemplified by Gluck hits like the "Dance of the Blessed Spirits" from Orfeo ed Euridice and earlier works of a more vocally taxing nature. Behle may be a bit stronger in the latter: hear the fearless leap up to high B flat and the very delicate descent from the cliff in the aria "Io veggo in lontananza" from the opera Semiramide riconosciuta (track 2). But he is nowhere subpar, and he's very ably backed by the historical-instrument group Armonia Atenea under George Petrou. The overall effect is to give a much fuller picture of this composer than has been available previously, and the only complaint is hollow sound from an oversized Athenian concert hall.

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