Between October 20 to November 2 New York City (along with Hudson a few hours north) will host a veritable festival of baroque vocal music. Among the most anticipated events will be rare performances of two of Handel’s English works, Israel in Egypt and L’Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato which Chris’s Cache previews with broadcasts led by René Jacobs and William Christie. L’Allegro was to have been conducted by John Eliot Gardiner whom CC acknowledges this week with one of his greatest achievements, Rameau’s Hippolyte et Aricie starring Rachel Yakar, John Aler, Jessye Norman and José van Dam.

Israel with arrive via the New York Philharmonic aided by conductor Jeannette Sorrell’s own Apollo’s Fire chorus from Cleveland, while Hudson’s Opera House presents Rodelinda in R.B. Schlather’s latest Handel production. Gardiner’s English Baroque Soloists and Monteverdi Choir offer Bach’s B-Minor Mass and L’Allegro at Carnegie Hall, but not before Juilliard 415 and the Yale Schola Cantorum perform L’Allegro six days earlier.

Scanning the Parterre calendar (which includes links for further details) also reveals a recital by Lea Desandre, guest appearances by Europe’s Vox Luminis and La Poème Harmonique. TenetNYC performs Purcell whose The Fairy Queen will welcome Les Arts Florissants back to Lincoln Center on November 2nd.

I can’t recall the last time L’Allegro was preformed locally in concert form; over the past thirty-plus years it has accompanied Mark Morris’s glorious dance numerous times at both the Brooklyn Academy of Music and Lincoln Center. Before the Salzburg Pfingsten Festival became the domain of a single artist, first Riccardo Muti, now Cecilia Bartoli, it was “just” a deluxe baroque festival which I visited in 2005 to catch Christie and LAF performing L’Allegro (with today’s cast), along with Solomon led by Ivor Bolton and Marc Minkowski’s lush version of Acis and Galatea.

I had to schlep to SUNY Purchase in 1996 to hear LAF’s Acis and Galatea but it was worth the trip with Sophie Daneman and Paul Agnew radiant as the doomed couple. Jacobs has rarely conducted in the US, but on one of his rare visits he led Solomon at Alice Tully Hall with a very green David Hansen in the title role.

The first time I encountered Gardiner live was in 1989 when the EBS and MC presented Israel in Egypt at Avery Fisher Hall. It has long been one of their signature pieces. and it is scheduled to be performed by them once again in England later this year as part of the now-tainted Gardiner’s year-long 80th birthday commemorations. I first heard both Israel and L’Allegro via Gardiner’s Erato recordings which now form part of the magnificent 63-CD box released earlier this year.

Gardiner has often toured to New York where his Leonore, Missa Solemnis, Scenzen aus Goethes Faust, Die Schopfung, Die Jahreszeiten and assorted Beethoven and Berlioz concerts have been among the most memorable that I’ve attended here. The afternoon I spent at the Châtelet watching Troyens was unforgettable.

Unfortunately, the recent assault by Gardiner on bass William Thomas has brought to light the conductor’s long-rumored bad behavior. As a result, the conductor has dropped out of his engagements for the remainder of 2023. I’m saddened that his name will now be inextricably linked to his act of violence.

But his early connection to Rameau will remain the one that means the most to me. I have previously offered La Danse (a ravishing single entrée from Les Fêtes d’Hébé) and Les Boréades (whose world stage premiere he conducted in 1982).

The legendary Aix-en-Provence Hippolyte was telecast and can be found in a blurry copy chopped into bits on YouTube, but I’m offering the amazing radio broadcast today for easy uninterrupted listening. Though the towering portrayals by Norman and van Dam dominate the performance, it can also serve as a vivid reminder of the fine artistry of Yakar and Aler who died this past June and December, respectively.

Handel: L’ Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato

Sophie Daneman
Tristan Hambleton
Paul Agnew
Andrew Foster-Williams

Les Arts Florissants
Conductor: William Christie

Theatre des Champs Elysees, Paris
30 April 2005

Handel: Israel in Egypt

Robin Johannsen
Emmanuelle de Negri
Alberto Miguélez Rouco
Jeremy Ovenden
Neal Davies
Yannick Debus

Zürcher Sing-Akademie
Freiburger Barockorchester
Conductor: René Jacobs

18 June 2022

Rameau: Hippolyte et Aricie

Aricie: Rachel Yakar
Phedre: Jessye Norman
Diane: Jennifer Smith
Oenone: Enid Hartle
Grande-Pretresse: Nancy Argenta
Pretresse: Edwige Bourdy
L’Amour: Elisabeth Priday
Chasseuresse: Nancy Argenta
Hippolyte: John Aler
Thesee: Jose van Dam
Pluton: Jules Bastin
Tisyphone: Jean-Claude Orliac
Jupiter: Jules Bastin
Mercure: Leonard Pezzino
Parques: Ashley Stafford, Leonard Pezzino & Gilles Cachemaille
Suivant de l’Amour: Jean-Claude Orliac

English Baroque Soloists
Monteverdi Choir

Conductor – John Eliot Gardiner

Aix-en-Provence Festival
27 July 1983

Each of today’s performances can be downloaded by clicking on the icon of a cloud with an arrow pointing downward on the audio player above and the resulting mp3 file will appear in your download directory.

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Photos: Orchestre Revolutionnaire Et Romantique, Bertrand Pichène, Karsten Moran for the NYT, Mark Allan