Classical home listening: young composers and Handel’s power women

Despite the no-choral-singing strictures of lockdown, il National Youth Choir of Great Britain has inspired nine striking new pieces by their four rising-star composers, featured onthe NYCGB’s Young Composers 3 (NMC), director Ben Parry. In the sensuous, whispering Softly, the Welsh composer Derri Joseph Lewis explores the uneasy experience of coming out as LGBTQ+. Kristina Arakelyan has set Wordsworth’s I Wandered Lonely As a Cloud, the choral textures rich and glowing. Anna Disley-Simpson has made atmospheric settings of Sara Teasdale’s February Twilight and a poem by Rudyard Kipling. Per Alex Ho, British Chinese and based in London, the racial harassment faced by the UK’s south-east and east Asian communities has prompted Hush, spiky, menacing and poetic.

“My ghost will haunt the tyrant”, blasts the mighty Cleopatra, exploding with anger and grief in Piangerò la sorte mia, one of her spectacular arias in Giulio Cesare in Egitto. It’s one of the many highlights in Commercio: Enchantresses (Alpha Classics), the fourth joint venture between the crystalline-voiced French soprano Sandrine Piau and Jérôme Correas, director and harpsichordist, and his baroque group Les Paladins. Handel’s “enchantresses” include queens as well as sirens and sorceresses: Melissa (Amadigi), Almirena (Rinaldo), Alcina and Morgana (Alcina) are all here, their vocal fireworks and heartfelt outpourings interspersed with movements from Handel’s Concerto Grosso in G minor, Op 6 No 6, and the A minor, Op 6 No 4.

The crown for aria of unmatched genius – each is a contender – goes to Alcina’s Ah! mio cor! With its sobbing inner parts, bass line sinking and throbbing, voice making leaps of anguish, this emotional marathon (quasi 12 minuti) is a turning point in the opera. The sorceress of the title at last learns what it is to feel love. Sizzling performances from all.

Il Royal Opera House is offering streams of Gounod’s Faust (a partire dal 2019), starring Michael Fabiano, Erwin Schrott and Irina Lungu (£10 until 13 febbraio), and Verdi’s Nabucco (current production; £16 until 19 febbraio) starring Liudmyla Monastyrska. Don’t miss.

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