Classical Reissue Reviews

Lorraine Hunt Lieberson: A Tribute = Arias by HANDEL, PURCELL, BACH – Harmonia mundi (2 CDs)

Harmonia mundi’s offering to the Lieberson legacy.

Published on February 17, 2012

Lorraine Hunt Lieberson: A Tribute = Arias by HANDEL, PURCELL, BACH – Harmonia mundi (2 CDs)

Lorraine Hunt Lieberson: A Tribute = HANDEL: Arias from Theodora; Ariodante; Messiah; Clori, TIrsi, e Fileno; Susanna; Radamisto; Ottone; Giulio Cesare; Arianna; PURCELL: Thy Hand Belinda from Dido and Aeneas; BACH: Bist du bei mir, BWV 508 – Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, mezzo-soprano/ Philharmonia Baroque Orch./ Nicholas McGegan, harpsichord and dir. – Harmonia mundi 907471.72, 2:27:00 (2 CDs) ****:

This is the latest regurgitation of the formidable and fabled recorded legacy of Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, who died in 2006. There have been many albums released since then of previously-unheard recitals, and her catalog seems to be growing, each hearing bringing a new and fresh appreciation of a singer whom we are now realizing the artistic loss.

Lieberson was a marvelous dramatic actress, and the roles shown here, with few exceptions, demonstrate beyond a shadow of a doubt how effective she is. Especially noticeable is the role of Theodora, possibly the most important Handelian role she ever undertook, and a recording that is now a modern classic. But that is the highlight among highlights as her work in general on the Harmonia mundi label was never anything less than stellar. Oh there are some recordings here excerpted that have been topped since then in overall favorability, but there are none that have been topped in her roles—she is that good. This album, as the head note states, is the record company’s tribute to her, a generous selection of the best moments from a wide variety of her roles for Harmonia mundi.

Truthfully, for fans of the singer or the operas, there might be precious little here that is not already in one’s collection. If that is the case then this will be a superfluous acquisition. But for those who do not have these recordings, or only a few, or for those not yet acquainted with Lieberson’s artistry, this is a good a place to start as any, and just might lead to a lot of glorious discoveries

—Steven Ritter




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