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Voices on and off stage

Nicholas Kenyon tells the story of classical music's authentic revolution, today focusing on the voice.

Nicholas Kenyon tells the story of classical music’s authentic revolution.

Fifty years ago a revolution began in classical music. Back then, there was little doubt how to play a Mozart symphony or a Bach passion – it meant big symphonic forces, heavy textures, slow speeds and modern instruments. But then along came period performance: a new generation of musicians researched and revived period instruments, performance styles and forgotten composers. With lighter forces, faster speeds and new tools, they declared war on the interventionist musical culture of the mid-19th century. To start with, they were largely dismissed as eccentrics - Neville Marriner called them "the open-toed-sandals and brown-bread set” – and academics unable to play in tune. But throughout the 1970s and 80s they multiplied and gathered force. Along with the advent of the CD, their newfound repertory and fascinating new-old sound gave a boost to the classical recording industry. They overturned the way classical music was listened to and performed, making household names of musicians whose scholarly credentials became almost as important as their performing flair.

Nicholas Kenyon tells the story of that revolution, from the earliest pioneers to the global superstars of today. Across the series, he’ll uncover the musical detective-work which went on in universities and rehearsal rooms, reliving the incredible vitality of the times through landmark recordings which took the musical world by storm.

Today’s episode is all about the voice. How did the pioneers of authentic classical repertory create a vocal sound that was just right?

Handel: Ariodante - Dopo notte
Dame Janet Baker, mezzo-soprano
English Chamber Orchestra
Raymond Leppard, conductor

Monteverdi: Orfeo - Possente spirto
Nigel Rogers, tenor (Orfeo)
London Baroque, The London Cornett & Sackbut Ensemble
Charles Medlam & Theresa Caudle - directors

Handel: Messiah - But who may abide
Emma Kirkby, soprano
The Academy of Ancient Music
Christopher Hogwood, conductor

Charpentier: Le Reniement de saint Pierre
Les Arts Florissants
William Christie, conductor

Càrceres: Villancet: Soleta So Jo Ací
Monteserrat Figueras, soprano
Hesperion XX

Leonel Power: Sanctus
Gothic Voices
Christopher Page, director

Gibbons: Hosanna to the Son of David
Stile Antico

Vivaldi: Griselda - Dopo un' orrida procella
Cecilia Bartoli, mezzo soprano
Il Giardino Armonico
Giovanni Antonini

Haydn: The Creation - end of part 2 - Achieved is the glorious work
Gabrieli Consort and Players
Paul McCreesh, conductor

Mozart: Le nozze di Figaro, K492 - Act 4 end
Arleen Augér, soprano (Contessa Almaviva)
Barbara Bonney, soprano (Susanna)
Petteri Salomaa, bass-baritone (Figaro)
Håkan Hagegård, baritone (Conte Almaviva)
The Drottningholm Court Theatre Orchestra
The Drottningholm Court Theatre Chorus
Arnold Östman, conductor

Produced in Cardiff by Amy Wheel

19 days left to listen

59 minutes

Music Played

  • George Frideric Handel

    Ariodante - Dopo notte

    Singer: Janet Baker. Orchestra: English Chamber Orchestra. Conductor: Raymond Leppard.
    • PHILIPS : 426 450-2.
    • PHILIPS.
    • 17.
  • Claudio Monteverdi

    Orfeo - Possente spirto

    Singer: Nigel Rogers. Orchestra: London Baroque. Director: Charles Medlam. Director: Theresa Caudle. Ensemble: London Cornett and Sackbut Ensemble.
    • VIRGIN CLASSICS : 4820702.
    • 6.
  • George Frideric Handel

    Messiah - But who may abide

    Singer: Emma Kirkby. Orchestra: Academy of Ancient Music. Conductor: Christopher Hogwood.
    • L'OISEAU-LYRE : 430 4882.
    • 4.
  • Marc‐Antoine Charpentier

    Le Reniement de saint Pierre

    Performer: Les Arts Florissants. Director: William Christie.
    • HARMONIA MUNDI : HMC-905151.
    • 1.
  • Bartomeu Càrceres

    Villancet: Soleta So Jo Ací

    Singer: Montserrat Figueras. Orchestra: Hespèrion XXI. Director: Jordi Savall.
    • ALIA VOX.
  • Leonel Power


    Ensemble: Gothic Voices. Director: Christopher Page.
    • HYPERION : CDS-44252.
    • 8.
  • Orlando Gibbons

    Hosanna to the Son of David

    Choir: Stile Antico.
    • HARMONIA MUNDI : HMU-807555.
    • 2.
  • Antonio Vivaldi

    Griselda - Dopo un' orrida procella

    Singer: Cecilia Bartoli. Orchestra: Il Giardino Armonico. Conductor: Giovanni Antonini.
    • Decca 4783388.
    • DECCA.
    • 2.
  • Joseph Haydn

    The Creation - end of part 2 - Achieved is the glorious work

    Ensemble: Gabrieli Consort. Ensemble: Gabrieli Players. Director: Paul McCreesh.
    • ARCHIV : 477-7361.
    • ARCHIV.
    • 26.
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

    Le nozze di Figaro, K492 - Act 4 end

    Singer: Arleen Augér. Orchestra: Drottningholm Court Theatre Orchestra. Conductor: Arnold Östman. Singer: Barbara Bonney. Singer: Petteri Salomaa. Singer: Håkan Hagegård. Choir: Drottningholm Court Theatre Chorus.
    • L'OISEAU-LYRE : 421-335-2.
    • 11.