More Monteverdi: The Week’s 8 Best Classical Music Moments on YouTube

More Monteverdi: The Week’s 8 Best Classical Music Moments on YouTube


Our critics and reporters offer a glimpse of what’s moved and delighted them on YouTube. Read the rest of our classical music coverage here.


AT 1 MINUTE 31 SECONDS

Love Betrayed

Monteverdi has been a welcome guest all around New York in recent weeks with celebrations of his 450th birthday in full swing, including a rare trio of the surviving operas with John Eliot Gardiner and his ensembles at Lincoln Center. Two concerts — by Juilliard415 and Opera Lafayette — presented the superb “Lamento Della Ninfa,” a maiden’s lament at the loss of her deceitful lover. Three male singers narrate and comment, with exquisite dissonances pointing up the sorrow; then a descending ostinato in the bass instruments lays down a carpet for the most touching soprano entry you could ever want to hear. Here Jolle Greenleaf feels the pain with her excellent group, Tenet. JAMES R. OESTREICH

Read our review of John Eliot Gardiner’s Monteverdi trilogy.

And our conversation with Mr. Gardiner.


AT 2 MINUTES 23 SECONDS

Gripping Grief

Appreciative audiences packed Alice Tully Hall for all three nights of John Eliot Gardiner’s magnificent survey of Monteverdi’s three surviving operas with his Monteverdi Choir and the English Baroque Soloists. It was hard not to wonder, though, about the Monteverdi operas lost to us, maybe seven or more. All we have of “Arianna,” for example, is the title character’s sublimely tragic lament. Here is the great Italian soprano Anna Caterina Antonacci in a gripping semi-staged performance of the lament from Amsterdam in 2007. I love the moment when this abandoned Arianna rises slowly to her feet to convey her grief directly to all who will listen. Imagine hearing the entire opera. ANTHONY TOMMASINI


AT 12 SECONDS

Lust Rewarded

“Orfeo” was groundbreaking, and “Il Ritorno d’Ulisse in Patria” suffused with warm humanity. But “L’Incoronazione di Poppea” is the surviving Monteverdi opera that’s most startlingly contemporary, that most dazzles and seduces. A tale of lust rewarded, of immorality triumphant, it closes with the sublime “Pur ti miro,” which here, sung by Rachel Yakar and Eric Tappy and directed by Jean-Pierre Ponnelle, is a love duet as much between a woman and her new crown (watch Ms. Yakar’s eyes flash in an orgasm of ambition) as between two lovers. ZACHARY WOOLFE


AT 1 MINUTE 5 SECONDS

Breathlessly Fast

Talk about truth in branding. The invaluable organization Young Concert Artists opened its New York season on Tuesday with a recital at Zankel Hall by Nathan Lee, a precocious pianist from the Seattle area who is just 16. With a fluid technique and good musical instincts, he gave lively, articulate accounts of works by Bach and Mozart, and showed a flair for jazz in a piece by the 20th-century Russian composer Nikolai Kapustin. Mr. Lee is still maturing, of course. He was more comfortable tossing off the virtuosic challenges of Grünfeld’s concert paraphrase of “Die Fledermaus” than exploring the depths of Chopin’s complex Sonata in B minor. Still, listen to his fearless performance of Ravel’s daunting “Alborada del gracioso” during a competition in 2016, when he was still 14. Check out those breathlessly fast repeated notes. ANTHONY TOMMASINI


AT 2 MINUTES 24 SECONDS

Bach Unadorned

The Iranian harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani, who appeared in New York earlier this year for an adventurous program that juxtaposed Steve Reich and Baroque classics, returned this week to play Bach’s “Goldberg” Variations at the Miller Theater. Mr. Esfahani is constantly making a case for the harpsichord, and his recent “Goldbergs” recording for Deutsche Grammophon is no exception. With surprising tempos and thoughtful phrasing, the album assertively justifies its place in a crowded field of piano versions. (The “Goldbergs,” for the record, were originally written for harpsichord.) Mr. Esfahani often distills the piece to its purest form, such as in the opening Aria: Gone is the French-inflected ornamentation, though he brings it back when the passages repeat. It’s jarring to hear for the first time, but Mr. Esfahani’s unpretentious approach has a kind of grandeur as it unfolds over the course of Bach’s 30 variations. JOSHUA BARONE


AT 1 HOUR 4 MINUTES 48 SECONDS

The Tension Breaks

Listeners who heard the Emerson String Quartet’s tautly sustained reading of Shostakovich’s funereal Quartet No. 15 in Lincoln Center’s White Light Festival on Tuesday may have found the work daringly modernist, with its seven conjoined movements all marked “adagio.” Daring and discomfiting it is, but Haydn did something similar in his “Seven Last Words of Christ,” which exists in quartet and oratorio versions as well as the orchestral original. But Haydn provides relief (if that is the word) at the end, unleashing the earthquake after Jesus’ death. Jordi Savall and Le Concert des Nations produced an elaborate video of a performance in 2009, for the 200th anniversary of Haydn’s death. Be warned: For full effect the ending requires the preceding hour of adagios. JAMES R. OESTREICH


AT 30 MINUTES 50 SECONDS

Timeless Wishful Thinking

At the Metropolitan Opera recently, Mozart’s reliably charming “The Magic Flute” had audience members laughing often — in particularly at the comic sidekick Papageno, sung by the Austrian baritone Markus Werba. In the opera’s opening scene, three women sent by the Queen of the Night seal his mouth with a padlock for telling self-aggrandizing lies. When they remove it later, the ladies sing a cautionary number, as if they were Willy Wonka’s Oompa Loompas. Their message: If only all liars got locks upon their mouths, then hate, slander and rancor would be replaced by love and brotherhood. The Met audience, perhaps worn down by a year or more of bitter “post-truth” politics, let out a long and knowing laugh. JOSHUA BARONE


AT 5 MINUTES 20 SECONDS

A Glimpse of the Cosmic

The duet “Je viens solliciter,” from Verdi’s masterpiece “Don Carlos,” always strikes me as perhaps the saddest in opera. Carlos and Élisabeth are betrothed when a peace treaty suddenly marries her to his father, the king of Spain. She could protest, but only at the expense of the masses suffering in the war her marriage would end, and she chooses civic duty over personal happiness. By this duet, Carlos has become her stepson; catching a rare private moment, they sing of regret, longing and impossible love. Here are Sonya Yoncheva and Jonas Kaufmann in a passionate yet controlled recent new production at the Paris Opera, directed by Krzysztof Warlikowski. In this moment, Élisabeth’s reserve drops as she admits that to have been able to be with Carlos would have been “paradise.” As he answers, the best orchestral renditions — Philippe Jordan’s here is excellent — give a glimpse of the cosmic, as if we’re seeing spread out before us the possible lives these two vexed people could have had together. ZACHARY WOOLFE

Read our review of the new “Don Carlos” production in Paris.



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