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Michael Carter
Fanfare, August 2008

. . .Cimarosa's music has an immediate appeal, and this is—to a great degree—because of its sparkle, not to mention its unfailing Italianate lyricism. ...Regardless of the schematic or character of the overture, Cimarosa's music never fails when it comes to capturing and holding the attention of the listener. Cimarosa knew the orchestra and its instruments, and this is apparent throughout the run of this CD.

A similar disc, but with different contents and spotlighting Alessandro Amoretti and the Nicolaus Esterhazy Sinfonia, was released on Marco Polo, later deleted and reissued as Naxos 8.570508. This disc from December of last year with Kevin Mallon and his Toronto compatriots is the second in the projected cycle, and holds rewarding interpretations that summon respect for the composer as well as admiration for the performers. With Mallon in charge, the music exudes a freshness that is a welcome surprise and that further commends these poised and erudite readings. Vigor, affection, and commitment abound here, and the music-lover unfamiliar with Cimarosa's music should take the first opportunity to pounce on this release!

Paul Serotsky
MusicWeb International, March 2008

"The Toronto CO under Kevin Mallon play with oodles of flair and refinement. The TCO is something of a hybrid, playing on modern instruments but otherwise adopting authentic performance practice – and thus proving, to me at least, that the 'authentic sound' is if anything more due to how you play the instruments than to what instruments you use. If the sound of a 'period band' – with its zero-rated vibrato and tendency of held notes to 'bulge' a bit – is anathema to you, then steer well clear. Everyone else can join me in applauding all the alert articulation, keen textures, lithe rhythms and immaculate phrasing that are part and parcel of the best period performances." [...]

"The recording is almost uniformly excellent....Admirably recorded in an ambience to die for, these are spirited performances."

Giv Cornfield
The New Recordings, Cliffs Classics, February 2008

With each of these overtures, my admiration for Cimarosa grows. Although his fame rests on 'classics' like Il Matrimonio Segreto,he had composed over 65 operas and a huge body of other works, notable for lively orchestration, crisp tempi and melodic invention - all brought to the fore by Kevin Mallon and his Toronto Chamber Orchestra, without doubt one of the finest chamber ensembles before the public today. The audio quality, too, is of demonstration calibre.

Bob McQuiston
Classical Lost and Found, January 2008

This is another fun one from Naxos featuring more openers from the operas of Domenico Cimarosa (1749-1801). He was the most famous and popular Italian opera composer during the latter half of the eighteenth century, and wrote over sixty-five stage works, nine of which are represented here. They adhere to the Italian overture, fast-slow-fast principle, and are delightfully melodic, highly inventive rousers which Classical period enthusiasts will find most appealing! Don't be surprised if you hear commonalities between them, because Cimarosa had no compunctions about borrowing from his own works when a deadline loomed.

Five of these are single movement overtures with fast opening and closing sections that surround a slower one. The Imaginary Armida (1777) sounds like it could be the beginning of an as yet undiscovered W.A. Mozart symphony. There's a ceremonious stateliness about Orestes (1783) that harkens back to Lully's more serious stage works. Artaxerxes (1784) may sound familiar in places, because Cimarosa lifted parts of it for the overture to his most famous opera, The Secret Marriage (1792, see the newsletter of 30 August 2007). Women Should Be Taken at Their Worst (1785) is a lighthearted offering very much in keeping with the opera's humorous title and plot. When you hear the outstanding opener for Giannina and Bernardone (1781), you'll understand why it was an international hit in the 1780s. There’s a gorgeously scored passage for the oboe that’s one of the highpoints on this disc.

The remaining four selections are tripartite sinfonias with alternating fast-slow-fast movements. The Italian Girl in London (1778) was the composer's first big success, and hearing this extract from it one can see why audiences of the day were wowed by it. While it would appear that Alexander in India (1781) and Circe (1783) were among Cimarosa's less well-received operas, you'd never know it from the inventively colorful music presented here. Despite its oddball title, The Fanatic for Ancient Romans (1777) was apparently a successful comedy that was still being produced as late as the 1800s. This skillfully written sinfonia would seem to bear out its popularity.

All of the performances by the Toronto Chamber Orchestra under conductor Kevin Mallon are superb. The precision, sense of dynamics, and boundless energy he brings to these classical miniatures is exceptional.

The recordings are resplendent and present an ideally focused soundstage with just the right amount of depth and reverberation -- audiophiles should take note!

David Denton
David's Review Corner, December 2007

Born in 1749, Domenico Cimarosa didn't have the most happy start to life, his father dying shortly after his birth, and his early education having to come from charitable institutions. Such was his aptitude that he was sent to study music in the Conservatoire di S. Maria di Loreto where he became highly proficient as a teenager. Not well documented as to how he arrived there, his early career finds him as a musician in the court of Catherine the Great in St. Petersburg, before he moved into the imperial service in Vienna and finally back to his childhood home in Naples. There he became established as one of the most fashionable composers working in Italy in the second half of the 18th century, his catalogue of works including around 65 operas. Most were in lighthearted mode, his overtures the forerunner of Rossini in their bubbly content, though historically they are more interesting for the changes brought about in their structure. The norm in Italian opera had been for an opening Sinfonia usually in three-sections to be placed before opera commenced, exampled here in his earliest success, L'Italiana a Londra. Generally they had little connection with the opera that followed, Cimarosa later replacing them with a single movement 'overture' where thematic material in the opera could be included, the bubbly overture to the comedy, L'Armida immaginaria, being a typical example. The most celebrated work on the disc is Giannina e Bernadone, a score which enjoyed a long and international exposure on stage, its extended overture a foretaste of Beethoven to come. Of course Cimarosa, like other composers of the time, borrowed so frequently from his own works that large chunks would be used in more than one overture, particularly when the earlier opera had fallen into oblivion. One such opera that apparently received only two performances - one more than some of his works - was Artaserse, its overture so fine that it places Cimarosa as an operatic rival to Mozart. La donna sempre al suo peggior s'appiglia seemingly did not get more than one outing, the hack writing of the overture sounding doomed. There are nine operas represented here with that mix of both the old mode and experimental Cimarosa. I seldom get the feel from the Toronto Chamber Orchestra and their Irish conductor, Kevin Mallon, that I am in the opera house, but they are a secure and well balanced ensemble with a good feel for period style. The sound is also of reliable quality.

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