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Will Yeoman
Limelight, August 2016

The undulating melodies and the colourful orchestration are attractive and expressive… © 2016 Limelight Magazine Read complete review

David Shengold
Opera News, June 2016

Naxos’s world-premiere recording was made in 2014 under Franz Hauk, who leads the satisfying orchestral forces with aplomb and also plays harpsichord. …Baroque-trained soprano Andrea Lauren Brown knows her business stylistically… © 2016 Opera News Read complete review

Charles T. Downey
The Washington Post, May 2016

Andrea Lauren Brown, a soprano from Wilmington, Del., brings a strong mixture of vocal colors to the demanding role. There is occasional stridency at the top of her voice, but Brown excels in slow arias such as “Soave, dolce, cara è la morte” (death is gentle, sweet, and dear) in Act II. The role of Phaon, created for castrato Girolamo Crescentini, here is performed beautifully by the Korean soprano Jaewon Yun.

The mezzo-soprano Marie Sande Papenmeyer brings a solid chest voice to the role of Apollo’s consecrated prophetess, the Pythia, at the center of an agitated prophecy scene in Act II, while soprano Katharina Ruckgaber and tenor Daniel Preis have fine supporting turns as friends of Sappho. © 2016 The Washington Post Read complete review

Göran Forsling
MusicWeb International, May 2016

…there are many short but attractive solos and what impresses most is the quality of the numerous accompanied recitatives, so fully worked out with telling instrumentation, …I was wholly engrossed in the performance from beginning to end and the two hours went by in no time.

…the musical standard is high and the inventiveness of the scoring is striking. Saffo is arguably the greatest achievement so far and the playing and singing is impressively good. © 2016 MusicWeb International Read complete review

Opera, May 2016

‘Remarkable’ is indeed the word for a first opera so grandly laid out and so richly filled with limpid, euphonious vocal and instrumental invention. © 2016 Opera

John W Barker
American Record Guide, May 2016

Franz Hauk has become an ardent champion of Mayr’s works. …This new release is an honorable addition to his efforts. The singers are quite able. Brown creates a personality of vocal strength and emotional range. The role of Faone, written for the castrato Crescentini, is taken here by soprano Yun, who sings handsomely but whose soubrettish voice seems inappropriate to the character. Schafer is touching as the loser Alceo. …The choral and orchestral work is excellent. © 2016 American Record Guide Read complete review on American Record Guide

Grego Applegate Edwards
Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review, March 2016

…a nicely burnished performance of Mayr’s first opera, Saffo (1794).

The soloists, choruses and orchestra give us a very attractive performance. You can hear the Haydn-Mozart-Beethoven influence in the finely crafted orchestral parts; there is a real tunefulness and exuberance in the arias, ensembles and chorus parts, certainly in a lively Italian manner that reminds of Donizetti, Bel Canto, and Rossini in the most positive ways.

It is everything one would hope for in the verve and musical accomplishments of the company with Hauk at the helm. I find it quite moving! …Very recommended! © 2016 Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review Read complete review

David Chandler
MusicWeb International, March 2016

Franz Hauk, who has done so much for Mayr and is surely the greatest living authority on the composer, conducts with authority and panache. The singers are uniformly impressive, with the principals entering into the drama of the opera rather than just singing beautifully. © 2016 MusicWeb International Read complete review

Richard Osborne
Gramophone, March 2016

To play Saffo effectively, you need singers who can handle text, a test which Naxos’s ensemble passes with flying colours. Mayr wrote the role of Faone for the castrato Girolamo Crescentini. It unfolds beautifully, culminating in a proto-mad scene as Faone, surrounded by Furies, grieves for his dead wife. The young Korean soprano Jaewon Yun handles all this superbly. The Saffo, Andrea Lauren Brown, is pretty good too. The characters’ traumatic meeting midway through the opera is movingly done.

Saffo also needs a first-rate orchestra. Though Gluck’s influence can occasionally be felt, it’s to Mozart’s late symphonies and operas that Mayr’s expressive wind writing owes its most obvious debt. Here again no praise can be too high for the point and relish of the playing of Concerto de Bassus, Franz Hauk’s bespoke period group of Mayr specialists. © 2016 Gramophone Read complete review on Gramophone, February 2016

There are several impressive voices here, notably those of tenor Markus Schäfer as Alceo (whose singing of the male version of bel canto elements is unusually good), soprano Katharina Ruckgaber as Laodamia, and tenor Daniel Preis as Euricleo. These are small supporting roles, but are handled so nicely that they give Saffo a sense of depth and solidity—one that the chorus and orchestra enhance through their excellent performances under the sure-handed and intelligent direction of Franz Hauk, a strong advocate of Mayr’s work. © 2016 Read complete review

Midwest Tape, February 2016

No one did more to combine in his operas the innovations of the Viennese classical composers, Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven, with the Italian ideal of bel canto than Johann Simon Mayr, the Bavarian composer who rose to fame in Italy. Saffo was his first opera. © 2016 Midwest Tape

Andrew Clements
The Guardian, January 2016

The title role gets the main share of the opera’s big moments and Andrea Lauren Brown makes the most of them… © 2016 The Guardian Read complete review

David Denton
David's Review Corner, January 2016

Johann Simon Mayr’s early career had been in the world of religious cantatas, and was already thirty-one when in 1794 he composed Saffo, his first staged opera. It was a success, but so unsure of creating a future in that genre, it was to be another two years before he followed it up. It had been premiered at Venice’s La Fenice opera house as an ‘opera seria’, and was the popular story of a love triangle. Briefly in relates Faone’s melancholy following the death of his wife, Cirene, who he had married after a fruitless relationship with Saffo. She in turn is loved by Alceo, but Saffo has already decided to win back Faone, suicide being her only alternative. That becomes a reality when Faone shows no interest in her, when, in a dream Cirene returns to Faone and asks him to have pity Saffo. She however has left to climb the rock from where she will cast herself into the sea. As with all happy ending dramas, Faone stops her, and the final chorus pronounce their happy union. This world premiere recording continues Naxos’s series of Mayr recordings, a release that casts the American soprano, Andrea Lauren Brown, in the vocally exacting role of Saffo where she finds some of the florid writing a taxing challenge, but excellently portrays the troubled young woman. I was also much attracted by the German lyric tenor, Markus Schäfer as Alceo, more adept in decorative filigree than is usual with male singers. Yet it is two young German-born singers, the soprano, Katharina Ruckgaber, and tenor, Daniel Preis, who give particular pleasure in the supporting roles of Laodamia and Euricleo, their second act duet the jewel of the release. The chorus, who open and close both acts, are satisfying, while the curiously named German orchestra, Concerto de Bassus, is neat and immaculate in intonation. Once again we are much indebted to the conductor and champion of Mayr, Franz Hauk, for rescuing from oblivion a very important 18th century opera in a world premiere recording. Very good and pleasing sound quality.© 2016 David’s Review Corner

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