EMI Classics has rightfully placed this remastered set of 2 CDs in their collection of worthy recordings. Listening to Dame Janet Baker is like having all else in the world at a hush, so perfectly clear and selfless is her commitment to the music she performs. As most everyone knows Dame Janet Baker was born in 1933 and has though she has retired form the stage her memory lingers vividly. She was particularly closely associated with baroque and early Italian opera and the works of Benjamin Britten. During her career, which spanned the 1950s to the 1980s, she was considered an outstanding singing actress and widely admired for her dramatic intensity, perhaps best represented in her famous portrayal as Dido, the tragic heroine of Berlioz's magnum opus Les Troyens. As a concert performer, Baker was noted for her interpretations of the music of Gustav Mahler and Edward Elgar. David Gutman, writing in the Gramophone, described her performance of Mahler's Kindertotenlieder as "intimate, almost self-communing."
Here we are treated to works by Bach and Handel and the purity of her line and the degree of communication so characteristic of her talent is nowhere better served than in this collection of solo cantatas and arias. The recordings here are samples from releases of original CDs from 1967 to 1974. The collaborators here include Yehudi Menuhin, Neville Marriner and Raymond Leppard.
For this listener the focal points of the collection are Bach's Cantata No.82, `Ich Habe Genug `with Sir Yehudi Menuhin conducting the Bath Festival Orchestra, Bach's `Bist Du Bei Mir' with Academy Of St Martin-In-The-Fields conducted by Neville Marriner, and Handel's Italian Cantata No.1 and Cantata No. 13 with Raymond Leppard conducting the English Chamber Orchestra. Other listeners will have their favorites but as far as selfless simplicity of singing these works are completely unforgettable. Highly Recommended. Grady Harp, December 12