OP0269. SERSE (XERXES) (Handel), recorded, 1979, w.Malgoire Cond. Jean Bridier Vocal Ensemble; Ortrun Wenkel, Carolyn Watkinson, Paul Esswood, Ulrich Studer, Ulrik Cold, Anne Marie Rodde, etc. 3-Sony SM3K 36 941, w.Elaborate 80pp. Libretto-Brochure. Final Copy!
"This re-issue provides a welcome opportunity to reappraise one of the milestone recordings in the history of Handel opera. At the time few of the canon had been recorded, and still fewer in historically-informed practice, as here. Nearly forty years later the recorded sound remains clear and crisp, aided by the performers being recorded fairly closely and also benefiting from the generous church acoustic which surrounds them, and they exploit a sense of space and distance effectively as the drama dictates.
Jean-Claude Malgoire's interpretation is alert and well-sprung and sounds considerably more nimble than the stouter texture cultivated by Charles Mackerras with the English National Opera Orchestra in the production captured on film in 1988 and available on DVD, though that has its pleasures. It is fair to say that Malgoire's version has not exactly been antiquated, but subsequent recordings of Serse overtake it in offering greater variety and stylishness. The succession of arias in Malgoire's reading tends not to be overly contrasted, but sustains a roughly similar tone and tempo, which is either moderately brisk, or moderately relaxed.
That is a pity, for SERSE is unlike virtually all of Handel's other operas with its Venetian-style sequence of brief, often comic, numbers and interludes, rather than the full-blown da capo arias of opera seria. The effect verges on the austere, not least as La Grande Écurie et la Chambre du Roy often sounds as though it consists of one player to a part, increasing slightly for the bolder sections such as the choruses."
- Curtis Rogers, ClassicalSource
“Jean-Claude Malgoire has been one of the more important French conductors of the latter twentieth and early twenty first centuries. He has focused heavily on Baroque music, though his repertory also includes operas by Mozart and Salieri. As music director of the La Grande Écurie et la Chambre du Roy and l'Atelier Lyrique de Tourcoing, he has given many highly acclaimed concerts and opera productions, and made numerous recordings with major labels.
Malgoire was born in Avignon, France, on November 25, 1940. He exhibited talent as a child and after studying music locally he enrolled at the Paris Conservatory, where he studied oboe and received first prizes there for his solo playing and in chamber music. He launched his career as an oboist playing for symphony orchestras such as the Orchestre de la RATP, the Orchestre de la Société des Concerts du Conservatoire, and with the Orchestre de Paris. He often played jazz in night clubs in his early career with Michel Portal, Bernard Lubat, and other notable instrumentalists.
In 1966, while continuing his career as an oboist, he founded La Grande Écurie et la Chambre du Roy, a period-instrument ensemble devoted largely to Baroque music. He eventually abandoned playing oboe in orchestras (his last post was with the Orchestre de Paris), explaining he was not ultimately suited to the role.
Malgoire founded a second ensemble, this one the aforementioned Atelier de Tourcoing, largely devoted to the performance of Baroque and other early operas. Tours abroad in the 1970s quickly established the high artistic values of Malgoire and his ensemble, notably in two Rameau productions, the 1974 LES INDES GALANTES at the English Bach Festival and the 1978 HIPPOLYTE ET ARICIE at Covent Garden. Later triumphs included the 1986 Aix-en-Provence festival production of Campra's TANCRÈDE.
Malgoire has often been credited with unearthing previously lost manuscripts from the Baroque era. When he discovered two arias from Act I of Vivaldi's CATONE IN UTICA, he helped create a new version of the work for the acclaimed November 2001 live performance in Tourcoing.
Malgoire has continued his activities in the new century with numerous presentations of rare and familiar operas: in April 2002, he conducted l'Atelier Lyrique de Tourcoing in performances of Salieri's FALSTAFF at the Municipal Theater in Tourcoing and also led a production there by the same forces of Handel's RINALDO in October 2005.”
- Robert Cummings, allmusic.com