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George Petrou

International awards for Alessandro by Händel, conducted by George Petrou
G. F. Händel, Alessandro (HWV 21), opera in 3 acts, DECCA 2012, 478 4699 (Armonia Atenea, George Petrou conducting, soloist: Cencic, Lezhneva, Gauvin, Sabata, Sancho, Sim, Khoroshev).

… the recording jumps to the top of the class, confirming George Petrou’s status as one of the world’s rising Handelian star conductors…”                
Opera News

George Petrou has recorded a series of period music works and works by Nikolaos Mantzaros with the MDG recording company which have enjoyed international success and recognition, and have naturally led to his collaboration with the recording giant, DECCA. In September 2011 and sponsored by the Friends of Music Association, George Petrou recorded Alessandro, the 3-act opera by Georg Friedrich Händel with the Armonia Atenea orchestra (actually Camerata-Friends of Music Orchestra, with period instruments and expanded for the occasion with wind instruments, a harpsichord and other musicians as necessary).

Some of the greatest lyrical singers specialized in 18th century music are featured: famous Croat contratenor Max Emanuel Cencic in the part of Alexander the Great, Russian soprano Julia Lezhneva as Rossane, Canadian soprano Κarina Gauvin as Lisaura, Χavier Sabata in the role of Tassile, Juan Sancho as Leonato, In-Sung Sim in the part of Clito and Vassily Koroshev as Cleone. The choral parts of the opera are sung by the Athens Mixed Municipal Choir (coaching of maestro Stavros Beris).

Four of the most popular and highly acclaimed music magazines with international releases, French magazines Diapason and Classica, and British BBC Music Magazine and International Record Review, have awarded their highest distinctions to this new 3-CD release, placing it at the top of the list with the most  highlighted classical music releases for 2012.

More specifically, Diapason magazine has awarded Alessandro the “Diapason d’Οr” and nominated it as the “Disc of the Month” describing its release as “the event” (“L’événement” in French). In its November 2012 issue, the magazine offered its readers a CD with the best recordings of the year, among which is an excerpt from Alessandro, and conductor George Petrou features on the cover. In its December 2012/January 2013 issue, the magazine Classica presents this work with the “Choc Classica” and “Choc Classica de l’Année 2012” awards, while the BBC Music Magazine hails it as the “Disc of the Month” in its 2012 Christmas edition, and the International Record Review selects it as “IRR OUTSTANDING”.

These major distinctions awarded for the first time to a Greek orchestra have paved the way for both the Camerata (Armonia Atenea) and its conductor George Petrou to appear in prestigious European halls and festivals. After the Athens Concert Hall, the opera will also be performed at the Royal Opera at the Palace of Versailles (May 31 and June 2, 2013), as well as at the magnificent Goethe Theatre as part of the Händel Festival in Halle, Germany, where Händel was born (June 8-10, 2013). There will be a concert performance of the opera Alessandro at the Vichy Opera House (June 4, 2013), in the context of the Enescu Festival in Bucharest (September 8, 2013), at the famed Concertgebouw hall in Amsterdam (September 21, 2013), at Salle Pleyel in Paris (September 23, 2013) and at the Theater an der Wien in Vienna (September 25, 2013).

The prestigious acclaims awarded to Alessandro, with George Petrou as conductor and the Athens Camerata, come at a dire time in our country’s history offering tangible proof that, against all the odds of our times, culture can and must serve as one of our core exportable products.

Indicative of the appraisal this record production received is the title critic Paul Riley chose for the December 2012 issue of the ΒΒC Music Magazine in his presentation of Alessandro as Disc of the Month calling it “Dazzling, peerless Händel!” The prestigious critic adds that “Decca however has gone to Greece and done the piece proud. Each of the three leads is outstanding, at times stupendous. […] But for all the star quality, the performance remains a supremely ensemble effort, singers and instrumentalists striking sparks off each other under the energised and energising musical direction of George Petrou. […] Just as thrilling is the visceral playing – on period instruments – of Armonia Atenea. […] Virgil got it so wrong: never beware of Greeks bearing gifts as munificent and ear-opening as this! A revelation!”

Alessandro is a personal choice for Hugh Canning of the International Record Review (January 2013): “I haven’t enjoyed a Händel opera on record as much as this in years. Let’s hope DECCA has more plans for Petrou, Lezhneva and Cencic in this repertoire in the near future.” Especially complimentary of the Greek conductor is also David Shengold (Opera Νews, December 2012):

“In this superb September 2011 recording featuring conductor George Petrou and this responsive, style-attuned Armonia Atenea, all three choice starring roles are cast from strength. […] This marks the opera’s fourth appearance on records, and the present DECCA issue jumps to the top of the class, confirming Petrou’s status as one of the world’s rising Handelian star conductors.”

Equally commendatory of the maestro and the ensemble was Jürgen Gahre from Das Opernglas, Hamburg (December 2012): “It is a stirring performance where Petrou and Armonia Atenea orchestra accentuate and shape every detail with delicacy, especially where the feelings of tragic lovers are transformed to painfully exquisite melodies.” Finally, Richard Lorber writes in Fonoforum.gr (December 2012): “The Greek orchestra Armonia Atenea and conductor George Petrou, who has recorded more Händel operas with Dabringhaus and Grimm, create an ensemble that offers a shrewd illustration of the singers’ coloratura and lays a soft carpet for the acrobats of voice. Petrou allows the opera’s numerous engaging parts to unwind –without imposing– with the clear sound of the orchestra omnipresent. The wise choice of the rhythm is complemented by the ensemble’s skilfulness in rendering the proper sentiment in the themes.”

The Onassis Foundation – Grand Sponsor of the Friends of Music Orchestra 2011-2013.