• Rampant with glorious music, licentious sexual adventure and gods and mortals behaving badly, Handel’s Semele has firmly established itself (after neglect) as a favourite. That renewal began in the second half of the last century. A notably memorable 1999 ENO staging (with Carolyn Sampson) later surfaced elsewhere, starring, among others, Cecilia Bartoli. In the British soprano Louise Alder we have a new and brilliant young Semele, who sang the role in a semi-staging at London’s Alexandra Palace in May 2019. That live performance – with the novelty of audience noise – is now out as a three-disc album on SDG, with the Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists, conducted by John Eliot Gardiner.
The vitality, pace and needling wit of that event are captured here, and elements deadened by Ally Pally theatre’s awkward acoustic are restored to our ears. Top numbers include Jupiter’s Where’er you walk (Hugo Hymas) and that dazzling paean to vanity, Semele’s Myself I shall adore, but the musical pleasures hardly cease. Fine contributions, too, from Lucile Richardot’s Juno/Ino and Gianluca Buratto’s Cadmus. The loyal and committed Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists (leader Kati Debretzeni) shine as ever.
• Rachmaninov wrote his Sonata for Cello and Piano Op 19 in 1901, the same year as his popular Piano Concerto No 2. The two works share a kinship in the abundant unfolding of melody – always a Rachmaninov hallmark but especially here in the slow movement, and in the songlike passages of the impassioned finale. In Russian Cello Sonatas (Sony), the young rising-star Korean cellist Hee-Young Lim and the French pianist Nathalia Milstein give a poised, transparent account, applying the same qualities to the same composer’s Vocalise (1912), written as a wordless song for lyric soprano.
In Prokofiev’s Sonata in C, Op 119, this duo, equal partners in virtuosity and insight, show a different range of expression: from fantasy to lyricism to caustic humour. The cadences of the human voice, to which the cello is so often compared, are never far away.
• Streamed on demand from Dutch National Opera: a chance to see its 2006 production of Shostakovich’s enthralling Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, with Eva-Maria Westbroek unmatched in the title role, conducted by the late Mariss Jansons. Available until Wednesday, 11am BST.