Thursday, September 30, 2010

Geminiani: Concerti Grossi - Ensemble Risonanza, Chiarappa

Francesco Geminiani
Concerti Grossi - tratti dalle op.3, 1 e 5 di Arcangelo Corelli
Ensemble Risonanza, Carlo Chiarappa
Tactus TC 680703

It is no surprise that Geminiani (like other pupils of Corelli) spent most of his life in England. Indeed, as Johann Mattheson writes in 1713: “whoever wishes to profit from music moves to England”. Together with Corelli, Geminiani was among the first Italian composers to see his concertos printed in England. Having arrived in London in 1714, he rapidly achieved a reputation as a virtuoso and was soon in demand by important figures at court and among the aristocracy.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Händel: Water Music - Les Violons du Roy, Bernard Labadie

George Frideric Händel
Water Music
Les Violons du Roy, Bernard Labadie
ATMA ACD2 2569

Classics Today rating: 10/10

Bernard Labadie and his Les Violons du Roy have long demonstrated an affinity for Handel in their concert programs, including memorable Messiah performances and various Concerto Grosso selections. Finally we get to hear this first-class orchestra do its Handel magic on disc, in what proves to be one of the finest recorded versions of the three Water Music suites. Scintillating, snappy, and sonorous are among the more obvious descriptions of the playing and ensemble sound, but you also can't help being impressed by the group's trademark crisp, clean articulation that gives full expressive voice to every careful inflection and pointed accent, exemplified in the ravishing opening of the F major Suite No. 1.

You'll also notice how Labadie treats phrases, not as squared-off segments as in most performances, but with "rounded" endings that allow the dances to flow more dynamically, with a purposeful sense of rhythmic momentum. This is most notable--and effective--in the famous "Hornpipe" of the D major Suite No. 2, where the rapid alternating thematic sequences never sound clipped or rushed. And as for the horns(!)--these players really know how to create the robust, brazen timbre these works require (check out the third movement of the F major suite).

The strings and winds are vibrant and characterful and together perfectly capture the spirit of the dances, from an elegant minuet to a majestic overture, from a buoyant air to a bouncing bourrée. And speaking of bourrées--Labadie resists the temptation to race frantically through this movement of the F major suite, taking an effectively brisk tempo where others tend to lose perspective (and musical sense) in what often becomes a mad, silly dash to the finish.

In sum, this is exciting, virtuosic, expertly timed, eminently stylish playing, unencumbered by fussy ornamentation or conductor-imposed mannerisms. It's just great Handel, captured in gorgeous sound--and if you don't yet own a set of this infectious, timeless music (and even if you think you don't need another one), you shouldn't hesitate to add this to your collection, without delay. Outstanding!

David Vernier, ClassicsToday.com

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Zelenka: Composizioni per Orchestra - Collegium 1704, Luks

Jan Dismas Zelenka
Composizioni per Orchestra
Collegium 1704, Václav Luks
Supraphone SU 3858-2

Jan Dismas Zelenka (1679-1745), the famous Czech composer who worked at the court in Dresden most probably wrote the pieces on this CD in Prague in 1723 for the local orchestra of Count Hartig. - Zelenka's music still surprises the listener more than 250 years later. It is truly unconventional even for audiences in the 21st century! - The recording was prepared according to the original manuscripts archived in the Landesbibliothek Dresden. - These compositions offer a glimpse into the world of one of the most original and noteworthy musical geniuses. Zelenka's Compositions for Orchestra - works by one of the most noteworthy musical geniuses.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Sammartini: Symphonies and Overtures - Orch. CMC, Roberto Gini

Giovanni Battista Sammartini
Symphonies and Overtures
Orchestra da Camera Milano Classica, Roberto Gini
Dynamic CDS 414

Josef Myslivecek was supposed to have said that in Sammartini's symphonies he had found the model for Haydn's symphonic output. Haydn's answer (kind of like Brahms's less than candid remark about the influence of Schumann on his music): there is no influence. Haydn went further and reportedly called Sammartini a note-spinner and charlatan. Concerning Myslivacek's statement, Haydn was almost certainly influenced by the older composer, but to claim that Sammartini was the source for Haydn's symphonies is a stretch. As to Haydn's further comment, well, that seems a gratuitous slap, but then composers were certainly more outspoken in Haydn's time. (Think of some of the withering comments that Mozart shared with his father and others about rival musicians such as Clementi.)

In any event, Sammartini was widely admired in his day, but his music fell into oblivion shortly after his death in 1775. Following a twentieth-century rediscovery of his output, scholars have concluded that the composer is one of the most important of early symphonists, shepherding the form from its roots in the Italian overture and concerto grosso to a fully formed sonata structure by the 1750s. The liner notes to the current recording call him the father of the symphony, a monicker that is sometimes emptily applied to Haydn. It probably fits Sammartini far better, even if it would be more accurate to say the symphony had several influential uncles that set it on the path to eventual greatness, and Sammartini was clearly one.

The most ambitious work on the current disc, J-C 52, comes from Sammartini's middle period (ending around 1758) during which he made his most important contributions to music. It is scored for strings, two horns, and two oboes. Both the horns and oboes have independent and, by 1750s standards, colorful melodic lines. The symphony is of ample proportions and boasts good, assertive melodies and an extensive development of the same in the first movement, plus a nicely plaintive slow movement. The finale in the form of a minuet, standard in Sammartini's symphonies, is typical of the early symphony, in which the last movement had yet to emerge as a true capstone rather than a diverting coda. That would take several decades and the maturation of Mozart's and Haydn's symphonic style.

J-C 21 and J-C 26 come from Sammartini's late period and show the hallmarks of the compositional techniques mentioned above in discussing J-C 52. J-C 21 has a driving first movement, an extensive solo for violin in the second movement. About J-C 26, the liner notes say that it is "characterized by a wealth of themes of contrasting character, though not always successfully combined." And indeed, the first movement slips from one theme to another with abrupt transitions or no transitions at all. Dizzying but interesting too.

The symphony has a melancholy slow movement with the odd marking Allegrino and an Allegrissimo finale of rollicking energy. There is, however, little of the suavity of J-C 52 here. Like the first movement, the last is jumpy, seemingly hard put to stay with a single idea long. Listening to this symphony, you can understand some of Haydn's criticism of Sammartini, yet the wild energy has its appeals too. This is certainly music of individuality and not that of a mere "note-spinner."

The performances by the Milan Classical Chamber Orchestra, playing on modern instruments, are stylish and catch Sammartini's robust enthusiasm, as well as the inwardness of the best of his slow movements. One nice thing about the recording is that violins are divided left and right, so you can follow the independent writing for the second violins; J-C 46, for strings alone, and the first movement of J-C 21 are especially interesting in this respect. The important oboe and horn parts are well played and recorded too. This is a good and varied introduction to Sammartini's symphonic output.

M.C. Passarella, Amazon customer

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Händel: 6 Concerti Grossi Op.3 - The English Concert, Pinnock

George Frideric Händel
6 Concerti Grossi Op.3
The English Concert, Trevor Pinnock
Archiv 412 727-2

Handel's six Concerti grossi, Op. 3 were published by Walsh in London in 1734. Most of the material, however, had been in existence for some while before when Handel had used it as entr'acte music during performances of operas, oratorios and anthems. Only the First and Fourth Concertos appear to have been conceived as complete works; the First Concerto (alone among the six) furthermore, does not contain pieces borrowed from other works but was, as Hans Joachim Marx points out in a very helpful and interesting note, an adaptation of an earlier concerto also perhaps used as entr'acte music. Whatever their pedigree Handel's Op. 3 contains one enchanting movement after another, scored for a variety of woodwind instruments with string orchestra and, in the Sixth Concerto, an obbligato organ.

The inherent spirit of Handel's music seldom eludes Trevor Pinnock and The English Concert and it is realized here in fresh and vigorous performances. The string playing provides a warm sound and a homogeneous texture—we have come to expect nothing less—but it is the excellence of the oboe playing which calls for particular applause. Handel was second to no baroque composer that I can think of in the technically informed manner with which he wrote for this instrument and the material which he composed for it reveals his special love of it. The outstanding example in Op. 3 is, of course, the Largo of the Concerto No. 2 in B flat; there the oboe's expressive cantilena is gently accompanied by the broken-chord accompaniment of two concertante cellos. It comes off very effectively in this performance. Elsewhere it is the sheer exuberance of Pinnock's approach, his crisp attack, and the elegant poise which he brings to dance measures—Minuets in particular—which place this new version of Op. 3 ahead of any rival that I have heard. 'Sparkling' is a word which admirably sums up these performances... Warmly recommended.

Nicholas Anderson, Gramophone Magazine 3/1985

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Incomparable Rudolf Serkin

Beethoven Piano Sonatas 30, 31 & 32
Brahms Cello Sonata 1
Mozart Piano Concerto 16
Deutsche Grammophon 000289 474 3282 1

The Incomparable Rudolf Serkin is a two-disc set in a digi-pak format released in 2003 to coincide with the celebration of the great Austrian pianist's 100th birthday. The second disc in the set consists of two previously released performances, the first being Brahms' E minor Cello Sonata recorded at Kennedy Center with Mstislav Rostropovich as soloist, and the other is Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 16 in D, K. 451, with Claudio Abbado and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, made at the Grosser Saal Konzerthaus in Vienna. The first disc was wholly new at the time of release, featuring Serkin in the last three piano sonatas of Beethoven, also recorded in Vienna, this time at a live concert. He had recorded all of the music on The Incomparable Rudolf Serkin before, with some of these pieces even multiple times, although no one can argue with the desirability of hearing an artist of Serkin's caliber perform such important works based on 50 or so years of experience playing them.

Serkin made most of his best recordings during a 35-year period in which he was associated with CBS Masterworks, and in his last years acted as a sort of free agent as a recording artist. These recordings were produced during a period in the 1980s where Serkin was working with Deutsche Grammophon, and Serkin was past 80 when he recorded all of this material, save the Brahms. The Brahms demonstrates that Serkin was fully in his faculties technically and artistically at age 79, and he and Rostropovich truly make some beautiful music together. Although the piano sounds a little far away in the Mozart concerto, Serkin is likewise on his game here and delivers a poised and elegant, if not outstanding, reading of it with Abbado and the COE.

That leaves the newly released concert, an ambitious program that does not appear to have been one of his best outings—there are numerous finger (and memory) slips throughout the three sonatas, of which the most difficult and elusive (Opus 111) results in the best performance of the night. If the Mozart is any indication of his abilities in his mid-eighties, Serkin's somewhat erratic Beethoven concert was the result of an off night rather than due to age and infirmity. From a listening standpoint though, these late Serkin performances of late Beethoven sonatas are not wholly without reward, as his warmth, expertise, and humanism are still fully apparent—he provides a wonderful sense of overall shape and clarity to the Opus 111, a work that is the result of Beethoven at his most schizophrenic and disorganized.

Serkin truly was "incomparable"; but, The Incomparable Rudolf Serkin shows that if he did suffer by comparison, it was only to himself. On the other hand, the Brahms is truly great, and this set is very generous for the asking price, which is minimal.

© Uncle Dave Lewis, All Music Guide

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Vivaldi: Il cimento dell'armonia e dell'inventione - Huggett, RBP

Antonio Vivaldi
Il cimento dell'armonia e dell'inventione, The Four Seasons
Monica Huggett, Raglan Baroque Players, Nicholas Kraemer
Virgin 5 61668 2

I am one who enjoys listening to an entire work rather than just parts of a composition. For example, I never buy recordings with only arias and choruses. I want to hear the entire piece! "The Four Seasons" is undoubtedly incredible, but they are only four concertos of a work that is made up of twelve concertos! The work is called "Il Cimento dell'armonia e dell'invenzione" ("The Contest Between Harmony and Invention"). Throughout you can hear the theme Vivaldi was portraying as there are some similarities between the pieces! Overall it is awesome and the Ragland Baroque Players perform fantastically! I highly recommend this CD!

Matthew Nelson, Amazon Customer

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Avison: 12 Concerti Grossi - Brandenburg Consort, Goodman

Charles Avison
12 Concerti Grossi after Sonatas by Domenico Scarlatti
The Brandenburg Consort, Roy Goodman
Hyperion CDD22060

This two-CD set was originally issued by Hyperion on CDA 66891/2 in the mid-1990s; it’s good to have the collection available like this and it can be thoroughly recommended.

The Concerto Grosso was originally developed in the 1670s and 1680s by Corelli and Stradella in Rome as a way to exploit spaces for polychoral effect. It had become a particularly English form by the 1740s, when these sprightly and varied pieces by Avison were written. Indeed it was actually more popular outside Italy, where it had first been transformed into a concertino form with two violins, cello and continuo for more secular performances. It was then abandoned altogether in favour of the more virtuosic three-movement concerto.

The original centre of gravity for the Grand Concertos, as they came to be called, was London; here Handel’s Opp. 3 and 6 and the influential Geminiani sets, Opp. 2 and 3, fuelled a demand that even provincial composers found hard to meet. It was on this tide that these works by Avison rode.

Living in Newcastle for almost all his life, Avison visited London during the 1730s and will have heard much such music. For provincial musicians including Avison the Concerto Grosso provided appealing material for local music-making. Professionals were usually hired to manage the more demanding parts that were out of the reach of regular local orchestral players. Organist of St John’s church from 1735 and of St Nicholas - now the cathedral in Newcastle - the following year, Avison was soon asked to direct a series of subscription concerts of his own. These were also extended to venues in Durham. It was for these series that much of Avison’s orchestral music was written.

Having put out feelers for likely uptake a year before with an earlier version of the sixth concerto, Avison gathered over 150 subscribers for the set we hear on these CDs. He published them himself in 1744. It was Thomas Roseingrave’s edition of 42 Scarlatti sonatas in 1739 that created a real appetite for Italian sonatas in general. And for Scarlatti’s harpsichord music in particular. Interest in them soon assumed the proportions of a cult … ‘The Lessons of M. Scarlatti were in style so new and brilliant, that no great or promising player acquired notice of the public so effectually by the performance of any other music’ wrote Burney. A character in Sterne’s Tristram Shandy is even likened to ‘the sixth of Avison’s Scarlatti’!

Of the fifty movements that comprise these dozen Concerti Grossi, only twelve have not been traced to works by Scarlatti; they may have been composed by Avison himself. This is entirely consistent with one of Avison’s purposes in writing this music – to render accessible to his public what he considered extremely difficult music to play: Scarlatti’s keyboard sonatas, that is. This even though said sonatas were originally composed for Scarlatti’s young pupil, Maria Barbara, the daughter of Portuguese King João V, to whom Scarlatti was appointed music master in 1720. In fact, the difficulties that Avison perceived were rather ones of what we might call obscurantism or over-embellishment, than technical. What’s more Avison had to go beyond the Roseingrave publication for a significant number of slow movements.

The Brandenburg Consort play period instruments here and play them with delight and style, although there are some ‘mixed’ moments … the opening movement of the tenth concerto is anything but ‘grazioso’ being rather sluggish in tempo, for example. The musicians under the compelling direction of Goodman have, in compensation for other somewhat drooping tempi, the great virtue of bringing out the music’s immense variety. That quality, ever present in Scarlatti’s ‘originals’, is evident here and carries the listener along. Not that these are arrangements or realizations of Scarlatti – although you will not fail to recognize some strikingly familiar motifs – the first movement of the eleventh Concerto Grosso for example.

The change in the sonatas’ character with full instrumental colour is instructive, not curious. These works are lively, melodious and richly-painted canvasses in their own right in which Avison has accentuated his own creativity and palette of sounds. Quite rightly, that is the starting point for the Brandenburg Consort – to promote colour, lively rhythmic structure and the fresh essence of the concerti, all but the last of which are in four movements, slow-fast-slow-fast.

The accompanying booklet is clear and informative and the recorded acoustic good, although be prepared for longer than usual gaps between tracks. There is no other extant recording of this repertoire – indeed Avison is woefully under-represented on CD in general – so you can buy with confidence.

Mark Sealey, MusicWeb International

Monday, September 20, 2010

Heinichen: Concertos & Sonatas - Epoca Barocca

Johann David Heinichen
Concertos & Sonatas
Epoca Barocca
CPO 777 115-2

Once just a name among the galaxy of musical stars assembled at the Dresden court by Augustus the Strong, Johann David Heinichen (1683–1729) has in recent years emerged from near-oblivion to become recognized as one of the ornaments of that court. Thanks in no small measure to the persuasive advocacy of Reinhard Goebel, Heinichen has today taken his place alongside such names as Zelenka (for many years his deputy), and Veracini. Although a substantial body of both vocal and instrumental works by Heinichen remains extant, it seems likely that many more are either lost or remain to be unearthed.

The chamber works on the present disc would seem to fall into the category of newly found pieces, since they are referred to in the notes as having only recently come to attention as the result of musicological research. That presumably accounts for them not carrying Seibel numbers (the cataloging system used for Heinichen’s works). All are apparently unique sources housed in library collections of oboe sonatas by various composers in Dresden and Darmstadt. Judging from the essay by Karl Böhmer, it would appear that the trio sonatas for oboe and violin (in C Minor, and B♭) were originally designated for two oboes, although it is not easy to determine from the documentation the original instrumentation of all the works involved. What is certain is that the final trio sonata on the disc is not “in B,” as given in the program listing, but B♭, as Böhmer correctly states.

Both music and performances are a source of unmitigated joy. There is not a work here that does not testify to Heinichen’s outstanding craftsmanship, inventiveness, and melodic inspiration. Pride of place must go to the four-movement Concerto in D, scored for violin, viola da gamba, cello, and continuo, a small masterpiece that opens with a glorious Andante of such noble breadth, such exquisitely contrived interplay between the beautiful violin part and the gamba’s counter-melody that Handel would have been proud to be its creator. Remarkably, the remaining movements maintain this quality of writing. If nothing else quite attains this elevated level, the equivalent movement of the G-Major Concerto also lodges itself insidiously in the mind by way of the wistfully beguiling dialogue between oboe and bassoon.

This is my first encounter with the euphoniously named Epoca Barocca, but I certainly hope it will not be the last. All six of it members are consummately gifted artists who play with the natural spontaneity of musicians totally secure in their technique, and at ease with each other. Nothing is forced or exaggerated; nothing imposes itself between auditor and music, leaving the listener with the unfailing pleasure of simply relishing Heinichen’s enchanting creations. This is an obligatory acquisition for anyone who loves Baroque chamber music.

Brian Robins, Fanfare

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Heinichen: Dresden Wind Concertos - Fiori musicali, Albert

Johann David Heinichen
Dresden Wind Concertos
Dean, Stadler, Herrle, Fiori musicali, Thomas Albert
CPO 999 637-2

Classics Today rating: 10/10

A few years ago, the name of Johann David Heinichen (1683-1729) came out of the blue as a wonderful surprise. Baroque music lovers around the world were amazed to discover an obscure composer who, in his best works, was second to none--easily comparable to Vivaldi in terms of originality, rhythmic exuberance, and boundless imagination. A half decade and a few recordings later, Heinichen has become a popular name, and rightly so. These Dresden Wind Concertos display treasures of passionate invention, energized by a spectacular use of dynamic contrasts and poetized by delicate touches of lyricism in the solo writing for woodwinds. Just listen to the dialogue (an obbligato figure in Heinichen's style) between traverso flute and pizzicato strings in the Concerto S. 225's last movement, or the biting orchestral outbursts in the G minor oboe concerto. Examples of Heinichen's vivid, sometimes unpredictable inspiration abound in every page of these extraordinary works. The Fiori Musicali ensemble, on period instruments, plays with enthusiasm and poetic commitment. The virtuosity may not be as extreme as that of Concerto Köln (on Capriccio), but each performance reaches a perfect balance between expressive ardor and precision--a quality mirrored by the accurate and natural sonics of the Radio Bremen engineers.

Luca Sabbatini, ClassicsToday.com

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Brescianello: Concerti, Sinfonia, Ouvertures - Plantier, Luks

Giuseppe Antonio Brescianello
Concerti, Sinfonia, Ouvertures
La Cetra Baroqueorchestra Basel, David Plantier, Vaclav Luks
Harmonia Mundi HMC905262

Classics Today rating: 9/10
Sankerib's personal rating: 100/100 on the same scale

Huge thanks to the dear friend who helped me get this rare copy.

Other than his approximate birth date (c. 1690) nothing is known of Italian composer Guiseppe Antonio Brescianello until he arrived in 1715 as a violinist for the Elector of Bavaria in Germany, where remained for the rest of his life. Here he built his reputation more on performing and conducting (by all accounts he almost single-handedly rejuvenated musical life in Stuttgart during his tenure there), though he composed a few instrumental works as well. If the selections offered here by the La Cetra Barockorchester Basel is representative, Brescianello stylistically remained firmly rooted in Italy, and Vivaldi seems to be his primary influence.

For example, the first-movement Allegro and final Presto of the fifth Sinfonia, the Rigaudon of the Overture in G minor, and the Presto of the first Sinfonie all feature stirring string displays set in rich harmonic and melodic writing that's typical if not fully worthy of the master. Brescianello also has a keen understanding of Vivaldi's often-shameless methods to evoke sentimentality in quieter passages. The Aria: Siciliana Adagio of the aforementioned Overture, the Adagio of the Concerto in B major, and especially the Adagio: Piano e staccato (with Le Cetra director/first violinist David Plantier's sinewy violin line set amid "touching" string pizzicato) are among the loveliest examples.

While every movement here is certainly inspired and well crafted, the final Allegro of the Concerto in G minor features a striking interlude more typical of Brescianello's earlier Bohemian contemporaries--Biber, Schmelzer, Bertali, et. al.--of the northern violin virtuoso school than of Vivaldi. About halfway into the piece, Plantier breaks into a nearly two-minute solo cadenza. Regardless of how much of this often-thrilling extended passage is attributable to Brescianello and how much to Plantier's informed-though-playful imagination, it's great fun and once heard undoubtedly will not soon be forgotten. Harmonia Mundi's crisp yet full-bodied sound is outstanding.

Listeners interested in more Brescianello are encouraged to acquire Banchetto Musicale's equally stunning two-CD cycle of the composer's complete Op. 1 Concertos and Sinfonias on Dynamic. Though there is some duplication (the first and fifth Sinfonias and fourth concerto), Baroque enthusiasts hardly can go wrong with either program. Highly recommended. [7/8/2004]

John Greene, ClassicsToday.com

Friday, September 17, 2010

Trombone Concerti - Alain Trudel, Northern Sinfonia

Release Date: 06/02/1998
Label: Naxos
Catalog #: 8553831
Spars Code: DDD
Composer: Johann Georg Albrechtsberger, Georg Wagenseil, Leopold Mozart, Michael Haydn
Performer: Alain Trudel
Conductor: Alain Trudel
Orchestra/Ensemble: Northern Sinfonia

Number of Discs: 1
Recorded in: Stereo
Length: 0 Hours 53 Mins.

The only pre-modern trombone concertos are from the 18th Century, and they were written for the alto, an instrument that having something of a resurgence today. Fine alto trombone recording have been made by Alain Trudel (Naxos 553831) and the duo Otmar Gaiswinkler and Walter Voglmayr (Camerata 28030).

BBC Music (4/98, p.77) - Performance: 5 (out of 5), Sound: 5 (out of 5) - "...Alain Trudel...adopts an appropriate `style galant' for the mainly lightweight material and...makes light work of the ornamentation which is normally such a burden to trombonists in the Classical repertoire. Among brass recordings it is unusually relaxing and elegant."

R. Rockwell from Amazon.com:
This disc collects all of the instrumental(ie concerto)music that is available for trombone. Interestingly the four composers on the CDlived at about the same time and same some location in Europe. These concerti for alto trombone are certainly not masterpieces, but they are highly enjoyable and well played by Trudel and the Northern Sinfonia. I would not recommend these to belong in every collection but if you enjoy wind concerti, the Naxos prices makes it highly affordable.

Andrew W. Saul from Amazon.com:
I first heard "classical" solo trombone music while at a music conference. It surprised me (a string player) then, and it astonishes me no less with the passing of the years. Absolutely nothing less than 5 stars is appropriate for this recording. Not only is this CD brilliantly performed, the music itself is gorgeous. Lesser-known composers and an even-lesser appreciated instrument here receive the treatment they deserve. Most highly recommended.

Mozart: Concert No. 5 • Sonata • Quintet - Heifetz with Piatigorsky • Primrose

Jascha Heifetz was larger than life, but was he too big for Mozart? The stern patrician of the violin, with his intense, laser-beam intonation and diamond-hard tone, would seem ideally suited for the big romantic concertos for which he was famous, but any fears that he would be mismatched with Mozart will be allayed immediately upon hearing his serene entry in the first movement of the "Turkish" Concerto, not to mention the delicate interplay that follows, by turns witty and sensuous. For the only time in his career, Heifetz is both conductor and soloist, making this the most involving of his recordings of the work.
Unlike many virtuosos of his time, Heifetz had no qualms about appearing publicly in chamber ensembles. And, with violist William Primrose and cellist Gregor Piatigorsky, he formed a sort of permanent yet flexible supergroup that gave regular concerts in Los Angeles throughout the 1960s. These players, along with violist Virginia Majewski and legendary Hollywood session violinist Israel Baker, are heard in the G minor String Quintet, a work with intimations of the 19th century, here given a taut, urgent, almost Beethovenesque performance.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Music for Three, Four, and Twenty Lutes

This post is humbly dedicated to our tireless and generous host; Sankerib, this is for you!

Lindberg, Jakob, lute
Meunier, Robert, lute
North, Nigel, lute
O'Dette, Paul, lute
With eight singers and sixteen lutenists

There are several pieces on this recording that display the fun and virtuosity associated with this music. The Piccinini Canzone starts with beautiful counterpoint and ends finally in a rousing conclusion with a duet of fast passages.The Waelrant tune is given two excellent performances with clear voices, vocal quartet accompanied by lutes with original Dutch text and then Italian text, an all-lute version separating the two.

Those familiar with the battle tune "La Battaglia" made famous to recorder players in the Susato dance print will enjoy the lute version by Pacolini. The Tim Crawford arrangement of the Johnson masque music is a stunning tapestry of lush sound of twenty stringed instruments, including 11 lutes, mandora, guitar, bandora, and four theorboes. The tunes evoke an entrance of graceful dancers.

As always, virtuoso Paul O'Dette makes the tunes with his improvisitory top lines. It's impossible not to be impressed. May I suggest his other albums: Lord Herbert of Cherbury's Lute Book HMU 907068 and Music of Kapsberger "Il Tedesco della Tiorba" HMU 907020, where O'Dette demonstrates convincingly why he is the world's greatest lutenest. It all makes me wish for a journey back in time! R. D'Ippolito


Terzi, Giovanni Antonio
1. Canzone a Otto Voci per suonar a 4 Liutti overo fantasia 00:03:10

Pacoloni, Giovanni
2. Passemezo di Zorzi 00:03:16

3. Temprar potess'io 00:04:33

Piccinini, Alessandro
4. Canzone a Tre Liuti 00:04:10

Lasso, Orlando di
5. Madonna mia pieta 00:02:02

Pacoloni, Giovanni
6. Passemezo della Battaglia 00:02:59

Rore, Cipriano de
7. Dialogo: Amor, se cosi dolce 00:05:16

Johnson, Robert
8. Dance II - Dance III 00:05:40

Parsons, Robert
9. The Songe called Trumpets 00:02:10

Vallet, Nicolas
10. Ballet - Ballet - Est - ce Mars - Courante de Mars - Un jour de la semaine - Allon aux noces - Gaillarde 00:10:21

Waelrant, Hubert
11. Als ick u vinde 00:03:34
12. O Villanella 00:01:21

Pacoloni, Giovanni
13. Padoana - Saltarello 00:04:06

Total Playing Time: 00:52:38
Recorded July 8 & 10, 1985 at Boxgrove Priory, Chichester, England UK

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Concert for García Lorca: Ben Sidran, 1998

The Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca was a 20th century Renaissance man, whose work also touched on the worlds of music, theater, and politics. Recorded live at the Granada house in which Lorca lived, and using the piano that he himself played, Ben Sidran marks the 100th anniversary of Garcia Lorca's birth with this superb recording.

Something of a Renaissance man himself, Sidran has always intertwined his passion for jazz with many forms, nurturing it not only as a musical tradition, but as an oral and written one as well. Here, Sidran blends his own compositions with the poet's writings, along the way featuring the richly-hued tenor saxophone of Bobby Martinez (who combines the deep glow of John Coltrane's ballad side with the hard grit of David Sanborn). "On Defeating Death" tells Lorca's poignant history, while "On Duende" references the poet's evocation of the "mysterious power that everyone senses, and no one explains."

Undergirding Sidran's incisive piano playing is the quiet intensity of Manuel Calleja on bass and Leo Sidran on drums. Several standards are also woven into the intoxicating mix, with "Lover Man" evoking the cosmopolitan days of Lorca in Manhattan, where he encountered the still-young fervor of American jazz. The quartet also transforms Gershwin's "It Ain't Necessarily So" into an anthem of fallen faith, and performs - appropriately, given Lorca's political concerns - a fabulous version of Eddie Harris' "Freedom Jazz Dance."
from Larry Nai, JAZZIZ Magazine (2000)

Bass: Manuel Calleja
Drums: Leo Sidran
Piano, Vocals: Ben Sidran
Saxophone: Bobby Martínez
Recorded June 18th, 1998 at Huerta de San Vicente, Granada, Spain

A biography of Ben Sidran at All About Jazz:

Monday, September 13, 2010

Vivaldi: La Cetra - Huggett, Raglan Baroque Players, Kraemer

Antonio Vivaldi
La Cetra - 12 Concertos Op.9
Monica Huggett, Raglan Baroque Players, Nicholas Kraemer
Virgin 5 61594 2

Monica Huggett’s Vivaldi recordings with Nicholas Kraemer’s Raglan Baroque Players are always a great pleasure to listen to. The “Four Seasons” recording (coupled with other concertos from Vivaldi’s opus 8) is, in my opinion, one of the best available today. The complete recording of Vivaldi’s opus 9 violin concertos, known as “La Cetra”, is also eminently worth hearing, although Vivaldi was here possibly not quite so inspired as with his previous work: for the non-expert, it is certainly not easy to keep the twelve concertos separated in one’s mind, and despite some strong movements the whole does have a certain “same-ishness” about it, each concerto consisting of three movements in the typical fast – slow – fast pattern common in 18th century Venice (only the fifth concerto has a slow introduction). Not only is Monica Huggett’s violin-playing a real revelation, the basso continuo is equally brilliant with, amongst other things, some marvellous theorbo accompaniments. Unfortunately, the Virgin Veritas re-release offers no information whatsoever on the names of the musicians or the instruments, and the accompanying text on Vivaldi’s music is far too short to be anything but a brief introduction. The recording was made in 1986 at St. Giles’ Church in London’s Cripplegate, originally for a company called Shogun Music (and later released on licence to EMI and Virgin). There is some background tape noise which can be a little annoying when listening via headphones, but in general the sound quality is more than adequate and provides almost two hours of baroque amusement in its purest form.

Leslie Richford, Amazon Customer

Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue - RPO, Simpson, Philarte Quartet

George Gershwin
Rhapsody in Blue, An American in Paris
Royal Promenade Orchestra, Nigel Simpson, Philarte Quartet
Quintessence CDQ 2004

A true Gershwin rarity. Grab it while it's available.
This upload is dedicated to my "old" friend Scoredaddy who's musical taste I rarely (if ever) share yet he has been a good and faithful follower of MIMIC in what seems like forever. Enjoy SD!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Sounds Sublime - The Sixteen, Harry Christophers

Sounds Sublime - The Essential Collection
The Sixteen, Harry Christophers
Coro COR16073

Recommended by ArkivMusic

"Astounding music all, all astoundingly performed..."
International Record Review

The Sixteen - Sounds Sublime 'The Essential Collection' A collection of some of the most celebrated recordings from Harry Christophers and his award-winning ensemble. Equally appealing to fans of The Sixteen and those who are new to the group, this disc provides a definitive collection of familiar classics and lesser-known treasures.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Mozart & Beethoven: Piano & Wind Quintets - André Previn & Vienna Wind Soloists

These are accomplished performances which I’m sure I would have enjoyed more if the picture of sound, as the LP presents it, had been truer to the music. For my taste, the piano is too distant and unfocused in relation to the wind, as if placed directly behind the wind line-up and well back. As a result, it often doesn't have enough presence in the play of colour, and its contributions to the discourse seem too remote.

I began with the Beethoven and never felt at ease with the balance, though by the last movement it appears to have improved—and with it the liveliness and sharpness of the ensemble playing, as one would expect. You can imagine Beethoven himself making a big effect in the forceful and virtuoso piano part, and I don‘t think he would have been delighted by the impression one gets of it here.

The wind stick together as a unit on their own. On the Nash Ensemble’s CRD record you sense that because the balance is right all the players can listen to each other more acutely and function better as a team. You notice too a better line to their performance, of the first movement especially, and a much better characterized range of dynamics. The Vienna Wind Soloists are too loud most of the time.

To me, the Nash‘s record represents chamber music playing of high class and offers a satisfying version of both pieces. The players are ideally matched and also a match for Mozart‘s and Beethoven‘s considerable demands on them as soloists. I don‘t get on so well with the Viennese wind: I dislike the oboe in the Beethoven slow movement, his low notes in particular, and in the slow movement of the Mozart I find the horn vulgar in his solo after the double-bar. Previn does well throughout, without ever sounding quite sure how he wants the main theme of the Mozart finale to go; and at this very moderate tempo Mozart‘s wonderful cadenza for all the instruments is rather a plod, when it arrives, instead of a high point. S. P.

MOZART. Piano and Wind Quintet in E flat major, K.452
1.I. Largo - Allegro moderato (11:10)
2. II. Larghetto (9:20)
3. III. Rondo: Allegro moderato (6:14)

BEETHOVEN: Piano and Wind Quintet in E flat major. Op.16
4. I. Grave - Allegro ma non troppo (13:33)
5. II. Andante cantabile (7:21)
6. III. Rondo: Allegro ma non troppo (5:43)

André Previn (p1); Vienna Wind Soloists (Gerhard Turetschek, ob, Peter Schmidt, cI; Volker Altmann, hn; Friedrich FaltI, bn)

Recorded in Schubertsalle, Vienna on April 24 & 25, 1985

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Händel: Fireworks/Water Music - Capella Istropolitana

George Frideric Händel
Fireworks Music, Water Music
Capella Istropolitana, Bohdan Warchal
Naxos 8.550109

"Some of the most enchanting parts of the Water Music come in the G major suite. Few of the dances have more than a token amount of contrapuntal thickening, as they depend on good tunes and strong cadences. Amongst the most charming is the minuet in B flat, played beautifully here by the Capella Istropolitana conducted by Warchal." BBC Radio 3

George Frideric Handel was born in Halle in 1685, the son of an elderly and distinguished barber-surgeon by his second wife, the daughter of a Lutheran pastor. He showed an early interest in music, an activity not altogether encouraged by his father, whose patron, the Duke of Saxe-Weissenfels, intervened in the boy's favour. His father died in 1697 but Handel's general and musical education continued, allowing him, four years later, to matriculate at the University of Halle, and to accept, a month afterwards, the position of organist at the Calvinist cathedral. The following year he abandoned his studies and his native town in order to embark on a career as a musician.

Handel's first employment was in the city of Hamburg. There he worked at the opera, at first as a rank-and-file second violinist and then as harpsichordist and composer, establishing his first connection with England by giving private lessons to the son of the English Resident. In Hamburg he was associated with Johann Mattheson, a musician his senior by four years, who was to claim a share in Handel's education as a composer. From Hamburg Handel travelled in 1706 to Italy, at the invitation of Prince Ferdinando de' Medici, heir to the Grand Duchy of Tuscany. He was to remain there until 1710, spending time in Florence, in Venice and in Rome, absorbing more fully the Italian style that he had already attempted in opera in Hamburg, and impressing audiences with his ability as an organist and harpsichord-player.

It was through acquaintance with Baron Kielmansegge, Master of Horse to the Elector of Hanover, whom he met in Venice, and perhaps through an earlier meeting with the Elector's brother, Prince Ernst August, that Handel found himself offered the position of Kapellmeister in Hanover, an appointment followed, according to prior agreement, by immediate leave of absence for twelve months.

In moving north Handel seems to have had London in mind as a possibly rich field for musical speculation. England was under the rule of Queen Anne, the second of the daughters of the exiled Catholic King James II. The Last of the Stuarts was to be succeeded, after her death in 1714, by the elector of Hanover, who ascended the English throne as King George I. On his first visit to London Handel remained for eight months, seeing to the mounting of his new Italian opera Rinaldo, with a libretto based on an outline sketch by Aaron Hili. The following year he returned to Hanover, but after fifteen months he was back once more in London, with leave from the Elector to stay for a reasonable length of time. Handel was to settle in England for the rest of his life, whether with or without the tacit approval of his patron is not clear. He was, however, to enjoy royal partronage after the accession of George I.

In London Handel was concerned to a considerable extent with the Italian opera, a risky venture that was to undergo various changes of fortune during the following decades. Later in his career he was to turn to English oratorio, a form that, in his hands, had all the musical advantages of Italian opera, without the disadvantage of foreign language, lavish production costs or liability to native criticism on the grounds of improbability or incomprehensibility. Handel wrote music for other occasions, for the church and for the pleasure gardens, and enjoyed immense popularity and esteem, his pre-eminence serving to eclipse lesser talents. He died in 1759.

The Water Music and the Music for the Royal Fireworks mark two chronological extremes of Handel's career in London. The first was written in his earlier years in England, presumably by 1717, to entertain a royal party sailing up the Thames, while the second was commissioned to celebrate the Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle in 1749. Both occasions called for outdoor music, a form in which Handel was to demonstrate a particular skill during the years that he provided music for the gardens at Vauxhall. Popular legend has it that Handel had offended the Elector of Hanover by his prolonged absence without leave in London and that a reconciliation was brought about through the Water Music, composed to accompany the new King's journey by barge from Whitehall to Chelsea, to entertain the court during supper and to escort the royal party back again down the Thames. The story, given early currency, is now generally discounted, since no overt reconciliation with King George seems to have been necessary. It is clear, however, from a number of contemporary accounts, that Baron Kielmansegge, whose wife was reputedly the King's mistress, paid for a band of 50 musicians to play music newly commissioned from Handel to entertain the King during an evening party on the Thames on 17th July, 1717. Precisely how much of the music performed was by Handel and how much of it now preserved in the three suites known as the Water Music is not clear. It is reasonable to suppose that the collection represents much of the music played in 1717, although the order of its performance is unknown. The present recording does not divide the Water Music into the three suites that tater editors have arranged largely from a study of the principal sources and from the instruments apparently involved. The first eleven numbers, however, correspond with what has been described as a Horn Suite, because of its particular use of French horns, played by musicians from Bohemia, where horn technique far surpassed anything then known in England. The movements that correspond with the second and third suites, the former distinguished by its use of trumpets and the latter by its suggestion of indoor music for the music for the Chelsea supper with the gentler sound of recorders, are not separated, so that the complete work ends with a trumpet minuet, after the pair of country dances with recorders that here immediately precede it.

The Thames water-party of 1717 was successful enough. The Royal Fireworks of 1749, however, may have achieved musical distinction but were a pyrotechnic disaster. The fireworks display was planned for an April evening in 1749, in Hyde Park, to celebrate the Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle that had ended the War of the Austrian Succession in the previous year, confirming the Empress Maria Theresia on the throne of Austria. Handel was able to offer a public rehearsal of his Royal Fireworks music at Vauxhall Gardens, a commercial venture in which he had been involved since 1732. A hundred musicians were involved, playing to an audience of more that 12,000. A week later the music was performed in Hyde Park, a prelude to the event and a possible accompaniment to the King's prior inspection of the elaborate "machine" that was the centre-piece of the display. The fireworks themselves were disappointing and during the evening the pavilion to the right of the main structure caught fire.

The Royal Fireworks Music had already succeeded admirably at Vauxhall. Handel was to add string parts to the original score, that had, by royal command, been limited to a massive band of wind instruments, and to present the work as part of a charity programme given towards the end of May in aid of Thomas Coram's Foundling Hospital, which was to benefit even more considerably from the oratoric Messiah.

The five sections of the Royal Fireworks Music open with an Overture in the usual French style, followed by a Bourrée and two pieces suggesting Peace and Rejoicing respectively. The work ends with a pair of minuets.

Capella Istropolitana
(Slovak Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra)
The Capella Istropolitana is a chamber orchestra formed by leading members of the Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra in Bratislava. Founded in 1983, the chamber orchestra allows the players, many of them experienced soloists, to playas chamber musicians. Much of the work of the orchestra has been concentrated on the recording studio.

Bohdan Warchal
Bohdan Warchal was trained as a violinist at the Academy of Music and Drama in Brno. In 1957 he was appointed leader of the Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra in Bratislava and in 1960 founded the Slovak Chamber Orchestra, of which he is artistic director and soloist. In 1969 he was awarded the title Artist of Merit and in 1983 that of National Artist by the government of Czechoslovakia.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Musique Sacrée - Mozart: Requiem, Gregorian Chants, Vivaldi: Stabat Mater, Beatus Vir, Gloria

I found this set in the markdown bin of a music store in 1997. I find it beautiful, peaceful, & thrilling at times. Any time I hear other recordings of the Vivaldi pieces & the Mozart Requiem they just don't seem right, as I am so used to hearing these. I can't find any information about these on the net. They are all vocal so... :) I just hope some others will love them too.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Veracini: Overtures - Musica Antique Köln, Reinhard Goebel

Francesco Maria Veracini
Musica Antique Köln, Reinhard Goebel
Brilliant Classics 93893

When no less a composer than Tartini feels threatened by the virtuosity and huge personality of a colleague, then you know that the person in question must have been a considerable musical talent and presence. Francesco Maria Veracini was the composer in question. Born in 1690, his life was one of travel, huge successes, bitter disappointments, violent quarrels, and an attempt at suicide (which left him crippled) after a row with the German composer Pisendel, who harboured some unpleasant anti Italian views. He died in 1768. The six Overtures date from 1716 and they rank as some of the most extraordinary works for orchestra of the Venetian school. At the time of their composition, Veracini was working as the court composer and violinist in Dresden -- it was this position that he left after the row with Pisendel and his cohorts. Frustrated at the time that many found his music to modern and difficult, he had had a rough time during a visit to London as he was unable to compete with Handel's monopoly of opera in the city, and Geminiani's domination of instrumental music. Feeling discouraged and somewhat bitter, he returned to Florence and remained there until his death. His music takes the baroque sonata to the limit, and goes some way to laying the foundation of the coming classical style. These Overtures can be considered as the ultimate in baroque orchestral writing in their inventiveness, richness of scoring and contrapuntal and polyphonic dexterity. 'by travelling all over Europe he formed a style of playing peculiar to himself' Charles Burney on Veracini.

Sunday, September 5, 2010


Here, Wynton Marsalis switches to cornet and tries to recreate the ambience of the proverbial village wind bands of long ago -- albeit with the emphatically big-league help of Donald Hunsberger and the massive Eastman Wind Ensemble. This means a program of transcriptions of classical tunes, variations on popular ditties, dollops of sentimentality, heaping amounts of showoff display figurations, and other stuff that used to go over big in Middle America in the days before radio and electrical recording came in.

From the hoary old hurdy-gurdy tune "The Carnival of Venice" that leads off the album onward, this is a record for dedicated antiquarians who dote on their Edison band cylinders because they like the music. But Marsalis works earnestly with the idea, playing those insidiously hummable tunes absolutely straight, with acres of flawless rapid-fire technical displays and even a touch of soulfulness on the token spiritual, "Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child." And Marsalis' pass through the nonstop minefield of Paganini's "Moto Perpetuoz," using circular breathing to make the dumbfounded listener think that he doesn't have to take a breath, is a pretty astounding technical feat. Richard S. Ginell

1. Variations on "Carnival of Venice," for trumpet 7:32
Composed by Jean-Baptiste Arban
2. The Debutante, caprice brillant for cornet & piano (or band) 5:49
Composed by Herbert L. Clarke
3. Believe Me, If All Those Endearing Young Charms (AKA: My Love's On The Cold Ground) 3:26
Composed by Irish Traditional
4. Grand Russian Fantasia for cornet & orchestra 6:19
Composed by Jules Levy
5. Moto perpetuo, for violin & guitar (or orchestra) in C major, Op. 11, MS 72 4:31
Composed by Niccolò Paganini
6. 'Tis the Last Rose of Summer 1:46
Composed by Thomas Moore (composer/poet)
7. The Flight of the Bumble Bee, musical picture for orchestra (from The Tale of Tsar Saltan) 1:03
Composed by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov
8. Napoli for cornet/trumpet & band/orchestra "Canzone Napolitana Con Variazioni" 5:43
Composed by Herman Bellstedt
9. Fantasie Brillante, for cornet & ensemble 8:16
Composed by Jean-Baptiste Arban
10. Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child 3:20
Traditional Spiritual
11. Valse Brillante for cornet & band 8:07
Composed by Herbert L. Clarke

Wynton Marsalis (cornet), Donald Hunsberger directing the Eastman Wind Ensemble
Recorded in the Eastman Theater, Eastman School of Music of the University of Rochester, NY

CPE Bach: La Folia and other works - The Purcell Quartet

Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach
La Folia and other works
The Purcell Quartet
Helios CDH 55232

By the mid-eighteenth century, the viola da gamba was an instrument from the past, sustained only by a handful of virtuosi. The best known of these was not C P E Bach, but Carl Friedrich Abel, who eventually settled in London and collaborated with C P E Bach’s younger brother Johann Christian. The Bach and Abel families were quite closely linked; but if Abel and C P E Bach did meet in 1746 (the date of the Sonata on this disc 8), it will have been privately, since Abel was then working at the Dresden court, which was not on good terms with that at Berlin. There is, in fact, little specifically idiomatic to the gamba in this Sonata; Bach may not have been closely acquainted with its capabilities, and on paper most of it looks as if it could have been written for the violin—even to the extent of using the treble clef. But a few passages take advantage of the lower range of the instrument and its capacity for chords, the central movement requires considerable virtuosity, and as a whole it sounds remarkably impressive on the instrument.

The Trio in C minor 5, composed in 1749, is an attempt to show that instrumental music could have a meaning outside itself. Eighteenth-century aesthetic theory was rational, and music—especially instrumental music—was generally undervalued because it could not be translated into words. Bach set out to show that music could represent a dialogue, not just a single emotional state. For those who could not understand the language of music, he offered a translation. This may seem like an admission that his meaning is not as clear as he intended. In fact, without his clues, his general drift is clear; but the detailed programme includes a certain amount of amplification which the listener could supply only from his imagination.

In this work, the violins represent two of the four basic psychological types which had dominated medical theory since the ancient Greeks. Melancholy has retained its original meaning; the sanguinary man has a predominance of blood in his make-up which makes him ruddy-faced, courageous, hopeful and amorous. The narrative of the first movement can be outlined as
follows: Melancholicus makes the first statement in duple time, Allegretto and muted. The dominant half-close means that Sanguineus is asked whether he agrees with Melancholicus. The former, unmuted, makes it clear by a change of time (to a triple Presto) and key (from C minor to E flat major) that his opinion is different. Sanguineus soon deliberately moderates his jollity in an attempt to persuade Melancholicus, also ending with a question indicated by a dominant close. A brief pause is intended to give him time to cheer up the other. But Melancholicus relapses into his former mood. Sanguineus impatiently replies, restating his case, and breaks off with an invitation to the other to complete the phrase. But instead he interpolates a continuation of his own argument. Sanguineus is not sure whether Melancholicus is acting from malice, ignorance or forgetfulness; so, with some bitterness, since he has resisted persuasion twice, he shows him how the phrase should have continued. Melancholicus begins to relent, and makes a correct answer. But this difficult though small step (of only six notes) forces him into another pause to recover; then he returns to his original theme again. Sanguineus mocks him by comically imitating his thoughts, converting them to his rhythm. Here Melancholicus takes off the mute and follows the other, and they play together an extended section based on the Sanguineus subject. There is a pause; Sanguineus expects the other to lead, but he puts on his mute and reverts to his original topic, again ending with a question. Sanguineus replies with a contrary answer, but Melancholicus answers his question with a snippet of his own hypothesis. Sanguineus angrily mimics it, expanding the compact phrase to span an octave. After a pause he starts again, and Melancholicus continues correctly for a few notes then slips again into his melancholy. Here Sanguineus, following the previous success of the method, plays on Melancholicus’ sense of honour to win him over and scoffs at his ideas. He invites him again and Melancholicus follows him, without mute. But the same thought which has already distracted him brings back his melancholy. Sanguineus quickly draws him out of it. There is a section in which the players move together. Sanguineus has lost some of his fervour. But his flattery of Melancholicus gives rise to renewed melancholy. Sanguineus laughs at this. They alternate until Melancholicus falls into a deep sleep. Sanguineus continues to make fun of him, but stops twice to listen whether there is a reply and hears nothing. The first movement ends here; despite its programme, it has a coherent form, ABABA (though tonally more complex than that). The dialogue is confined to the A sections, which are considerably shorter than the time taken to describe them might suggest. The second movement follows without a break, Melancholicus again playing muted. He starts mumbling to himself; Sanguineus replies frivolously. They continue, playing contrasting themes until (at the end of the movement) Sanguineus asks the other to join him. Getting nowhere, he asks him strongly (one single note); meeting only silence, he asks again more politely. Melancholicus, having removed his mute, lets himself be moved, and indicates his change of mind by imitating a six-note phrase of Sanguineus. Sanguineus continues it, Melancholicus repeats it to show his steadfastness, then both conclude the Adagio in unanimity. This unanimity remains throughout the Allegro; since Sanguineus has won the argument, he politely lets Melancholicus begin, and the two instruments converse in a friendly manner. Friendly discourse is the pattern of the relationship between the two violins in the Trio Sonata in B flat bm, written in 1754. The upper instruments either alternate in amicable dialogue or move together in parallel thirds and sixths. The quick changes of mood which are characteristic of the keyboard sonatas are less in evidence here. The muted main theme of the slow movement makes one wonder whether Mozart knew it. The pizzicato theme derives from the bass part, which is thematically more integrated with the violin parts than in the other movements. In the last movement, the violin writing is more imitative in texture. Although much of his chamber music was published, C P E Bach’s fame depended more on his solo keyboard music and especially his instruction book on harpsichord-playing, Versuch über die wahre Art das Clavier zu spielen (‘Essay on the true art of playing the keyboard’), published in 1753. In many respects, the move to Hamburg caused a significant change in his output, and he concentrated particularly on church music. But he continued to write for the keyboard, especially for the clavichord, for which he produced music of a great emotional intensity. The dance La Folia was first noted two centuries earlier in Spain, and became popular in Italy earlier in the seventeenth century. Eighteenth-century composers knew it chiefly from Corelli’s variations for violin and continuo (Op 5 No 12), and its chord sequence became a frequent basis for similar treatment. Bach’s variations 4, written in 1776, are alternately expressive and virtuosic.

Clifford Barlett, Hyperion

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Locatelli: Concerti Grossi Op.1 - Freib. Barockorchester

Pietro Locatelli
Concerti Grossi Op.1
Freiburger Barockorchester, Gottfried von der Goltz
Harmonia Mundi HMC901889

Classics Today rating: 10/10

There is absolutely nothing here to criticize. The Freiburg Baroque Orchestra is one of the premier ensembles of its type, and it performs this music on top form. Locatelli's Op. 1 is nicely varied as to content, particularly in this selection. Only one concerto (No. 7) follows Vivaldi's three-movement "Venetian" form; the remainder are modeled on Corelli's concerti grossi and have four or five movements apiece. Locatelli's "sarabandas" are particularly lovely, and they are enhanced by the characterfully varied treatment of the continuo throughout these performances. Concerto No. 8 is a "pastoral", as in Corelli's famous Christmas Concerto, while four of the six works featured here employ minor keys, which only heightens the music's expressive intensity. In short, you won't find a better-chosen, more appealing selection of high Baroque concertos anywhere, and the engineering is typically splendid. For fans of the period, this is self-recommending.

David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Golden Days 2010: 1700 Tallet - Fest, Frihed og Forandring

1700 Tallet - Fest, Frihed og Forandring
Various Composers - Various Artists
Naxos 8.572670DK

Historical Festival in Copenhagen / 3-26 September

"1700s - globalization, gossip and greed"
3-26 September 2010 Copenhagen will provide the setting for a great historical and cultural festival that focuses on Denmark in the 1700s. With the festival "The 1700s - globalization, gossip and greed" Golden Days will emphasize the century's topicality, focusing on the period in which Denmark truly met the world. The period was characterized by international connections and exchanges, and in the 1700s the seeds of today's democratic society were sown. The period is still a key historical point for some of the most important debates on principles that characterize modern Denmark.

The topical century
The festival "The 1700s - globalization, gossip and greed" offers everything from exhibitions and debates on current topics with roots in the 1700s to masquerade balls and evenings emphasizing Eastern mysticism. The festival's goal is to establish the topicality of the 1700s and thereby strengthen future discussions on freedom of speech, culture, human rights and gender equality.

Denmark meets the world
Denmark was in the 1700s characterized by an exchange between the open minded and curious and the closed and introverted. It was a florissant period where merchants made fortunes on slaves and arms trade, while citizens' rights and freedom of speech were debated in the newly established clubs. The West Indies and Tranquebar became part of Denmark as colonies, and curious scientists set out to catalogue the world. Denmark was in the 1700s a part of the global network through which goods, ideas and people crossed borders as never before. Denmark met the world, and it is exactly this meeting that will be focused on when Golden Days invites you to a festival held at cultural institutions throughout the Copenhagen area in September 2010.

Bach - Toccata and Fugue in D minor; Toccata
Vivaldi - Gloria in Excelsis Deo
Handel - Music for the Royal Fireworks; La rejouissance
Bach - Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G major
Handel - Messiah; For unto us a Child is born
Rameau - Pieces de clavecin - Tambourin
Balbastre - Marche des Marseillais et l'air Ca ira
Bach - Keyboard Sonata in D minor
Beethoven - 5 Variations on "Rule Britannia", Theme
Beethoven - 7 Variations on "God Save the King", Theme
Haydn - String Quartet No. 62 in C major, Op. 76, No. 3, "Emperor"
Handel - See, the conqu'ring hero comes!
Pergolesi - Stabat mater dolorosa
Gluck - Orfeo ed Eurodice; Ballo
Stamitz - Flute Concerto in D major
Haydn - Symphony No. 45 in F sharp minor, "Farewell"
Mozart - Cassation in G major, "Toy Symphony"
Mozart - The Marriage of Figaro; Duettino - Cinque, dieci...
Mozart - The Marriage of Figaro Aria - Nos so piu cosa son
Mozart - Die Zauberflöte, K. 620; Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinen Herzen
Haydn - Symphony No. 94 in G major, "The Surprise"
Beethoven - Symphony No. 1 in C major, Op. 21

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Händel: Fireworks/ Water Music - The King's Consort, King

George Frideric Händel
Fireworks Music, Water Music
The King's Consort, Robert King
Helios CDH55375

On a cold January day in 1989, two dozen oboes, twelve bassoons, nine horns, nine trumpets and two giant double drums were gathered in a north London church to make what became of Hyperion’s most iconic recordings: The King’s Consort’s recreation of Handel’s Musick for the Royal Fireworks is a sonic triumph of jaw-dropping majesty, its authenticity only stopping short at burning down the venue.

Ten years later Robert King and The King’s Consort turned their attentions to the Water Music. Handel’s commission was for an enormous party on the river Thames given by George I. A large orchestra was present on the musicians' barge: a good-size string section (despite the King’s outspoken loathing of ‘violeens’) and a substantial wind presence. The sound of a large baroque wind band produces a magnificent sonority. Similarly, a colourful continuo force on the river seems probable. The rhythmic impetus of a pair of baroque guitars combined with the colours of two harpsichords lends the music a vital danceband-like rhythm section, much in keeping with the King’s colourful intentions for his evening’s entertainment!

All faithfully recreated, of course. Except for the barge.