Monday, February 28, 2011

JS Bach: The Concertos for 3 and 4 Harpsichords - T. Pinnock

Johann Sebastian Bach
The Concertos for 3 and 4 Harpsichords
Pinnock, Gilbert, Mortensen, Kraemer, The English Concert
Archiv 400 041-2

No review available but hey... It's Trevor Pinnock!

Anyway, this is for all the people who was born on February 29th.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Locatelli: L'Arte del Violino - Carmignola, TVO, Andrea Marcon

Pietro Locatelli
L'Arte del Violino, Concertos No. 1, 2, 10, 11
Giuliano Carmignola, Venice Baroque Orchestra, Andrea Marcon
Sony SK 89729

Locatelli's set of 12 concertos for violin, L'Arte del Violino, were published in 1733, but might have largely written earlier. They demonstrate his mastery of violin technique as a player and as a composer, each concerto has two movements marked "capriccio", a cadenza which was meant to display his superb skill as a violinist and to terrorise other violinists for hundreds of years. So they are not "easy listening", but its worth the effort, and this is a superb interpretation by Giuliano Carmignola and the Venice Baroque Orchestra. Other CDs of Italian Baroque Violin concerts beautifully played by Carmignola & Venice Baroque are also available.

Ross Kennett, Amazon Customer Review

Saturday, February 26, 2011

GA Benda: Harpsichord Concertos - Bauer, LSF, Schneider

Georg Anton Benda
Harpsichord Concertos
Sabine Bauer, La Stagione Frankfurt, Michael Schneider
CPO 777 088-2

Georg Anton Benda (1722-1795), who was attached to the Berlin court initially under Frederick Great, made his mark as an innovative opera composer. However, there's little if any innovation on display in these harpsichord concertos, which are considerably less developed in style than the contemporaneous work of Mozart or either of the Haydn brothers. Aside from the virtuoso quality of some of the keyboard writing, these concertos display some typical galant mannerisms along with the Baroque tendency to sustain a single mood during a movement, if not throughout the whole piece. But within that constraint there is a lot of variety among these four works.

The most dazzling is the F major concerto, with brisk toccata-like writing that recalls Domenico Scarlatti. The F minor concerto is turbulent, and although I wouldn't go so far as to call it a "Sturm und Drang" piece, it does have a sense of struggle that presages Beethoven. The B minor concerto has its share of struggle as well, but it relaxes into a slow movement with a lovely melody. The G major concerto is the sunniest and in many ways the simplest of the lot. One idiosyncrasy is Benda's tendency to end movements abruptly, which happens at one point or another in nearly all these works.

The performances are delightful. The harpsichord and the string orchestra are well balanced, picked up fairly closely but with a nice sense of hall ambience in the surround program. The 1992 harpsichord is bright without being strident, assertive without being harsh. CPO's prominent pick-up conveys some of the sounds of its mechanism, enough to add a percussion effect in vigorous moments. Sabine Bauer's solo work is alert, brisk, and playful, reveling in the music's more challenging passages. La Stagione Frankfurt comprises only 13 players but never sounds stressed or scrawny. The music itself won't make any "Essential Classics" lists, but the disc is a pleasurable listen all the way through.

Joseph Stevenson, ClassicsToday.com

Friday, February 25, 2011

JS Bach: 6 Brandenburg Concertos, 4 Orchestral Suites

Johann Sebastian Bach
6 Brandenburg Concertos, 4 Orchestral Suites
The English Concert, Trevor Pinnock
Archiv 423 492-2

For my friend Kwork (and all the rest of you of course).

The idea of a "perfect recording" is, of course, chimerical. But Trevor Pinnock's "Brandenburg Concertos" and "Orchestral Suites" come pretty close to the mark. There are two factors which put this 3-CD set in the category "very special": One is the sheer musicianship of the young English Concert team. Every soloist seems to want to outdo the others in technical skill, tonal clarity and emotional verve. Listen to Pinnock himself on the harpsichord in the Brandenburg Concert No. 5; listen to Lisa Beznosiuk accompanying him on the traverse flute; listen to Simon Standage, Philip Pickett and Rachel Beckett in Concert No. 4 ... and so the list goes on. This is an unending sequence of instrumental delights, and only someone who dislikes Baroque period instruments on principle will fail to experience heights of enjoyment of this exquisite sound. Which brings me to the second factor: Seldom have I heard such a brilliant recording! Deutsche Grammophon is generally known for superior sound, but this 1982 piece of digital engineering (Brandenburg Concertos) surpasses anything I have ever heard even from this label: Purity, clarity, spaciousness and presence are uniquely combined to provide a listening experience which could hardly be topped.

The Orchestral Suite sound (analogue recording from 1979/1980) is only slightly less brilliant and also deserves great praise. I have listened to a number of rival recordings, but nothing captivates me quite like the the English Concert discs. The only slight question mark could perhaps be put behind the Sixth Brandenburg Concerto, which in its Adagio slow movement seems to lack a little fire. Generally, Pinnock has chosen tempi that are moderate, and although musicologists and interpreters since this recording (Goebel; Rampe) have argued cogently for faster rhythms, their efforts sound decidedly contrived in comparison with Pinnock's easy, flowing version which caresses the ear without betraying any of Bach's depth or humour. It would surprise me greatly if anyone who bought this CD-box ever regretted it.

Leslie Richford, Amazon Customer Review

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Arne: Eight Overtures - The Academy of Ancient Music, Hogwood

Thomas Augustine Arne
Eight Overtures
The Academy of Ancient Music, Christopher Hogwood
L'Oiseau-Lyre 475 9117

The Eight Overtures of Thomas Arne do not quite possess the energy, the freshness or the technical solidity of the better-known Eight Symphonys of his rival, William Boyce, but they do have much charm of their own. The first movements are mostly in some degree French-overturish, but with a very English relaxing of the Gallic formality; but Arne writes too some very dutiful fugues (a remarkably genial one in No. 1, one on an abnormally lengthy subject in No. 2, a double one in No. 6), and there are some appealing slow movements and attractive dances. It is the slow movements above all, I think, that bear the strongest witness to Arne's unique gifts. His music is uneven, but any dullish or routine movement is apt to be followed by one that takes your breath away with its charm or originality—try for example the graceful Andante e piano of No. 1, wistful, graceful, quirkily English in the shape of its lines, or the plaintive little D minor Andante e piano of No. 5. Some of the overtures, originally written for theatre or semitheatrical works, have a more grandiose manner: the last, from The Judgment of Paris, in particular, but also the cne from Comus, No. 7, with its ringing trumpets. Another, No. 4, has concertante parts for two horns.

All this music is played in a very spirited fashion by the Academy, under Christopher Hogwood whose understanding of, and sympathy for, the music are unrivalled (this was, I believe, their first recording). Standards of precision in the playing of period instruments have of course risen in the 20 years since this recording was made (the sound of the oboes is the sharpest reminder of that), but the particular spirit of these pieces is most happily caught and there is much that is very delightful and unmistakably the music of an eccentric Englishman.

SS, Gramophone Magazine

JS Bach: Goldberg-Variationen - Trevor Pinnock

Johann Sebastian Bach
Trevor Pinnock
Archiv 415 130-2

Johann Gottlieb Goldberg must indeed have been a remarkably precocious keyboard virtuoso if these superb variations were written for him to play to his master, Count Kayserling, for they were already published by the time that, at the age of 15, he became a pupil of Bach's. (There is an unsolved mystery here, since although Bach received for them a golden goblet filled with 100 louis d'or, no dedication or mention of Kayserling appears on the printed edition.) Forkel said that they were put to practical use to combat the Count's insomnia. One recording, by an artist whom gallantry prevents me from naming, would have sent the Count to sleep from sheer boredom; he might well have taken refuge in sleep as a means of escape from another, by a player living further north.

But to come to the present case, Trevor Pinnock's playing would not only do nothing to induce slumber, but on the contrary would have any perceptive listener (as the Count was) eagerly sitting on the edge of his chair and demanding more: its bubbling vitality and spring-heeled rhythm are immensely engaging, and the generally very fast speeds adopted give the set a cheerful, light-hearted character that is altogether unusual. (They also enable repeats of just over half the variations to be included on a single disc.) These lively tempi—Variations 3 (the unison canon) and 14 are perhaps the most extreme—are nevertheless mostly convincing (though the French Overture surely needs greater breadth?), and No. 7, which recent research has discovered to be marked Al tempo di Giga, trips along on the lightest of toes; which makes it all the odder that Pinnock plays the theme so slowly and with so much rubato. I feel, too, that in its context the No. 21 minor variation is too suddenly slow, and I'm personally convinced that the 'black pearl' No. 25 can exercise its full emotional effect without making the rhythm too elastic. But, taken as a whole, this set, recorded with lifelike fidelity, is a feather in Pinnock's (and Archiv's) caps.

L.S., Gramophone Magazine

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Barsanti: 6 Concerti Grossi - Banchetto Musicale, Il Piacere

Francesco Barsanti
6 Concerti Grossi
(from Sonata Notturne Op.6 by G.B. Sammartini - 1757)
Banchetto Musicale, Il Piacere
Dynamic CDS 213

Biography of Francesco Barsanti
(Lucca 1690 - London 1770)

Francesco Barsanti is one of the many extraordinary Italian instrumentalists - virtuosi and composers - who travelled through Europe all along the eighteenth century, and contributed to the definitive achievement of instrumental music - particularly the genres of sonata, concert and symphony - and to the formation of an international language. Lucca, the town where he was born in 1690, seems to have been particularly rich in these kind of musicians in the previous centuries: Gioseffo e Franceco Guami -for other musical genres- , Gio. Lorenzo Gregori -his name is related to the history of concert, though he did all his work at home-, Franceco Xaverio Geminiani -the greatest promoter of Corelli-, Filippo Manfredi -another excellent violinist that performed in France and Spain, but also in Italy and most of all in Genova: Niccolo Paganini probably performed his first concert in Lucca thanks to a pupil of him- and finally Luigi Boccherini, finishing touch of a so big tradition. Among these musicians from Lucca, Francesco Barsanti should be put in the rank of the “definitive” emigrants, as Francesco Xaverio Geminiani and Luigi Boccherini, who never came back home. We don’t know much of him: the little biographical news present in the good Storia della musica in Lucca by Luigi Nerici (1879) do not say much on his training: «When he was young, he was sent to Padova where he should study Science, but he fell in love with music and decided to study it, becoming a good oboe and flute player». The traces of the activities of Barsanti in Italy are very few, but very significant: in 1717 and in 1718 he played the oboe during the great liturgical services that every year took place in the Santa Croce holy festivities - and his pay was huge. During the eighteenth century the holy festivities of Santa Croce were a place of meeting and of very interesting experimentation too, because the governors of Lucca, who wanted to increase the value of musical performances, had opened the participation to the -foreigners- with a contest for instrumentalists and singers - which was obviously won by the best among them. The liturgy granted privileged spaces for the instrumental performance. Thus in Santa Croce many musicians were allowed to perform: Francesco Maria Veracini, Pietro Nardini, Giuseppe Cambini, and from Lucca Filippo Manfredi and Luigi Boccherini - these last four musicians played all together again in Santa Croce, when they created the first foursome formation, the mighty Quartetto Toscano - until the clamorous, and shocking, performance of Niccolò Paganini. Now it should be evident why Francesco Barsanti, who in 1714 had moved to London - where he played the flute and the oboe in the orchestra of the Italian Opera Theatre - with Francesco Xaverio Geminiani, decided to go back to Lucca to perform in Santa Croce. After having worked in London for many years, in 1735 Barsanti went to Scotland, where he married a Scottish woman, and where he could rely on the aristocratic support, that allowed him to publish his best works: the ten Concerti grossi op.3 in 1742 and the nine Overtures op.4 around 1743. Then he came back to London, but he had lost all his previous contacts, so he had to accept some works as a viola player for the orchestras of the Londoners theatres. He died in 1772 under strange circumstances, when he was already poor. Two aspects of his life deserve to be emphasized. The contemporary presence in London of Barsanti and Geminiani - and sometimes of Veracini - seems to highlight the existence of a little "colony" - the citizens of Lucca, most of all merchants, were all around Europe and were insuperable in getting into the local realities. This colony probably was used has a support and an employment agency for others younger musicians, as the castrated Giovanni Battista Andreoni, who around the ‘40s performed in London for three consecutive seasons playing roles created by Georg Friedrich Handel - after having sung in the theatres of all Europe. It should not surprise that Barsanti changed instrument with great ease: in Lucca the players used to shift easily from flute to oboe, and during that period the musical training was less sectional than nowadays - and this is the reason why Barsanti found a job as a viola player. In some documents of the Edinburgh Musical Society we can read that Barsanti used to play the kettledrum, and in fact he sold a pair, probably because he needed the money to go back to London. The profound knowledge of various instruments is clearly evident in the composition: the sonatas for flute only, the symphony concerts - with the kettledrums, the oboes, the horns, the trumpet, and the usual bows -, the overtures which used the viola in a very innovative way. Although Barsanti has not been studied enough - after the few news we find in Nerici and in others English and Scottish researchers - the little we know of him and of his compositions that have been performed, show us a really interesting personality.

Gabriella Biagi Ravenni, University of Pisa.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Brescianello: Concerti et Sinphonie - Banchetto Musicale

Giuseppe Antonio Brescianello
Concerti et Sinphonie
Banchetto Musicale
Dynamic CDS 291-1-2

Here's a wonderful discovery: Brescianello spent most of his career in Germany, at Munich and at Stuttgart but his concerti (all with solo violin) and his shorter symphonies all have the verve, dynamism and solo virtuosity of Vivaldi who is a clear influence. The symphonies (published in 1738) are among the first examples to have been published in Europe and, like G.B. Sammartini's, present the archaic structure in which the slow movement often is no more than a bridge between the outer, fast movements.


Beck: Symphonies Op.4 1-3 - La Stagione Frankfurt, Schneider

Franz Ignaz Beck
Symphonies Op.4 Nos. 1-3
La Stagione Frankfurt, Michael Schneider
CPO 777 390-2

This is one of three of Beck’s symphonies to come out in recent months, with the six Op. 3 examples released on CPO 777034-2 and 999390-2 with the same ensemble, also under the baton of Michael Schneider. A contemporary of Haydn, Beck has much of the Eszterhazy master’s charm. Though there is no real way to determine chronological order for the symphonies, the Op. 4 works here appear to be the last of Beck’s symphonies to be published. You can hear the Op. 1 set on Naxos.

Op. 4 No. 1 in D certainly has the greatest amount of kinetic energy, beginning with three forte chords, in the fashion that Parisian society found so exciting in Mozart’s time and which Mozart rather bemusedly indulged in several of his works written specifically for such an audience. Beck’s symphony carries it further, also ending the opening movement with those forceful three chords. He stays rather on the forceful side overall in the outer movements, the last movement of Symphony 1 has its joyously rustic outbursts emphasising the upbeat in wide and sudden dynamic shifts. The two shorter inner movements are quite enjoyable as well, with a slow movement played before a menuetto movement, as with the other two symphonies on this disc. For Symphony 1, the andante begins in blissful, stately calm, with some chordal changes right around the three-minute mark to keep things interesting. Shortly after, the piece is brought up short twice before continuing on, unruffled.

Symphony No. 2 churns busily along before calming down to a presentation of the thematic material in an extended duet of oboes before the strings and continuo ratchet things up again with a building crescendo. The piece is charmingly outgoing and enjoyable, and the formula carries over to the more restrained opening movement of Symphony 3, much reminiscent of Haydn. Again, the main thematic material is iterated by oboe duet, which soon is overtaken by tremolo strings in a - albeit more restrained - crescendo before the cooler heads of the oboes re-take the floor.

Another standout is the Andante arioso second movement of Symphony 3, which glides smoothly along as the strings give the woodwinds a reprieve. The pauses here in this movement are delicious; a slight hesitation before the development begins.

As with two of the other Beck releases, included is a theatre music bonus to the symphonies, in this case the overture to L’Isle déserte, one of my favourite pieces on this disc, composed in 1799. The liner notes, written by the conductor, indicate the use of tone painting, in which the elements of the plot - written by Metastasio, also given musical treatment by Haydn as Isola disabitata - are given rather straightforwardly. These include the sudden storm at sea that strands the two sisters of the play on the island, as well as the rather sad chisel blows - played by the oboe - of one of the sisters as she chips her own suicide statement in stone. It’s a strange piece to end the disc on, not only from the tone of the piece, but in the fact that it was originally written to begin things. The disc seems to end with a strange unresolved upward inflection, a statement spoken as a question, but this is rather a small criticism for what is quite enjoyable music. The review of this SACD is based on playback on various standard players — the sound is excellent, and the recording space gives the ensemble room to breathe without sounding the slightest bit remote or boomy. La Stagione Frankfurt sound wonderful in this recording, which certainly has me looking forward to future releases.

David Blomenberg, Musicweb-International.com

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Beck: Symphonies Op.3 3-5 - La Stagione Frankfurt, Schneider

Franz Ignaz Beck
Symphonies Op.3 Nos. 3-5
La Stagione Frankfurt, Michael Schneider
CPO 777 390-2

Schneider makes the symphonies of full pelvic discontinuity, making music full of sudden change of expression, the volume and tone, the listener so that electrified every motive, every orchestra beat, every melody followed. That this music sound so sophisticated, in the rhythm so infectious and the expression can be so upsetting that they compare with Mozart or Beethoven, no need to fear, proves La Stagione Frankfurt. Sound: clear, wide dynamic contrasts, clear outlines.

Google translation of a review in the german magazine FonoForum. Read the original review in german here.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Beck: Symphonies Op.3 1,2&6 - La Stagione Frankfurt, Schneider

Franz Ignaz Beck
Symphonies Op.3 Nos. 1, 2 & 6, Overture "La mort d'Orphee"
La Stagione Frankfurt, Michael Schneider
CPO 777 034-2

Listeners who enjoy the symphonies of Franz Joseph Haydn surely will admire these works, composed by Haydn's lesser-known contemporary Franz Ignaz Beck. Like Haydn's, Beck's symphonies consistently display a clever use of harmony, rhythmic flexibility, and most importantly, a wealth of melodic imagination. However, unlike Haydn (at least as evinced by the three works offered here), Beck never draws on the past for inspiration, eschewing any reference or allusion to galant convention. Quite the opposite in fact, since Beck's fiery outer movements, played with exceptional panache by La Stagione Frankfurt, more often than not sound as if the composer is anticipating the charged romanticism of Beethoven.

The lighter inner movements also demonstrate Beck's exceptional creativity and technical skill. The broad sweeping gestures of the third-movement Minuetto of the Symphony in B-flat major are regularly (and often humorously) punctuated by various combinations of soloists from each of the orchestral sections. The delicate nobility that characterizes the pensive second-movement Andante grazioso of the Symphony in F major as well displays a familiarity if not mastery of symphonic form on par with any of Beck's contemporaries.

CPO's sound is well balanced and clearly detailed. While conductor Michael Schneider's informative and entertaining notes make a very strong case for rescuing Franz Beck from obscurity, the orchestra's expert performances under his leadership make an even stronger one. Highly recommended.

John Greene, ClassicsToday.com

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Bach: Brandenburg Concertos 1-3 - English Concert, Pinnock

Johann Sebastian Bach
Brandenburg Concertos Nos. 1-2-3
The English Concert, Trevor Pinnock
Archiv 410 500-2

On Shakespeare's sceptered isle the approach to Bach has remained fairly consistent among period specialists. Trevor Pinnock and the English Concert were among the first to digitally record the Brandenburgs on period instruments, and their 1982 readings have remained staples of the catalog. Animated, though still very English in their wholesomeness and avoidance of color, these accounts feature predictably good work from violinist Simon Standage and such stalwarts as flutist Lisa Beznosiuk and the ubiquitous Mr. Pinnock. They also boast excellent sound (the venue was Henry Wood Hall), even if the harpsichord in Concerto No. 5 is so prominent as to be dis-concerting.

Ted Libbey, Amazon.com

Bach: Brandenburg Concertos 4-6 - English Concert, Pinnock

Johann Sebastian Bach
Brandenburg Concertos Nos. 4-5-6
The English Concert, Trevor Pinnock
Archiv 410 501-2

On Shakespeare's sceptered isle the approach to Bach has remained fairly consistent among period specialists. Trevor Pinnock and the English Concert were among the first to digitally record the Brandenburgs on period instruments, and their 1982 readings have remained staples of the catalog. Animated, though still very English in their wholesomeness and avoidance of color, these accounts feature predictably good work from violinist Simon Standage and such stalwarts as flutist Lisa Beznosiuk and the ubiquitous Mr. Pinnock. They also boast excellent sound (the venue was Henry Wood Hall), even if the harpsichord in Concerto No. 5 is so prominent as to be dis-concerting.

Ted Libbey, Amazon.com

Bach: St. John Passion - CNCO, Collegium Novum, Higginbottom

Johann Sebastian Bach
St. John Passion
The Choir of New College Oxford, Collegium Novum, Edward Higginbottom
Naxos 8.557296.97

Gramophone Magazine: Editor's Choice - June 2003

A natural and unforced reading within a 'living' musico-liturgical context. When you hear the St. John F4uArn ominous first chorus of Bach's St John Passion sung and played like this, liturgical ritual and visceral human drama make for an unusually intense experi_ ence. The bass line pulsates, the boys articulate the words with supreme clarity and the steady speed provides the movement with just the right length - a consideration too often neglected.

Recorded in New College, Oxford, the resident choristers, choral scholars and lay clerks appear to be entirely at ease with the special juxtaposition of quicksilver action and warm reflection which Bach demands in his choruses and chorales. One can too easily overplay the importance of 'environment' at the expense of plain musical inspiration, but Edward Higginbottom delivers a palpable sense of narrative, unfussy, as if habit lies at the root of its being. This, I suppose, is what gives New College its most 'authentic' correlation with the church-university context of Leipzig in Bach's day: a practising foundation undertaking its duties within rich ecclesiastical and academic traditions.

Yet there is nothing 'academic' in the word's less complimentary meaning. Just hear the searing choral chromaticisms as Christ is brought before Caiaphas, the startlingly urgent declamations as the crowd bays for blood (`Wir haben em n Gesetz' — 'we have a law' — is spat out in petty vindictiveness) or the distraught tenderness of James Bowman in 'Es ist vollbracht'.

To reinforce in-house practices and a timeless ethos, Higginbottom has selected a varied group of soloists who, over the decades, have emerged from the ranks of the choir. The Evangelist is the established tenor James Gilchrist, whose alert and straightforward singing makes his performance utterly believable. Of the current generation of choristers, Joe Littlewood reminds us that English choirboys can sing German music beautifully and convey the emotional essence of the text with maturity and purpose. His `Ich folge' is a delight.

There is the odd strain in Matthew Beale's testing tenor arias but a pleasing timbre, as indeed there is in John Bernays' proud but unblustering Christus. The odd wrinkle in the production is almost a relief: this is music making asking for rather more than the kind of studio spit and polish which renders the whole rather less than the sum of the parts.

Higginbottom has nevertheless considered his options meticulously (such as a small wiry string group for Tilt, ihr angefochtnen Seelen') and there is no single 'tableau' or vignette within whose effect on the overall dramatic climate has not been calculated. If there is a general tendency, it is to allow the music to speak in its own time within a relaxed beat. The rest is instinct, experience and letting what will be, be. In such light comes this refreshing and captivating new interpretation. Needless to say, exceptional value is an added bonus.

Jonathan Freeman-Attwood, Gramophone Magazine

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Arne: Four Symphonies - Cantilena, Adrian Shepherd

Thomas Augustine Arne
Four Symphonies
Cantilena, Adrian Shepherd
Chandos CHAN 8403

Thomas Arne (1710-1778), an English contemporary of Handel,is not a well-remembered composer. A number of years younger than Handel, he lived in London at the same time, and thereffore lived to a certain extent in the shadow of the older master. Today Arne is remembered, if at all, as the composer of Rule Brittania (which came from his masque Alfred) and for a popular arrangement of God Save the King. If one considered only these two compositions, one might suspect that Arne composed only jingoistic, popular works. Nothing could be further from the truth as Arne composed a number of oratorios and masques as well as numerous popular songs. In his quest to be regarded as a serious composer, he composed a number of symphonies of which the four on this recording have been preserved, having been originally published in 1767.

These are short, 3 movement symphonies written in an older, pre-Haydn style. The movements of No. 1 in C major are allegro-andante-allegro. No. 2 in F major has as its movements presto-andantina-moderato allegro. No. 3 in E flat major is written as andante e piu-larghetto-tempo di minuetto. No. 4 is moderato-larghetto-vivace. The symphonies are short ranging in length from 8:31 for No. 1 to 14:11 for No. 4. The fast movements of all symphonies have driving melodies - most have complex orchestration variously involving strings, woodwinds, horns, and/or flutes. The slow movements are emotional and gentle. The style of music varies from baroque to early classical. The symphonies show development from simpler affairs (1 and 2) to more developed and complex works (3 and 4). Symphony No. 3 reminds me melodically of Handel in several places. The other 3 symphonies are more original, especially No. 4 where the use of horns playing melodies intertwined with those of the woodwinds and strings is captivating.

The symphonies on this CD had been forgotten for about 200 years until re-published/discovered in 1973. We are fortunate that Chandos has seen to record these small masterpieces. The Cantilena, a small Scottish orchestra under the direction of Adrian Shepard, provides an excellent performance. This recording dating from 1985, is digital with full bright and clear sound.

The symphonies on this recording provide us with music of London of the mid-1700's by a composer other than Handel. They are examples of lovely early symphonies. In his day, Arne was very popular and this CD shows us why.

R. Broardhead - Amazon Customer Review

Monday, February 14, 2011

Bach: Orgelwerke 'Toccaten & Fugen' - Ton Koopman

Johann Sebastian Bach
Toccaten & Fugen
Ton Koopman
Archiv 410 999-2

After years of listening to plodding unimaginative endlessly legato French and American styles of ruining Bach's organ music (trust me here I had such an organ professor in college who positively stifled organ music with his hideous Dupre edition) - music barely able to breathe, it's refreshing to hear someone who can use staccato, marcato and ornamentation and play with panache and passion, and give this grand music the grand sound and life it deserves. So what about odd trills and a dropped pedal. Go back to Karl Richter, Marie Claire Alain or E. Power Biggs if you want to hear some flubs, and even Peter Hurford on occasion - a far more imaginative player than most but still far short of Koopman - misses a few. Ignore the review below this one, buy this disk, and give any other performance of these pieces a comparison with any other celebrated organist and you'll hear what I mean. Compare only Koopman's elegantly ornamented interpretation of the Adagio from the Toccata, Adagio, and Fugue, and you'll immediately hear it. I rather suspect the reviewer below is one of those who prefers gigantic Moron Block and Tackle choir performances of the B Minor Mass, horrid modern strings scraping away, Boesendorffer imperial grands pounding out the continuo, voices pitched and warbling just this side of hysteria and wading through the work like the Wehrmacht through Russian mud. Give us a break.

Joseph P Farrell, Amazon Customer Review

Bach suites for solo cello nº 1 & 4 (BWV1007, 1010): János Starker (LP transfer)

Throughout his career, János Starker has recorded Bach's suites for solo cello on five occasions. This one, part of the (incomplete) first set from the early 1950s when Starker was in his twenties, shows his characteristic energy and technical mastery, grace, thought, and eloquence.

I've never seen it online anywhere, and am fortunate to have a friend who could rip my LP (which has accompanied me through many relocations over 40 years). There are perhaps three dozen people in the entire world who might be really interested in this one; if you happen to know any of them, please pass it on! (Another option, of course, is to listen to it yourself.)

Bach Suites No 1 in G major, No 4 in E flat major
János Starker, cello
Period SPL 582 (same as Nixa PLP 582, Saga XID 5167, and the Einsätz EZCD 006 transfer from the Nixa LP)
Early 1950s, monoaural
.flac, .cue, covers

For collectors and completists:
The second part of this set comprises suites 3 and 6 (BWV1009, 1012) and can be downloaded (in .flac or .wav format) from the European Archive:

The Period label apparently ran into economic problems, and suites 2 and 5 were never recorded.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Arne: Overtures - Collegium Musicum 90, Simon Standage

Thomas Augustine Arne
Collegium Musicum 90, Simon Standage
Chandos CHAN 0722

Collegium Musicum 90 rarely get the adulation they deserve. This anthology of overtures by Arne, featuring a who's who of the English period-instrument scene, is a charming disc of beautifully played and brightly executed performances.

Simon Standage nurtures affectionate interpretations and his violin-playing still perpetuates the impeccable stylishness and musical taste that made his pioneering recordings with Pinnock and Hogwood so enduring.

The Overture to the English comic opera Thomas and Sally (1760) gets things off to a splendid start; its Scotch gavotte features masterful, witty playing from bassoonist Sally Jackson.

The bulk of the disc is devoted to 'Eight Overtures in 8 Parts' that Arne published in 1751. Peter Holman's informative bookletnotes say these overtures were probably extracted from introductions to vocal works, many of which are now lost. Among the finest moments are the vivacious opening Presto of Overture No 3 and the invigorated horn blasts and chuckling oboes in the middle movement of No 4. Trumpeters Crispian Steele-Perkins and David Blackadder provide grandeur in the bright Overture to Arne's setting of Milton's Comus (No 7).

Although those devoted to pleading Arne's cause would love to hear a recording of such fine quality of Comus, or the oratorio Judith, this collection is comfortably among the strongest advocacies of Arne's merits on CD.

Gramophone Magazine

Friday, February 11, 2011

Mascitti: Concerti Grossi Op.7, Sonate IV-V - Camerata Anxanum

Michele Mascitti
Concerti Grossi Op.7, Sonate IV-V Op.3
Camerata Anxanum
Bongiovanni GB 5063-2

Thanks to Dmitry/Alekhno for bringing this wonderful recording to my attention! You can visit his blog XVIII Century Music here.

Please note that I might have accidently misspelled the composers name in the folder inside the rar-files. I apologize for this extreme lack of professionalism!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

CPE & WF Bach: Concertos for 2 Harpsichords - MAK, Goebel

Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, Wilhelm Friedemann Bach
Concertos for 2 Harpsichords
Andres Staier, Robert Hill, Musica Antiqua Köln, Reinhard Goebel
Archiv 419 256-2

It was the Bachs who launched the harpsichord on its career as a concerto soloist and the sons did not wait to follow in father's wake; the first of Carl Philipp Emanuel's 52 concertos, spanning more than 50 years, probably just predates the first of JSB's. Neither did they pursue the practice of having more than two soloists. In his F major Concerto (the numbering of which differs from that given in Grove: H410, Wq46) CPE accepts the formal plan of the ritornello but not the concept of its unity of thematic mood; he introduces a diversity that is more like that of the exposition in sonata form—though the resemblance ends there, and the element of contrast is maintained in the 'solo' episodes, not derived from the ritornello material. The elegiac slow movement (Largo e con sordino) is a gem, with sighing appoggiaturas and 'operatic' halts and hesitations, of which JSB himself might well have been proud. After so much pathos (10 minutes) the briefer, happy and brilliantly scored Allegro assai provides the necessary counterbalance. This work alone is worth the price of the record.

Wilhelm Friedemann also joins baroque and classical approaches, though not within any one movement, in his two concertos for two harpsichords—with and 'without' orchestra: the central movement or FlO, written for the soloists alone, is self-sufficient in the same way as is JSB's Italian Concerto, as is also the final movement of F46, a work whose first movement changes thematic mood in a way that JSB's never did. More conservative than CPE (who in his Concerto provides no shocks to the system), WF nevertheless beguiles and captures one's attention. The performances of these otherwise unrecorded works are full of precision, life and loving care, and they are exceptionally well recorded and balanced. This is a most worthwhile and desirable issue.

J.D. - Gramophone Magazine

Monday, February 7, 2011

CPE Bach: 6 Symphonies - English Chamber Orchestra, Leppard

Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach
6 Symphonies
English Chamber Orchestra, Raymond Leppard
Philips 426 081-2

Works on This Recording:
Wq 182, 183 (Nos. 1-4) and 177

Sunday, February 6, 2011

CPE Bach: Berliner Symphonien - Kammerorchester CPE Bach

Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach
Berliner Symphonien
Kammerorchester Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, Hartmut Haenchen
Berlin Classics 001096BC

Works on This Recording:
Wq 174, 175, 178, 179, and 181