27 May 2019

Imaginario: De un libro de música de vihuela

Imaginario: De Un Libro De Música De Vihuela
Armonia Concertada

María Cristina Kiehr, Ariel Abramovich
John Potter, Jacob Heringman
Arcana A460


Inspired by seven surviving vihuela song books published between 1536 and 1576, this programme proffers a new imagined book ‘as if published in Valladolid or Seville between 1570 and 1580’ with arrangements by Ariel Abramovich and Jacob Heringman. [...]

Kiehr has a ceramic glaze to her delivery: smooth and cool on the surface but warm and pleasingly textured underneath. Her dark vowels create a rich tone that never falters but just occasionally - in Arcadelt’s (c1504-1568) ‘Se per colpa del vostro fiero sdegno’ in particular - I would prefer more immediacy. Elsewhere she is supreme in bright, luminous textures: the refreshing wash of Arcadelt’s ‘Chiare, fresche et dolci acque’ is superb.

[...]


Undercutting all of this is the wonderful vihuela playing of Abramovich and Heringman. Beautifully recorded, their detailed execution of these complex polyphonic textures is as impressive and enjoyable as the programme they have created. 


To read the full text of this article please visit www.gramophone.co.uk (Jun 2019)  

17 Apr 2019

Love is Come Again: Music for the Springhead Easter Play

Love is come again: Music for the Springhead Easter Play
Monteverdi Choir English Baroque Soloists John Eliot Gardiner
SDG731 


If, like me, you enjoyed the eclectic and beautifully poised Christmas disc ‘Once as I remember’ from Sir John Eliot Gardiner and his Monteverdi choir some two decades ago (Philips 462 050-2PH) you will be both intrigued and delighted by his Easter offering. ‘Love is come again’ revisits music from the annual mime-play held at Gardiner’s family home, Springhead, directed by his mother. The music was chosen by Gardiner himself when an undergraduate and in his words contains “a fantastic sort of mosaic of magnificent pieces all associated with the Easter story.” This recording includes several additions to that original programme and the booklet contains a history of the Easter festival experience with archive photographs.

If all that sounds rather quaint fear not, this is no sepia-tinged indulgence: it packs a punch. [...] wait for L'Héritier’s (c.1480-1552) ‘Surrexit pastor bonus’ to hear Gardiner’s midas touch: I love the slow sumptuous tempo, like honey dripping from a spoon.
 

[...] There is so much to explore on this disc, from an adaption of Britten’s ‘Canticle II’ to a glorious performance of ‘Ego sum panis vivus’ attributed to Leonora d’Este (1515-1575) that, on paper at least, it looks like the mosaic is too complicated for the programme to hang together, but in reality it really does work. Springhead must have been a magical place.

To read the full text of this article please visit www.gramophone.co.uk (May 2019)

26 Mar 2019

‘Ibn Battuta’ ‘The Traveler of Islam

Ibn Battuta: The Traveler of Islam, 1304 1377
Hespèrion XXI / Jordi Savall 
Alia Vox AVSA9930


‘Travel first leaves you voiceless, before it turns you into a storyteller’, according to Shams ad-Din Abu Abdullah Muhammad ibn Ibrahim ibn Muhammed ibn Ibrahim ibn Yussuf al-Lawati at-Tanji, the 14th century traveller and qadi (judge) known as Ibn Battuta (‘Son of the Little Duck’). His travels are captured in the famous rihla (travel narrative) he dictated to Ibn Juzayy al-Kalbi in the early 1350s. 

This double album with accompanying book spans episodes from this rihla over the course of two live concerts – 1304-35, recorded in 2014 in Abu Dhabi with English narration, and 1335-77, recorded in 2016 in Paris with French narration – and was inspired by a new translation: Travels of Ibn Battuta by Margarida Castells and Manuel Forcano (2005).

[...] At each turn Savall evokes the atmosphere of a time with results more cinematographic than drily historical. Such a diverse programme and impressive cast of musicians will surely inspire every listener with a sense of wanderlust. Yet it is perhaps the subtext of this album – travelling through the world before modern borders – which is the most poignant part of Savall’s message for us today.


To read the full text of this article please visit www.gramophone.co.uk (Apr 2019)

26 Jan 2019

Amarae Morti: Lamentations and Motets

Amarae Morti: Lamentations and Motets
EL LEÓN DE ORO / Peter Phillips

Now here is a delightful disc made to an interesting recipe: Lamentation texts in alternation with joyful settings of Regina caeli sung with passion and puppyish intensity by a large and charismatic chamber choir directed by the éminence grise of Ars Perfecta, Peter Phillips. The result has the air of joyful adventure about it; proudly choral (as opposed to consort) but with absolutely captivating clarity.

[...] Their sound is soft, warm and favours long flowing phrases over bulging points of imitation. In short, they sound the way Mensurstriche looks. Yet, in comparison to many British ensembles their balance is slightly bottom-heavy, but the lower voices make such an attractive sound in the resonant acoustic of Iglesia de Santiago el Mayor, Sariego, Asturias that it often works in their favour. In particular, I love the passage "Cervicibus minabamur" (Our necks were threatened) in Phinot’s Lamentation setting in which the lower voices create great shimmering puddles of rich polyphony. The words are occluded but the sound is sumptuousness itself.

[...]

To read the full text of this article please visit www.gramophone.co.uk (Feb 2019)

29 Dec 2018

Star of Heaven: The Eton Choirbook Legacy

Star of Heaven: The Eton Choirbook Legacy
The Sixteen / Harry Christophers

Coro COR16166

There can be few ensembles with such a close understanding of the of the late 15th century music preserved in The Eton Choirbook and performances by The Sixteen have always been characterised by radiant high sopranos and deliciously bright altos supported by warmly crafted lower voices. This new album brings together Marian works from this famous manuscript with new compositions, specially commissioned by The Genesis Foundation, all united by the special sound of this ensemble.
[...]

In the middle of this programme sits Sir James MacMillan’s O Virgo prudentissima based on a surviving fragment by Robert Wylkynson (C.1450-1550). Tudor-esque in proportion, these singers excel in each and every choral texture MacMillan uses, from humming to ‘heterophonic haze’. This is a sumptuous, statuesque work and an equally sumptuous and impressive performance which boasts a ravishing, high solo by Julie Cooper. [...]

To read the full text of this article please visit www.gramophone.co.uk (Jan 2019)

28 Dec 2018

In a Strange Land: Elizabethan Composers in Exile

In a Strange Land
Elizabethan Composers in Exile

Stile Antico HMM902266

Exile, for Edward Said, was not only banishment but a crucial separation from cultural identity; a sense of not feeling at home in one’s home which is what unites the Elizabethan composers on this new album from Stile Antico: ‘In a Strange Land’ presents Catholic composers working abroad with those who stayed in Protestant England, estranged from Rome.

Dowland’s famous pavane, “Flow my tears” opens the album performed in part song rather than the more familiar lute-song beloved of countertenors. Stile Antico, as ever, excel in plangency singing slowly with two voices per part and leaning into the famous descending lacrimae motif. It’s beautiful, but ponderous compared to Dowland’s more madrigalian “In this trembling shadow” a few tracks later. Here the initial use of single voices per part brings immediacy and intimacy which serves the chromaticism with poignancy. Dowland’s penchant for melancholy is infamous, but in the hands of Byrd (1535/40?-1623) it is strikingly political. In ‘Tristitia et anxietas” Stile Antico find a slow-burn of sorrow in Byrd’s churning harmonies and focus on rich, low sonorities allowing for a lightening of interpretation in the more hopeful second half.

[...]

To read the full text of this article please visit www.gramophone.co.uk (Jan 2019)

11 Dec 2018

Missa Ave Maria & Missa Salve sancta parens

Missa Ave Maria & Missa Salve sancta parens
Antoine de Févin (c1470-1511/12)

The Brabant Ensemble, Stephen Rice (conductor)
Hyperion CDA68265

Antoine de Févin is not currently well known despite his works having traveled widely in his own day and now being preserved for us in several important sources alongside the work of more famous contemporaries.

[...]

The real jewel on this disc is the motet Ascedens Christus in altum. Fuller and richer than one might expect from Févin, a recent discovery has firmed up his attribution. This motet in particular suits The Brabant Ensemble extremely well showcasing their wonderfully bright sopranos in a ravishing trio Elevatis manibus ferebatur in caelum (Lifting his hands he was carried up to heaven). These larger motets with cascading upper voices are what this ensemble does best, and this particular one is especially gorgeous.


To read the full text of this article please visit www.gramophone.co.uk (Dec 2018)