24 Feb 2017

Petrus Wilhelmi de Grudencz

‘Petrus Wilhelmi de Grudencz’ 
‘Fifteenth-Century Music from Central Europe’ 

La Morra / Corina Marti, Michał Gondko 
Glossa F GCD922515

[...] Fittingly, one of the finest performances on this disc is of the motet that first yielded Petrus Wilhelmi’s name. In an all-vocal performance, Petrus’s textures are rich, sonorous and rather old-fashioned for their time. Kyrie: Fons bonitatis shows Petrus in a more ‘modern’ guise and the singers at their most sumptuous.

To read the full text of this article please visit www.gramophone.co.uk (March2017)

28 Jan 2017

Madrigali Diminuiti

Verdelot / Ganassi - Madrigali Diminuiti
Doulce Mémoire
Clara Coutouly, soprano
Pascale Boquet, lute
Bérengère Sardin, harp
Sébastien Wonner, spinet, clavicytherium
Denis Raisin Dadre, recorders and direction

Having established the superiority of the voice it is fitting that soprano Clara Coutouly sings so engagingly throughout this programme. Her warm tone has a beauty and bloom that infuses even the most mournful of texts with a plethora of subtle hues. In Verdelot’s Ardenti miei sospiri for example, she leans into those soft onomatopoeic sighs with heart-rending subtly.

To read the full text of this article please visit www.gramophone.co.uk (February 2017)

22 Jan 2017

30-Second Classical Music

30-Second Classical Music: The 50 most significant genres, composers and innovations, each explained in half a minute
Ivy Press ISBN-10: 1782404252

Editor: Joanne Cormac
Foreword: David Pickard
Contributors: Robert Adlington, Edward Breen, Joanne Cormac, George Hall, Katy Hamilton, Kenneth Hamilton, Monika Hennemann, Elizabeth Kelly, Emily MacGregor, Simon Paterson, Owen Rees, Hugo Shirley and Alexandra Wilson.
Illustrations: Nicky Ackland-Snow 

[...] Hildegard believed her visions came directly from God, but writing in his 1985 book, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, neurologist Dr Oliver Sacks noted the similarity of Hildegard’s visions to experiences of severe migraine sufferers. In her two surviving codices Hildegard’s illustrations of her visions show brightly coloured gures radiating from a central point with prominent points of light, all consistent with current medical understanding of migraines. [...]
 Available from Amazon (March 2017). To pre-order click here.

6 Jan 2017

Gombert: Motets II

BEAUTY FARM (Bart Uvyn [countertenor], Florian Schmitt [tenor], Adriaan De Koster [tenor], Hannes Wagner [tenor], Christoph Drescher [bariton]) Joachim Höchbauer [bass]
Fra Bernardo FB 1612457

This double album of motets by Nicolas Gombert (c.1495-1560) from vocal ensemble, Beauty Farm is their second release offering several more debut recordings and adding considerably to our picture of this intriguing renaissance composer.

Yet there is so much to enjoy on this album, especially from the spicy harmonic twists of Hortus Conclusus, previously recorded at higher pitch by The Brabant Ensemble (CDA67614). This track demonstrates what is rapidly becoming the trademark style of Beauty Farm: an extremely rich, treacley sound from lower voices whose carefully cultivated homogeneity sublimates dissonance. To this end, there is a superb rendition of Media Vita which alone is worth the album price.

To read the full text of this article please visit www.gramophone.co.uk (January 2017)

14 Dec 2016

Classics Reconsidered

Caroline Gill and Edward Breen discuss the merits of The Tallis Scholars’ Gramophone Award-winning recording of Josquin’s Missa Pange lingua.

The Tallis Scholars sing Josquin
The Tallis Scholars

Edward Breen: I first heard this recording on a chrome cassette (remember them?) that I bought from a cathedral gift shop when I was about 12 years old. At that time I had no particular idea who Josquin was, but as a choirboy I’d noticed that my favourite music was in The Oxford Book of Tudor Anthems, and so I was mistakenly drawn to this recording by the name Tallis rather than anything else. Thankfully, I loved it and soon wore the tape out by repeatedly winding back and forth to rehear the ‘Pleni sunt caeli’ duet (much to the relief of my parents, who by default listened to Bob Dylan in the car). Considering how little unaccompanied Renaissance polyphony had lodged in the public subconscious at that time, I wonder how many others discovered Josquin or even just the sound of professional early music vocalists through this groundbreaking Gramophone Award winner?

To read the full text of this article please visit www.gramophone.co.uk (December 2016)

7 Oct 2016

Palestrina: Missa Papae Marcelli / Motets

Palestrina: Missa Papae Marcelli / Motets
Sistine Chapel Choir / Massimo Palombella
Deutsche Grammophon 479 6131

The Sistine Chapel Choir in partnership with Deutsche Grammophon continue to deliver supremely atmospheric and intriguing performances of Palestrina’s polyphony. It is perhaps inevitable that this world-famous choir, newly energised under the direction of Massimo Palombella, would record the Missa Papae Marcelli early in their discography, the mass famous for having ‘saved’ sacred polyphony by presenting the texts clearly and intelligibly. Their recording draws on editions from 1567-1600 lacking the seven-part Agnus Dei II and, as such, it is not sung on this disc.

Previously in their album Cantate Domino (479 5300) I found the Sistine Chapel choir reminiscent of Westminster Cathedral Choir under George Malcolm. This new recording is different, partly due to the broader style of the mass, and partly due to a cleaner, less mannered performance from the choir.


To read the full text of this article please visit www.gramophone.co.uk (October 2016)

16 Sep 2016

The Seven Lamentations: Cristóbal De Morales

The Seven Lamentations: Cristóbal De Morales
Utopia - KTC 1538. Etcetera Records

Founded just a year ago, Utopia are among the proliferating number of young ensembles to combine a softer continental sound with  steely accuracy in one-per-part Renaissance polyphony. The result, according to their tag line, is ‘Belgian handmade polyphony’. The singers have between them a respectable heritage including Collegium Vocale Gent, Nederlands Bach Society and Huelgas Ensemble to name but a few, and in terms of sound they are similar to the ensemble Beauty Farm, with whom they share two singers.


A relatively recent recording of three sections of these lamentations by The Brabant Ensemble calls for a comparison. As Fabrice Fitch observed in this magazine, The Brabant Ensemble have a high ‘centre of acoustic gravity’ in renaissance polyphony (Jacquet of Mantua review, June 2015) that I feel lends sheen to their sound. Utopia, conversely, have a much lower centre of gravity yet maintain similar clarity whilst simultaneously warming the texture with soft Flemish-tinged vowel sounds. The results are beautiful, intimate and thoroughly engaging. 

To read the full text of this article please visit www.gramophone.co.uk (2016: Awards Issue)