Re-releases from harmonia mundi

With all the fabulous recordings in the harmonia mundi archives, it is hardly surprising that – while continuing to release even more delights – they fairly regularly re-visit some gems from the past. The last round of re-releases belong to two series: there are four HIP issues branded as Musique d’abord (with the CDs taking on the appearance of mini LPs) and six from the hmGold set (which come in sturdy cardboard cases).

The earliest of the first batch is Alfred Deller: “O Ravishing Delight” (HMA 190216, 66:10), featuring airs by Dowland to Blow, Croft and Humfrey, but not Henry Purcell. As well as lute and harpsichord, some tracks feature recorders (one played by David Munrow). Dating from 1969, this is an important historical recording. René Jacobs directed the RIAS Kammerchor in Bach’s motets (HMA 1901589, 72:35) in 1997. Since then, performance practice may have shifted in favour of smaller groups (even one-to-a-part), but these are excellent chamber choir performances with a distinguished line-up of soloists, strings and winds. Handel: Ombra cara (HMA1902077, 71:46) is the youngest of the batch. Countertenor Bejun Mehta sings arias from Agrippina, Amadigi, Orlando, Radamiso, Riccardo primo, Rodrigo, Sosarme  and Tolomeo, accompanied by the Freiburger Barockorchester, directed by René Jacobs. He is joined on three tracks by Rosemary Joshua. The last of the quartet features Georg Kallweit and Midori Seiler in a programme of concertos by Vivaldi (HMA 1901975, 56:23). Recorded in 2006, there are three double concertos (RV522, 531 & 535), as well as two concerti grossi (RV156 and 574) plus the E major concerto, op. 3 no. 12.

The earliest of the hmGold releases is a broad survey of Sweelinck’s choral output (Psaumes français & Canciones Sacrae, HMG 502033, 61:39) by Capella Amsterdam under Daniel Reuss. It ends with a monumental setting (over 15 minutes!) of the Te Deum. A 2-CD set of selections from two volumes of Jacob Van Eyck’s Der Fluyten Lust-Hof  by Marion Verbruggen (HMG 507350.351, 138:19) shows a different side to this repertoire that I saw at last year’s festival in Utrecht – how things have changed since these recordings were made in 1993 & 1996. Philippe Herreweghe directs Collegium Vocale Gent and Concerto Palatino in Schütz’s Opus ultimum  (HMG 501895.896, 88:49); the nine chunks of Psalm 119 in this 2007 recording are followed by Psalm 100 and Schütz’s German Magnificat. Davitt Moroney’s 1985 recording of Bach’s Die Kunst der Fuge  (HMG501169.70, 98:41) divides this amazing work before the mirror fugues and includes with Moroney’s own completion of the last piece in the collection. Handel’s Concerti Grossi  op. 6 are considered by most experts to be his outstanding instrumental music and here the twelve concertos for strings are given electrifying performances under the leadership of Andrew Manze (HMG 507228.229, 156:27). They are re-ordered for the recording, but no. 12 in B minor still concludes the set. The final recital sees Andreas Staier and Christine Schornsheim playing music by Mozart on the vis-à-vis, an instrument combining harpsichord at one end and fortepiano at the other (HMG 501941, 63:20); if the sounds of the instrument are themselves worth the cost of the disk, the performances are outstanding!

Brian Clark