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Recording

Cavalli: Vespero delle Domeniche con li Salmi correnti di tutto l’Anno

Coro Claudio Monteverdi di Crema, La Pifarescha, Bruno Gini
69:11
Dynamic CDS 7714

[dropcap]F[/dropcap]ull marks to Dynamic for producing this recording, which presents the entire contents of Cavalli’s 1675 print rather than a reconstruction of any particular Vespers service. Venice’s liturgical plan required a far more diverse range of psalm settings than elsewhere, and this set – in common with predecessors by Grandi, Rovetta and Rigatti (among others) – uses double choir so was probably written originally for performance during special feasts at St Mark’s when the magnificent pala d’oro was opened. If there are very occasional moments of instability amongst the voices, these scarcely distract from the stylish readings of this sumptuous, sonorous music.

Much better known today for his operas, Cavalli certainly knew how to write for large vocal ensembles and here the two four-voice choirs are not only divided between solo and ripieno line-ups, but in some of the psalms they are reinforced further by two groups of cornetto and three trombones and organ. While the players freely decorate their lines, I was unaware of the solo singers doing likewise, which I cannot believe to be a true representation of contemporary performance practice – surely, if only the very best singers found a place in the choir (Cavalli among them, of course!), they would not have wanted to be outshone? Be that as it may, I was excited to hear this recording, and I would love to hear the same forces (perhaps with more freedom given to the singers?) in some of the earlier repertoire in the context of a full service.

Brian Clark

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Recording

C. P. E. Bach: Hommage!

Matthias Höfs piccolo trumpet, Christian M. Kunert bassoon, Wolfgand Zerer harpsichord
66:38
Es Dur ES 2052
H504, 516–521, 542/5 (aka BWV1020), 545 (aka BWV1031), 552, 578

Not infrequently in these pages one reads how Bach’s music will pretty much work in any medium, and – while few modern musicians have (to my knowledge) gone down that route with the music of his sons, C. P. E. recycled his own material to such an extent that one can surely forgive the present performers for wishing to pay tribute to the man despite an obvious lack of repertoire for their combination. Clearly, had they not been players of such distinction, such a scheme should probably not have been very successful, but when the only thing that one could seriously fault in the performances is the dreaded modern trill with its relentless uniformity, then one gets the measure of the line-up. The harpsichordist uses subtle inégalité and if the trumpeter does no quite respond, he at least shapes the lines with a sense of light and shade that sounds natural. The music chosen for the recital ranges from the flute sonata in E flat, which might be by Bach père, to extracts from the six sonatas for clarinet, bassoon and harpsichord. I did not expect to enjoy this, but was very pleasantly surprised!

Brian Clark

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Recording

Velázquez and the music of his time

Choeur de Chambre de Namur, Clematis, Cappella Mediterranea, Syntagma Amici, Ensemble La Romanesca, La Real Camara
Ricercar RIC358
Music by da Cabezón, Cererols, Correa de Arauxo, Fernandez, Guerrero, Hidalgo, Romero, de Selma y Salaverde, Zamponi & anon

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]his re-issue is aimed primarily at visitors to this year’s blockbuster Velázquez exhibition in Paris. It contains a wide-ranging selection of music from 17th-century Spain, but those with any musical interest in this wonderful period will probably already possess many if not all of the featured items.

There is, of course, some magnificent music and music-making. The fine Choeur de Chambre de Namur feature largely, in the polychoral splendours of Romero and Cererols, and close the disc with a splendidly lightfooted Fernandez Christmas villancico. The lovely Zamponi ‘Ulisse all’Isola di Circe’ was new to me – I’ll be checking out the disc this came from!

The disc also includes solo keyboard music, for harpsichord by Cabezón, and for organ by Correa de Arauxo, well played by Jean-Marc Aymes and Bernard Foccroulle, respectively, and is completed by several secular vocal items, including pieces by Hidalgo and Anon.
A major drawback is the lack of texts; the subtle vocal writing and word-setting is lost without these. To the HIP reader, perhaps best regarded as a useful pointer to delights to be pursued, then, rather than a disc as an end in itself.

Alastair Harper

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Recording

Telemann: 12 Fantasies for Violin TWV 40:14-25, 12 Fantasies for Flute TWV40:2-13

The Great Violins
volume 1 – Andrea Amati, 1570
Peter Sheppard Skærved
127:11 (2 CDs)
athene ATH23203

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]his is the first of a projected series in which the violinist is allowed to play some of the most important violins that have come down to us. I suspect that, had I been involved, I would have argued very strongly that the recordings should also feature relevant music. So “disappointed” is possibly the best way to describe my reaction to the fact that this two CD set of Telemann is played on a 1570 Amati! What about all the fabulous music of the earlier 17th century? Then to think that some of the repertoire is not violin music at all calls the entire enterprise into question – is it all about the violins, or is the player really supposed to be the focus of our attention? A Fellow of the Royal Academy of Music (to whom the instrument belongs), and “dedicatee of over 400 works for violin”, he clearly has something of a reputation but I regret to say that there is little to engage me here, either in terms of the recorded sound or the way in which Telemann’s interplay of voices is handled – the music is read horizontally without any concept (at least as far as I can discern) of the importance (perhaps I might even go as far as to say “the existence”) of the vertical. His notes seem to suggest that Telemann expected the works to be played in sequence, with the brightness of one “immediately annulled” by its successor. I’m afraid this won’t be on my shelves very long.

Brian Clark

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Recording

Porfiri: Cantate da camera a voce sola, Opera Prima, Bologna 1692

Pamela Lucciarini soprano, Alessandro Carmignani alto, Laboratorio Armonico
77:06
Tactus TC651601

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]hese recordings of four secular cantatas for solo voice marks the CD debut of a practically unknown 17th-century Italian composer born in Mondolfo and active in and around the Veneto, Pietro Porfiri. The music is charming, if generally conventional, with one or two original instrumental touches, including an early extended use of the cello. As we spend a lot of time in their company the quality of the solo voices is an essential aspect in this type of repertoire, and Pamela Lucciarini has a personable and expressive voice, which invites us in and provides compelling accounts of this unknown repertoire. Alessandro Carmignano’s alto voice is perhaps a little less convincing, showing weaknesses in the lower range and with an occasional tendency to dip below notes. On the other had he has a consistently glowing tone, which adds a pleasant gloss to the texture.

James Ross

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Recording

Bach on Fire

Lily Afshar guitar
72′
Archer Records ARR-31962
BWV998, 1006a, 1007, 1009, “Ave Maria”

[dropcap]A[/dropcap]ll the pieces on this CD are arranged by Lily Afshar for the classical guitar, and are published in her collection, Essential Bach Arranged for the Guitar (Pacific, Missouri: Mel Bay, 2013). She exploits the technique of playing across the strings, rather than along them, so as to sustain the harmony created by single-line passages, as did early 17th-century lutenists with their style brisé, and baroque guitarists with their campanellas. Most of Bach’s lute music survives only in staff notation, not tablature, so it is not clear which technique was intended, but I like what she does, having had similar aims with my own youthful arrangements of Bach for the guitar.

The CD begins with a spirited performance of Bach’s Lute Suite no. 4 (BWV 1006a), which is adapted from Bach’s Third Violin Partita (BWV 1006). In the exciting, virtuosic Prelude, Afshar maintains momentum by omitting some of the bass notes present in the lute version, but which were not in the Violin Partita. She does the same in the elegantly flowing Bourrée and Gigue. It is not a serious loss, since the Violin Sonata was fine without them, and one has to adapt the music to the instrument one has; a mere six strings and a tuning largely in fourths does have its limitations.

Other pieces are the well-known Cello Suite no. 1 (BWV 1007), Prelude, Fugue and Allegro (BWV 998) benefitting from a sonorous dropped D tuning, and Cello Suite no. 3 (BWV 1009) including two modestly restrained Bourrées. The CD ends with an interesting and effective arrangement of Ave Maria, taken from Bach’s Prelude no. 1 in C major (BWV 846) from Book 1 of Das Wohltemperierte Klavier, with a vocal melody added 100 years later by Charles Gounod (1818-93). It Is certainly strange (but not unpleasant) to hear a Bach Prelude turned into a sort of Victorian Cavatina.

I’m not sure that “Bach on Fire” is a fair reflection of Afshar’s playing. She has a certain gentleness and sensitivity in her interpretation (even in the liveliest movements like the superfast Allegro from BWV 998,) which I find appropriate and most attractive.

Stewart McCoy

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Handel: Joshua

Kenneth Tarver Joshua, Tobias Berndt Caleb, Renata Pokupić Othniel, Anna Dennis Achsah, Joachim Duske Angel, NDR Chor, FestspielOrchester Göttingen, Laurence Cummings
115′ (2 CDs)
Accent ACC 26403

[dropcap]I[/dropcap]’m not sure if the Handel operas performed at the Göttingen International Handel Festival (by the FestspielOrchester Göttingen under Lawrence Cummings) are recorded live as a matter of course each year, but I seem to have heard several such offerings and they are, without exception, a true joy from start to finish. I can’t recall if the other discs follow the same format, but I felt that the inclusion of snippets of applause in this recording of Joshua only added to the feeling of actually being at the opera. With the exception of Anna Dennis, I was unfamiliar with the soloists, and was pleasantly surprised by the uniform quality but varied timbre of their voices. This said, I did find Renata Pokupić‘s rather heavy vibrato (I know, so “early music” but bear with me) a little static on her first recitative and aria. As the opera progressed, however, this became less of a problem.

First performed at the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden, on March 9th, 1748, Joshua was one of several oratorios composed by Handel to celebrate the victory of the Hanoverian dynasty over the Jacobites. As such, it focuses on the militaristic might of the mighty leader, Joshua, but while it undoubtedly was a commentary on the political situation of its time, the libretto (possibly by Thomas Morell) sticks to the biblical account but adds in a love story. The slightly whimsical style of Dr Wolfgang Sandberger’s booklet notes belie excellent scholarship and add to the sense of a well-informed production.

The oratorio contains many lovely and well-known moments, including the rousing ‘See, the conqu’ring hero comes!’. As always, Cummings’s pacing of the music is so incredibly well-judged that both narrative and music flow unimpeded. A real joy both in terms of content and interpretation.

Violet Greene

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Recording

Michael Haydn: The Complete String Quintets

Salzburger Haydn-Quintett
146:02 (2CDs)
cpo 777 907-2

[dropcap]O[/dropcap]f the five works that make up this fine collection, only one is categorically named “Quintetto” by the composer (Perger 110); of the others, two are divertimenti (106 with six movements, and 112 with seven!), while 109 is a “Notturno” and 108 has this designation and Quintetto. All are in major keys and abundant in Michael Haydn tunefulness and mirth. One of the most interesting movements is one of the Allegretto variations from 105, marked “Recitativo. Adagio. Senza Rigor di Tempo”. Contrasting the pairs of violins and violas is a common technique throughout, and the Salzburger Haydn-Quintett on period instruments seem to enjoy this entertaining if not exactly intellectually challenging repertoire. Since Haydn was a viola player in the prince-elector’s chamber ensemble, we must possibly imagine him enjoy his turn in the limelight.

Brian Clark

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Book

Mauro Calcagno: Perspectives on Luca Marenzio’s Secular Music

Brepols, 2014.
527pp, €80.00.
ISBN 9 78 2 503 55332 0

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he contents do not completely cover Marenzio’s secular music: the writers tend to pick on specific examples or types. There is a considerable quantity of the music itself discussed in extensive detail.

Music and Poetry.

Franco Piperno Petrarch, Petrarchism, and the Italian Madrigal (pp. 15-30) discusses the revival of Petrarchan verse for madrigals between 1542 & 1570.

James Haar The Madrigali a quattro, cinque et sei voci of 1588 (pp. 31-50) is the only such set by Marenzio, perhaps writing in a style that was aiming at different noble masters; English composers later used the same pattern.

Seth J. Coluzzi Tirsi mio, caro Tirsi: Il pastor fido and the Roman Madrigal (pp. 51-73) makes an attempt to distinguish quasi-soloistic sections, but I’m not convinced. The latest idea isn’t always better than previous ones until the next idea appears. The compromise is noted by Alfred Einstein (p. 70, note 23): “The whole book is full of hidden drama, but the presentation of the actual scene or monologue is always madrigalesque, even if there is a real temptation to dramatize”.

James Chater ends the group with Family matters: Music in the Life and Poetry of Giovambattista Strozzi the Elder (pp. 75-140). Both Strozzi were blind; the Elder was mostly a poet, with over a thousand poems – the Junior is less significant in the discussion of the music, especially the long list of music that is known of but not visible or audible.

Musical Styles and Techniques.

Ruth I. DeFord C and Ȼ in the Madrigals of Marenzio (pp. 143-164) has confusing examples, especially the up and down arrows which interfere with the clashing stresses in the music. The use of C (4 crotchets) and Ȼ (4 minims) are not necessarily firm rules – see, for example, ex. 6/a, b & d (p. 161-2) in C but with 4 minims. 6 is more irregular, presented by the editor with 4 crotchets | 8 crotchets | 1 crotchet |8 crotchets. I’m not convinced that singing to the beat is as significant as the theorists assume anyway: singers need to be aware of the tactus but also of the stress of the poem.

John W. Hill turns to Two Reflections of Sixteenth-Century Italian Solo Singing in Luca Marenzio’s Villanelle (1584-97) (p. 165-202). This is a useful read for those who wish to sing/play the published music or adapt playing with the vocal lines (not necessarily all of them) or strumming a guitar or lute. Performers who enjoy more flexible music should read this chapter.

Music and Patronage: A Debate

Claudio Annibaldi Social Markers in the Music Market… (p. 205-234) is followed by comments by Mario Bagioli, Arnaldo Morelli, Stefano Lorenzetti & Jonathan Glixon, concluded by Annibaldi’s A Reply in an Apologetic Vein (p. 251-261). I found myself more interested by the other writers. and wondered if the four names given above may have taken advantage of later research, and consequently Annibaldi by definition would have also followed even later. However, none of the footnotes by all the authors in this section were later than 2006 (I may have missed a 2007 item that I didn’t see on the check.) This section strikes me as the least successful, but it would have been better without Annibaldi! One misprint: Gardano and Scotto in the 1670s (p. 255, last para.) I’m a little surprised by mention of Condoleezza Rice (p. 259) – I don’t remember a pronounciation with a double zz or tz?

Contexts of Production, Circulation, and Consumption

Giuseppe Gerbino Marenzio and the Shepherds of the Tiber Valley (pp. 265-281) is well worth reading for the short creation of a myth by the Tiber, parodying Tirsi and Clori and the pastor Ergasto. The text was published in 1597 as Prose Tibertine del Pastor Ergasto by Antonio Piccioli Cenedese.

Paoli Cecchi “Delicious air and sweet inventions”: The Circulation and Consumption of Marenzio’s Secular Music in England (c.1588-1640) is a massive exposition (pp. 283-369). While reading it, I regretted that Tessa Murray was too late to incorporate her Thomas Morley, Elizabethan Publisher – see review in EMR 162 p. 4. She creeps into p. 303 note 66 on the strength of a 2012 joint quote from Philip Brett and Tessa. This is a massive survey, not just of available music, but how much was known of its use. The printing of violas accompanying vocal solos is a mistake for viols (p. 318), but on p. 322 there is a treble viale and the viola da gamba (not within quotes) lower down the first para­graph. There is a vast amount of information, not just on existing or hypothetical editions but on how they was used.

I had expected to read the book during a cruise on a boat running from Budapest to Regensburg – but without much likeli­hood of following the plan because of the failure to get under bridges and made worse for me by the failure of my glasses. Reading became very difficult and the final day involved four hours by bus and five hours waiting for the flight, so I couldn’t get through the final section and this is the first chance I’ve been able to catch up at least some back work on our music sales activity. The final group of Print Cultures and Editions covers Jane A. Bernstein, Christine Jeanneret, Laurent Pugin and Etienne Darbellay. The end is a useful short summary of various aspects, preceded by “changing criteria and editorial techniques from one volume to the next, as is the case of the CMM series, which should should be strenuously avoided.” It is, however, impossible for such long-running of some of the series to change in mid course, but new editions should certainly use the more current form – unnecessary cutting note values and elaborate and confusing beaming, for instance. I’ve avoided CMM12 (Giovanni Gabrieli), using editions that are more accessible, though a certain amount of under­standing is needed – I’ve been involved in Cambridge with several 1615 motets for at least three distinguished organisations for the 500th year of his publication (though he died in 1612 and his amanuensis was hardly reliable!)

The final two pages (461-2) draw attention to the differences between manners and notation. Not all will agree, and performers who are not involved in the specialists’s expertise may well be distracted from perfor­mances. There are too many attempts at complete editions: it’s better to publish other composers for whom there is less access. But no complaints about this volume. It concludes with a 50-page list of Marenzio’s works and 13 pages of indexes. The cover is elegant, but 1.780 kg is rather an effort to hold. It has 527 pp, the height of an A4 sheet, and only fractionally less wide.

Clifford Bartlett

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Categories
Recording

Telemann: Music for Wind Band

“The Saxon Alternative”
Syrinx
62:04
Resonus RES10154
TWV44:2, 7, & 14; TWV55:c3, B3

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]his fabulous recording is devoted to one of the less well-known repositories of baroque music. As well as maintaining “Kapelle” (ensembles made up of singers and instrumentalists who were as capable of performing sacred as secular music), many German courts – in imitation of Louis XIV – maintained an “hautboistenband”, a separate group of musicians who served a different purpose. Their precise function remains cloudy (there are records, for example, of court musicians being paid to teach the “hautboisten” to play the violin), but Belinda Paul’s informative booklet notes are right to suggest that the classical “Harmonie” did not simply appear out of thin air – the involvement of instruments other than double reeds (and the ability of “hautboisten” to play them) was a long tradition. The CD’s title derives from the fact that Saxon bands regularly featured a pair of horns; thus the recording features two overtures for five-part winds, two for the saxon variant (pairs of oboes, horns and bassoons) and a concerto for pairs of oboe d’amore, horns and bassoons (all with harpsichord continuo).

It will surprise no-one that Telemann manages to delight the ear with what might seem like limited resources. The blend of double reeds and horns (especially oboes d’amore and horns!) is gorgeous, especially when recorded in such a generous but not over-resonant acoustic. The individual movements of the suites take on a character of their own, with the composer’s mischievous sense of humour never far from the surface (just listen to La Grimace and I defy you not to smile…) It’s all such fun that I can even forgive Dan Tidhar for using the lute stop on track 16. I hope we will hear more of this repertoire from Syrinx (or even some of the cantatas mentioned in the booklet – I have edited several…)

Brian Clark

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