Webern | Bach

Complete published strings quartets | The Art of Fugue
Richter Ensemble
Passacaille PAS1129

This CD offers a novel approach, interspersing Bach’s Art of Fugue with Webern’s string quartet movements. ‘You find everything in Bach: the development of cyclic forms, the conquest of the realm of tonality – the attempt of a summation of the highest order’, said Webern, and both composers recorded here display the exploration of the logic that canonic and fugal writing imposes.

The Richter Ensemble are joined by Paolo Zuccheri (Violone) and James Johnstone (harpsichord) for the Bach, which they play at A=415Hz and recorded in France in 2019. The Webern is played at A=432Hz and was also recorded in France, but in 2021. The shift in pitch between the Bach and Webern is perceptible, but oddly, not disturbing to me; and the grouping of The Art of Fugue numbers into simple fugues (Contrapuncti I-IV), stretto fugues (Contrapuncti V-VII), double and triple fugues (Contrapuncti VIII-XI) and mirror fugues (Contrapuncti XII-XIII, and finally XIV at the end) allow for coherent groups of increasing complexity to mirror the chronological development of Webern’s Op. 5 (1909), the Six Bagatelles Op. 9 (1913) and the late Quartet Op. 28 (1937/8).

So not every possible piece from the later version of The Art of Fugue is included, and the liner notes make it clear that it is the juxtaposition of the very different composers that is at the heart of the CD’s purpose.

I found this refreshing, and illuminating – up to a point. I am no expert in Webern, and I do not have scores of much of his music. But the well-recorded dynamic range suggests that the players are masters of this highly nuanced music, and the effects produced in terms of glissandi, pizzicato and exceptionally well-tuned intervals. For the Bach, the ensemble grows in grip and power when joined by the violone and harpsichord.

An oblique observation: most of the performances of The Art of Fugue opt for the clarity of one-to-a-part scoring as must have been standard in viol consort playing (and singing) until the second quarter of the 18th century at least. While it is most likely that Bach – if he ever thought of a live performance of the material we know as The Art of Fugue – would have used a keyboard for preference, this performance quarrying material that reflects most nearly the intellectual and disciplined focus of the composer’s life and work and the transmission of that legacy to the 20th century certainly has its place in that towering edifice of polyphonic complexity.

David Stancliffe



The Gonzaga Band directed by Jamie Savan
Resonus RES 10314

The Gonzaga Band is small group of acclaimed experts who deliver music-making of extraordinary power, where the whole seems miraculously more than the sum of its parts.

Partly this is because their expertise is forged in bringing exactly this music – music written in the years when Renaissance polyphony was just bursting out of its ecclesiastical shell into a more florid, instrumental-driven freedom of divisions or passaggi as these techniques of ornamenting the four-square polyphonic writing were called – to life. It was this development – along with the development of instrument-making – especially in violin making – that would enable Corelli and Vivaldi and their associates to emerge into what we know as the high Baroque, and Milan was particularly important in the development of the violin and its music in this period.

But partly also it is because their leader, Jamie Savan, researches and prepares music for performance that is not only a pleasure to listen to, but which makes the links between Milan’s past and future as a distinctive player in the extraordinary flowering of the Nuova Musica along the Po valley from Lombardy to the Veneto. Savan’s liner notes are always a model of good practice: the sources are listed, along with the performing pitch (A=465Hz) and the temperament (1/4 comma mean tone); so are the instruments they all play, including the Hauptwerk organ sampled from S. Maria d’Alieto, Izola, Slovenia used by Steven Devine. I would love to hear them play with an organ by Walter Chinaglia based on open wooden principal pipes described in his Duoi organi per Monteverdi, for details.

Attention to balance and allowing space for sonorities to bloom is second nature to this group, and we should be grateful for a glimpse into such a wide variety of music. There is a good deal of the best-known Milanese composer of the time, Giovanni Paulo Cima, and his Capriccio 8, 1606 (track 12) will give you a good idea of the instrumental sonorities offered here. Particularly interesting to me as examples of how the earlier polyphonic masterworks were being transformed by passaggi are the tracks 6, 11 and 15 where music by Palestrina, Lassus and de Rore is re-presented with divisions: here Mark Caudle’s violone playing in Rognoni’s version of Lassus’ well known Susanne un jour is a star turn, as are Jamie Savan’s cornetto divisions in track 15. Towards the end, we hear two tracks by Caterina Assandra, a novice nun who was clearly a remarkable composer in her own right at a young age.

Faye Newton has a wonderfully clear yet expressive voice, negotiating the passaggi and trills with ease, she manages to convey the varying moods of the music without the aid of those modern singerly conventions like vibrato or unaccountable swelling on weak notes. This means she matches the instruments splendidly: Cima’s Surge propera (track 16) is a motet with echo effects on the cornetto, and Rognoni’s Ave Virgo Benedicta (track 17) lets us hear her unadorned. You would expect a degree of athleticism from the cornetto, but here you can hear it from the bass sackbut too in the skilled hands of Guy Morely (tracks 5 and 18). Oliver Webber whose relaxed technique is so well-suited to this period’s divisions is heard on his own in Canzon ‘la Porcia’ by Antonio Mortaro with divisions by Francesco Rognoni (track 7), where Steven Devine is playing a harpsichord by Colin Booth (1998) based on one by Domenico da Pesaro (Venice, 1533).

The whole CD is a treat, introducing us to a distinctive sound-world which helps us make sense of the rise in instrumental skills which preluded the shift from Canzone to Sonatas and Concerti, marking the distinctive Baroque period both instrumentally and vocally. I commend it wholeheartedly.

David Stancliffe



Bach: The Art of Fugue
New Collegium, Claudio Ribeiro
Ramée RAM2208

There are essentially two schools of thought about how to perform the Art of Fugue – provided you discount the ultra-purist view that says you should not perform this Last Will and Testament – only read it! The first seeks to minimise the different character of the numbers by using the same scoring, as in those versions performed by a single player on keyboard instruments like the Régis Allard version on the Aubertin organ in Saint-Louis-en-I’lle in Paris in 2005 or Vincent Groppy at St Benoît-sur-Loire in 2018 or those performed by a single group of instruments, like Fretwork’s classic version recorded in 2001 on viols or Brecon Baroque’s from 2015 on period strings and harpsichord. And the second, like this version by Claudio Ribeiro, which seeks to underline the differences in style using the autograph’s last version and presenting the character of each fugue or canon with a wide variety of instrumental scoring, using winds as well as strings and harpsichord, and even the more old-style cornetto and trombones.

Under the title of LEMNISCATE, that figure of eight shape that I think of as a symbol for infinity, and with a striking cover image of a richly engraved and inlaid calculating machine of 1735 by Anton Braun and Philippe Vayringe to illustrate the complex interweaving nature of the canons and fugues that make up this complex summary of Bach’s contrapuntal genius, the group embarks on a novel presentation of this amazing music.

Starting with a sober, conventional account of Contrapunctus 1 played on a harpsichord, the group branch out in a variety of scoring to colour the various forms, giving titles to a number of the pieces to heighten their character: 1080/5 is headed ‘In Stile Antico’, scored for trombones and cornetto alongside strings and 1080/9 ‘Spiritoso’ with a high recorder and harpsichord joining strings in a concerto-like movement; 1080/10a entitled ‘Es ist ein Ros entsprungen’ uses a treble recorder, ‘cello and harpsichord to create a more contemplative feel; the oboe and traverso join the strings for the dotted Ouverture-like 1080/6 and we are back with more restrained string-playing for 1080/7 – ‘Memoria’. The most striking beginning is the opening of 1080/13,1 scored for oboe and recorder with harpsichord and its twin 1080/13,2 – a model for imaginative balance.

This process plays out most successfully in the final fugues 1080/18.1 & 2, where pairs of instruments decorate the harpsichord – first violin and violoncello, then flute and viol – in the style of Pièces de clavecin en concert. And the final great triple fugue begins with the cornetto and trombones, overlapping with and yielding to the strings and then the woodwind. The brass return with the BACH theme: this is a splendid climax which leaves us hanging in the air just when we imagine this music might go on forever. . .

The players are excellent – adopting a series of different personae easily as the music demands unfolding characterisation. Altogether I was entirely seduced by the colour, clarity and novelty they brought to this extraordinary music, and while I remain wedded to both Fretwork’s and Rachel Podger’s versions, I enjoyed this imaginative performance greatly.

David Stancliffe


L’altra Venezia


Violin and cello sonatas
Scaramuccia (Javier Lupiáñez violin, Inés Salinas cello, Patrícia Vintém harpsichord)
Snakewood  SCD202301

This wonderfully presented recording takes us back to the famous musical city at the very turn of the 18th century, before it became synonymous with just a single composer’s works. These well-chosen sonatas display the keen seminal talents of a few known and possibly lesser-known composers, who all contributed to the city’s musical life in this early period. The two sonatas attributed to Albinoni are recent finds from 2021 in the Estensischen (Musikalien) Collection in the Austrian State Library in Vienna; the first work in G minor is redolent of Albinoni’s Balletti a quattro, the B flat major piece appears to exhibit the later Albinonian style. The ensemble’s fine violinist captures these refined elements with elegant poise and perfect phrasing! The opening Bigaglia piece was copied out by Pisendel during his Venice trip (1716-17), the third movement being in the famous Siciliana mode; although the composer isn’t named in the Dresden copy, the Amsterdam publication of 1725 echo and match his predominant style. The Caldara work in F major has an overt flamboyance and polished refinement which the leader of Scaramuccia captures with a panache; this piece also hails from the Estensischen Collection in Vienna.

After these excellent examples of the early sonata form, we encounter the Sonatas a Violoncello by Giorgio Gentili, which feel like expressive fantasias for the instrument. Inés Salinas is an accomplished cellist. The Capriccio da camera in B minor for violin, violoncello and cembalo of circa 1707 is a felicitous union that the ensemble fully relishes. The closing violin piece by Reali nods towards the Corellian modes of expression.

This is a perfect survey of these works by significant “other” composers who deserve their place in the development of this seminal genre from this famous musical city.

It must be said that the CD notes are never prolix or overburdened by detail, being superbly written by Michael Talbot; indeed, this could be also said of the playing here, never overburdened or laboured, the perfect phrasing and understanding of the stylistic elements on display makes for an informed and beautifully balanced approach to these incipient contributions by “significant” others in this “other” Venice.

David Bellinger


Héroïnes – Cantates françaises

Ensemble Il Caravaggio directed by Camille Delaforge
Château de Versailles Spectacles CVS090

A clue comes with the name Caravaggio. If it appears odd for a French ensemble to take the name of an Italian painter it can be at least in part explained by the objectives of the Ensemble Il Caravaggio, one of the newer among the plethora of French early music ensembles. Their first CD was devoted to 17th-century Italian music, while ‘Héroïnes’, far from being solely devoted to French cantatas, also incorporates airs de cour, excerpts from an early dramatic work by Lully, brief extracts from Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre’s 1694 tragédie lyrique Céphale et Procris (which is due for issue in a complete version on the Versailles Spectacles label) and the finest work on the disc, a cantata entirely in Italian style (and language) by one of the finest French cantata composers, Montéclair.

So we end up with a diverse programme with a foot in both French and Italian camps performed by two mezzos, Victoire Bunel and Anna Reinhold, and the bass Guilhem Worms, accompanied by a small ensemble drawn from Il Caravaggio. The only French cantata in every sense is the opening Le tombeau de Clorinde by the little-known Parisian organist Louis Antoine Dornel (1680-1765). It is a kind of sequel to the familiar story of the battle between the Crusader Tancredi and the Saracen woman warrior Clorinda. Like Monteverdi’s famous account of the battle itself, it is told as a dramatic narrative interspersed with personal reaction from Argantes, the lover of Clorinda. In two highly contrasted arias (more correctly ariettas), Argante expresses first his grief then his rage as he swears to avenge Clorinda’s death by killing Tancredi. Worms, his dark, sepulchral bass well suited to the cantata, impresses dramatically but the voice is not always securely produced, particularly where sustained notes are concerned.

The other larger-scale work is the Montéclair cantata, La morte di Lucretia, the story of the suicide of the wife of the Roman senator Collatinus following her rape by Tarquin. The highly-charged words of the poem are those of Lucretia herself, with the exception of a brief epilogue that comes after her death. Otherwise, it follows the recitative – da capo aria sequence familiar from Italian cantatas. The cantata is superbly sung by Bunel, whose excellent command of Italian brings splendid dramatic weight to the piece, singing with rich, amber tone finely produced across her range. The build-up to the moment of suicide and the final fragmentary words – ‘I die, heavens, I die’ is memorably and movingly managed. Incidentally, it is amusing to find the well-illustrated booklet includes a rare slip by this splendid label, the Lucretia pictured being not the Roman one but a knowing Lucrezia Borgia, one breast exposed to the world. Anything further from the heroic Roman wife would be hard to imagine!

Bunel also sings two airs from the de la Guerre opera, one an expression of Procris’s longing for solitude, which again displays her vocal acting skills – the words ‘Ah! J’aimerais encore les maux’ (Ah, I would delight still in the troubles …’ delivered with inexpressible longing. The other is a light- hearted song sung by Dawn, but we need to wait for the full opera before arriving at a more informed impression of it. The Lully is also taken from an Italian insert, a ‘Plainte d’Armide’ included in the Ballet des amours déguisés of 1664 and thus a work that precedes all his major operas. It follows the familiar lamentations of the sorceress Armida following her abandonment by Rinaldo. It is not especially memorable either as music or in the performance of Anna Reinhold. There is also a trio taken from a 1709 publication of ‘Airs sérieux et à boire’ by Nicolas Racot de Grandval (1676-1753), a new name to me and apparently particularly famed for his satires. The programme concludes with a catchy anonymous dance duet in strophic form winningly sung by Bunel and Worms that harks back to the beginning of the 17th century and ballet de cour.

Overall the CD makes for an attractively varied collection of French Baroque vocal chamber music that strays off the usual paths. It is especially worth sampling for the contribution of Victoire Bunel, who looks to be yet another burgeoning star in the overcrowded firmament of French Baroque music.

Brian Robins


French Festivals

FANS OF EARLY MUSIC in France are spoiled for choice as the festival season kicks off again. Click below to download the brochures (PDFs in French only!) for:

Festival du Haut Limousin / Villefavard

Festival d’Ambronay


The Crown: Coronation anthems by Handel & Purcell

Choeur & Orchestre de l’Opéra Royal, conducted by Gaétan Jarry
Versailles Spectacles CVS110

For anyone wanting a souvenir of the Coronation, here is the perfect answer, at least so far as the musical part is concerned. And it comes from an unexpected source. For this sumptuously produced CD – entirely performed by French forces (nearly 100 musicians) – was recorded in the Chapelle Royale in the palace of Versailles, taking full advantage of its resplendent acoustic. Not only does it include the anthems Purcell composed for the coronation of James II in 1685 and Handel wrote for that of George II (1727), but we also have the introductory procession and recession along with fanfares interposed between the anthems and gleamingly enhanced by the resonance of the chapel. There are even the ‘Vivats’ and perhaps most touchingly of all the final shouts of ‘God save King Charles’. One can almost sense the French, albeit probably temporarily, regretting republicanism!

It would have been relatively straightforward for a project of this kind to have been achieved simply by making the right sort of noise – of which there is of course plenty – but there was no likelihood of that with Gaétan Jarry at the helm. One of the most outstanding of France’s present golden generation of early music musicians, Jarry here leads performances not only of magnificence in the celebratory, fully scored anthems, but which show every sign of care in more reflective music. It is evident that much attention has been paid not just only to the choir’s diction and articulation of English, but nuances of expressive word painting. I love, for example, the little nudge on the word ‘strong’ in the chorus ‘Praise the Lord’ for the oratorio Solomon, a worthy and fitting encore to the anthems at the end of the programme. Admirable too is the obvious care taken over the contrapuntal verses of the Purcell ‘My heart is inditing’, which are not only beautifully interwoven by the soloists but also sung with a true sense of understanding of the text. The final ‘Allelujah’ of the same anthem brings one of the rare moments of choral untidiness, the ensemble and precision being for the most part admirable.

The more extrovert anthems need little detailed comment. All make their due effect, with ‘Zadok the Priest’ producing the ‘hairs-on-the-back-of the-neck’ effect it should. Another memorable moment comes with the verse ‘Exceeding Glad Shall He Be’ from Handel’s ‘The King Shall Rejoice’, where the dancing melody is treated to joyous imitative expression between parts, while the entries at the opening of his setting of ‘My Heart is inditing’ are superbly judged.

In keeping with Versailles Spectacles’ high standards, the presentation is outstanding, with a 127pp booklet with articles and illustrations, a number of them in colour. With the credits on the last page comes the legend ‘In honour of his Majesty King Charles III’. Given that the CD is a more than worthy tribute to the King, it is greatly to be hoped it will be brought to his attention.

Brian Robins


Charpentier: Auprès du feu l’on fait l’amour

Airs serieux & à boire
Les Épopées, directed by Stéphane Fuget
Versailles Spectacles CVS 089

The history of the French air de cour goes back to the end of the 16th century, when it played an important role in the lavish ballets mounted by the court. Later it would be taken over as a major component in Lully’s creation of French opera and still later would form a separate, though related genre that played an important role in salon life and in its more bucolic form other perhaps less salubrious gatherings. While usually written for a solo voice and continuo, airs for two or three voices are also found.

Marc-Antoine Charpentier’s contribution to the repertoire includes nearly forty extant examples of which some three-quarters are gathered on this appealing CD. They are found in three major sources: the famous political and cultural publication Mercure de France, with whose editor Charpentier enjoyed an excellent relationship and which were issued under the title Airs serieux et à boire; pieces issued posthumously by the publisher Ballard; and various unpublished manuscripts found in other sources, in particular the Bibliothèque Nationale.

While the drinking songs basically speak for themselves, being straightforward drunken ditties (‘Veux-tu, compère Grégoire’) or satirical (‘Beaux petits yeux l’écarlate’ is a particularly vicious example), the serious airs cover a wide range of topics, with pastoral love and its vicissitudes a favourite topic, but here also including two panegyrics to Louis XIV. While many of the airs are simple strophic songs, occasionally with a refrain, some follow a more complex course. That applies to none more than ‘Non, non, je ne l’aime plus’, one of the most sophisticated and extended (most last an average of barely two or three minutes). It is virtually an operatic scène, opening with a strongly declamatory air before proceeding to an alternation of récits and airs of which ‘Je pense au temps heureux’, a bitter-sweet reflection on happier days has a special beauty, the air as a whole an affecting expression of conflicting emotions. It is outstandingly, even passionately sung by haute-contre Cyril Auvity, the busiest singer in the programme, unsurprisingly given the composer himself was an haute-contre and must have often taken part in performances of this repertoire. Equally as memorable is the following air, ‘Ah! Laissez-moi rêver’, unusually termed aire tendre, it is the lament of a shepherdess for her lost love. Consisting of only a sestet with the opening words acting as a refrain, the constant repetition demands artistry of the highest order if it is to make an impression, the variants of colour and heartrending expressivity found by soprano Claire Lefilliâtre in the simple opening word ‘Ah!’ alone a masterclass in interpretative subtlety.

Such standards are common to the performances of these exquisite little gems, with the drinking songs given a great sense of character by Auvity and his two male colleagues, Marc Mauillon, perhaps best described by the modern term ‘baritenor’, and baritone Geoffroy Buffière – try the aforementioned ‘Veux-tu, compère Grégoire’ to get a sense of the bucolic fun at one extreme of these airs. The second soprano Gwendoline Blondeel is well contrasted with Lefilliâtre, having a less bright and marginally heavier voice, but her diction is not always as good as those of the other singers. The continuo accompanying instruments are bass violin, bass viol, theorbo or guitar and harpsichord, the last named played by director Stéphane Fuget.

Versailles Spectacles’ presentation is as stylish as usual and includes an excellent essay on the songs by Charpentier expert, Catherine Cessac. Less laudable is the lack of identification of the singer(s) of each item, so easily done just by putting initials against the number concerned. (Please don’t write in to tell me there are two ‘GB’s; the second would be ‘GBu’!)

Brian Robins


Nuit à Venise

Ensemble Les Surprises, directed by Louis-Noël Bestion de Camboulas
Alpha Classics 927

In an interview included in the booklet the conductor (henceforth Camboulas to avoid repetition of his unusually complex name) tells us in typically imaginative French style that he wanted on this disc to ‘reimagine a large-scale evening of festivities not only on the Piazza San Marco and in the Basilica, but also in the gardens and salons of the city’s palaces’. If this suggests the CD is aiming at an unspecialised audience, such suspicions are enhanced by the total omission of any source references or even context, where it exists, there being no notes other than the interview.  Such sloppy presentation is unforgivable in this day and age, ‘Cavalli – Agnus Dei’ being of little help to anyone (it comes from the Missa Concertata, published in Musiche sacra, 1656).

It is all the more regrettable given that the music is exceptionally well performed and largely avoids more obvious choices, Lotti’s famous 8-part Crucifixus being perhaps the only real exception to that. That searing piece can also be used as an illustration of one of the real strengths of the vocal performances, which to their great benefit are performed one voice to a part. The strength referred to is the unfailing sweetness of tone of the two sopranos of Les Surprises, Jehanne Amzal and Eugénie Lefebvre, which is complemented by the fine voices and excellent ensemble of the remaining six voices. The ensemble as a whole seems equally at home with the athletic vocal agility required for the bravura writing in items such as Monteverdi’s ‘Dixit Dominus secondo’, SV 264 (from the Selva morale e spirituali, 1641) or ‘Laudate Dominum primo’ from the same collection, though the latter is a rare instance where I don’t agree with Camboulas’ tempo, it sounding to me too rushed to allow the singers to articulate the text with the necessary clarity. 

Among the lesser-known works included two brief pieces, ‘Ingemisco’ and ‘Oro supplex’ from Giovanni Legrenzi’s 8-part Prosa pro Mortuis (Dies Irae) particularly stand out for their exquisite penitential dissonance, the former for full choir based on falling sequences, the latter an alto solo. The Cavalli ‘Agnus Dei’ is another jewel, alternating homophony and polyphony, and here sung with wonderful breadth and rapt inner spirituality.

Despite Camboulas’ intimation of a mixture of sacred and profane, there are no secular vocal items included, though the presence of a couple of settings of typically sensual texts from the Song of Song’s (Alessandro Grandi’s 3-part ‘O quam tu pulchra es’ and Monteverdi’s ‘Pulchrae sunt genae tuae’, a contrafactum (not by Monteverdi) of the madrigal ‘Ferir quel petto, Silvio?’ from the Fifth Book might be thought compensation, and we are also given an instrumental arrangement of another madrigal from Book 5, ‘Troppo ben puo’. Otherwise, instrumental items are liberally scattered throughout the selection, making for a nicely contrasted programme that would make for an excellent introduction to 17th-century Venetian repertoire. In case my above admonishments about presentation have aroused concerns about texts, full texts and translations are included and the recording in the Abbaye aux Dames at Saintes is atmospheric.  

Brian Robins


Die Befreiung Israels

Telemann: Das befreite Israel (1759)
Rolle: Die Befreiung Israels (1774)

Miriam Feuersinger, Elvira Bill, Daniel Johannsen, André Morsch, Sebastian Myrus SmSTBB, Il Gardellino Baroque Orchestra, directed by Peter van Heygen
Passacaille 1132

This is an excellent and fascinating placement of two settings around the same subject on this CD, offering two very distinctive stylistic approaches presented by these composers side by side, and yet set some 15 years apart! There are some bold strokes of musical pictorialism, drama, and délicatesse on display from both. One should not underestimate Telemann’s ability to find a compact and cogent form here, we are in very similar compositional territory to the fervour and flexibility found in his remarkable “Donner-Ode” (TVWV6:3a/b). Interestingly, the two librettos do also partially overlap, J .F. W. Zachariae’s original poetry was expanded by the second preacher at Telemann’s baptismal Church, Heilig-Geist-Kirche in Magdeburg, one Christoph Christian Sturm, a prominent member of the Magdeburg Scholar’s club, who went on to write for C. P. E. Bach, Telemann’s godson.

The rich instrumentation is equally telling, Telemann in that vintage late-Baroque mould, Johann Heinrich Rolle of course in more Empfindsamer mode, as espoused by C. H. Graun. Telemann’s setting is concise and compact, dispensing with recitatives, which keeps the dramatic narrative flowing. The Rolle, having extra characters, including Moses, has eight recitatives, to as it were “tee-up” the following movement! Telemann’s highly imaginative orchestral movement (Track 9) is an unbounded flood of surging tones with trumpets and horns depicting the great swell of the waves, engulfing the Pharoh’s chasing army, here played with tremendous gusto! Turning to the singers now, there are some very solid performances all around. Miriam Feuersinger is sublime in the aria Pflanze sie, Herr auf den Huegeln (Track 12). Oddly, the inclusion of recitatives in the Rolle setting seemed to take it back to the Baroque, but the opening bars strike out, and the beautifully constructed arias, and arias with chorus move us to the expressive musical language of C. H. Graun, perhaps even beyond to C. P. E. Bach himself? Track 20 takes us through the stormy torrents at some pace, showing that Rolle also knew a thing or two about musical pictorialism.

It is towards the end of the Rolle work that the J. F. W. Zachariae poetry appears, and completes this juxtaposition of stylistic approaches making them truly salient in their differences! The soloists give expressive and cogent performances, which neither founder in excesses nor under-powering wilt. Il Gardellino lend an ever-bright and impressive sheen to these two fine works, especially the brass section of horns and trumpets (drums adding extra impact).

The final chorus gives the means and measure of both composers in a potent nutshell; do I detect a slightly veiled emulation by Rolle?

The recorded sound is amazing (Bruges 16-19th August 2022) and adds to the vibrancy of this warmly recommended recording moving past the more familiar Handelian work. The CD notes are most informative on the backgrounds to these two fine settings.

David Bellinger