À sa guitare

Philippe Jaroussky, Thibaut Garcia
Erato 0 190295 005702

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This eclectic CD seems to be the result of two musicians ‘clicking’ and enjoying making music together – and this enthusiasm infuses the wide range of repertoire represented here. While Jaroussky’s countertenor voice is largely associated with music of the Baroque, Thibaut Garcia plays a modern guitar and the pair range throughout the entire history of music from the 16th to the 20th centuries. Curiously, the earliest repertoire (Dowland and Purcell) and the latest repertoire (Poulenc, Granados, Rodriguez, and Britten) sound the most effective, while the classical and romantic music is more problematic. Perhaps this is less due to the arrangements for guitar, which are surprisingly effective, than to the appropriateness of the countertenor voice for this repertoire. Schubert’s Erlkönig is a case in point. The contrasting use of different registers in the original is turned on its head, while the guitar struggles to portray the pounding hooves of the horse with anything like the drama of Schubert’s original writing. I remember attending a performance by the countertenor Andreas Scholl of romantic Lieder, and I had exactly the same reservations about that. It seems inevitable that specialists in the music of a particular period find the grass greener in unrelated periods. This CD is evidence that, while the musicians may be superb exponents of their art, such explorations can only be partly successful. And then again, the lovely modern ballad Septembre by Barbara works superbly well – perhaps the mistake was feeling the need to spread themselves across the history of music, rather than finding truly sympathetic repertoire. To end on a positive note, the two musicians’ musical rapport and superb musicality emanate from every track, and the repertoire which does work is beautifully executed.

D. James Ross


Organic Creatures

Medieval organs composed – Decomposed – Recomposed
Catalina Vicens
Timings not available (2 CDs)
Consouling Sounds SOUL0139

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Catalina Vicens sets out in these two CDs to produce something rather different from the usual early keyboard recording. She avoids the small amount of surviving keyboard repertoire and, instead, gives us a selection of early vocal music from Hildegard of Bingen to Henry VIII, passing through some Notre Dame Organum, the Italian Ars Nova, John Dunstable and Heinrich Isaac. This is supplemented by a range of contemporary music by Prach Boondiskulchok, Carson Cooman, Ivan Moody, Olli Vitaperko and Vicens herself. She uses a number of modern copies of small Medieval organs by Winold van de Putten and others, as well as two historic instruments: that in the Andreaskirche in Ostönnen from c. 1425 (reckoned to be the oldest still playable) and the other from 1531 in the Krewerd’s Mariakerk. The sounds she produces are equally not always those which might be expected: the organ pipes can resemble Japanese flutes, panpipes or foghorns, with flutter-tonguing and lots of drones. Other noises sometimes intrude and have deliberately not been edited out. The most experimental pieces are the two by Boondiskulchok and that by Moody, which produce some fascinating sounds. Vicens’ own music generally lies closer to early models, though with some experimental resonances too. Overall, there is an affinity between the Medieval and contemporary tracks which allows a seamless movement between them, making the whole production something of an extended meditation with a strong sense of improvisation. It has grown on me and is certainly a worthwhile undertaking, with excellent recording quality. My only gripe is with the lack of information about instruments and music in the beautifully designed booklet – or on the website to which the listener is directed. We don’t even get timings for the tracks which vary considerably in length. The musicologist in me wished for more details but perhaps the recording is aimed at a different kind of audience!

Noel O’Regan


Lachrimæ Lyræ – Tears of Exile

Sokratis Sinopoulos, Lacheron, François Joubert-Caillet
Fuga Libera 753

Greek Lyra meets viol consort, Greek Lyra improvises with viol consort, Greek Lyra and viol consort tackle Dowland – and this curious CD is the result. I think the most successful tracks are those on which a viol drone supports improvisations by Sokratis Sinopoulis on his Greek Lyre. For me, the accounts of the Dowland Lachrimæ Pavanes and associated Galliards and Almands with the Greek Lyre forced into the role of a treble viol just sound a bit weird. I found myself speculating that I might have found them more persuasive if Sinopolous had felt free to improvise more freely as in the ‘Greek’ tracks, but this just underlies the complete implausibility of the project. In the programme note, François Joubert-Caillet makes various attempts to tie the Lyra repertoire and his viol consort’s together under the theme of exile, but is ultimately reduced to writing that British and Greek taverns were both places in which music was listened to attentively – wishful thinking at so many levels. The playing is never less than expressive, and for all I know there may be an audience out there which has been waiting for the Greek Lyra to enlist the support of viols to tackle Dowland – I don’t think I am among them.

D. James Ross