Podcasts from Paris

Fans of the French Baroque are in for a real treat if they visit – six podcasts have been produced by the Centre de Musique Baroque Versailles. To a rich musical backdrop, all sorts of information is shared (either in English or French) from the golden era of Louis XIV to the dawn of the Revolution. These are highly recommended!

Brian Clark


Handel: Organ concertos op. 4 & op. 7

Martin Haselböck (op. 4), Jeremy Joseph (op. 7), Orchester Wiener Akademie
Alpha Classics Alpha 742

In 2014 Martin Haselböck and his Orchester Wiener Akademie put themselves on the musical map with their Resound Beethoven project, which involved performing and recording the complete Beethoven symphonies on period instruments in Viennese venues where they had been premiered or performed in the composer’s lifetime. As the programme note to this 2-CD boxed set candidly admits, this project is very different in that the magnificent acoustic of the Goldener Saal of the Musikverein provides these organ concertos by Handel with a very different context from the composer’s own performances. While the Musikverein’s 2011 Rieger organ provides many of the stops available on a Baroque organ, again the context is very different, while the forces fielded by the Akademie are much smaller than those available to Handel for his performances, often in the wider context of an oratorio or an opera. And yet, these are utterly mesmerising performances, musically intelligent, technically superb, and wonderfully effervescent. While the Resound Beethoven project reminded us that the acoustic of the original venues is a factor in any attempt to reconstruct how music originally sounded, it is possible to produce an utterly convincing and engaging performance just by calling upon superlative musicians and placing them one of the finest acoustics in the world. If just occasionally I felt that an organ stop belonged in a later period, these are thoroughly enjoyable accounts with Haselböck himself at the keyboard for the op 4 concerti and Jeremy Joseph taking over for the op 7. For a generally more convincing period sound, the excellent 1996 set by Paul Nicholson on Hyperion with Roy Goodman and the Brandenburg Consort which uses an organ Handel himself is known to have played, and which gives us the op 4 no 6 on harp as originally intended as well as supplying the Alleluia chorus conclusion to op 4 no 4 (mentioned in the booklet notes for present recording but not performed) is probably for you, but I did very much enjoy these Viennese accounts.

D. James Ross


Pachelbel: Organ Works volume 2

Matthew Owens
resonus RES10303

When I reviewed Vol. 1 of Matthew Owens’ excellent Pachelbel Organ Works a year ago, I wondered whether all the subsequent discs were to be recorded on the Queen’s College Frobenius, where he had been organ scholar, pondering that Pachelbel’s diverse compositions might be better served by a richer, more South German tone. And here is Vol. 2, as rich a mix as Vol. 1, and recorded on the colourful 2015 Bernard Aubertin organ in a private house in East Sussex last November! This is the organ that Stephen Farr used for the Resonus recording of Bach’s early Chorale Partitas, and here they make an equally good technical job of capturing both the carefully voiced organ and Owens’ neat articulation and phrasing.

Every track has its registration noted carefully in the liner notes, to be read against the specification of the instrument on the page opposite, which is a great delight to this reviewer at least. The Aubertin organ (Aubertin trained in Alsace and works in the Jura, and his organs have a blend of French and lower German/Austrian quality to their voicing) in Fairwarp has that rich and colourful quality that suits the middle-south German style of writing so well. Some of the shorter numbers, like the variations on the Chorale Partita Christus, der ist mein Leben, are played on single ranks: one on a 4’ flute only and we also hear the robust Voix Humaine paired with the 4’ flute on the Grand Orgue. The 22 Fugues on the Magnificat Primi Toni also give us a chance to experience the wonderful variety and subtle phrasing of this delicately voiced instrument – where flute and principal ranks can be combined together to shade the tone – as well as alerting us to the fact that Pachelbel worked in both Lutheran and Catholic traditions.

Owens’ playing is elegant, fluent and well articulated. There is a lot of Pachelbel to come – the last complete Pachelbel organ works, recorded two decades ago by Antoine Bouchard on a 1964 Casavant organ in Quebec, ran to 11 CDs – but the series promises well. I look forward to the next volume keenly: what organ will Owens choose for the next tranche?

David Stancliffe


Dieupart: Suites de Clavecin

Marie van Rhijn (+Tami Troman violin, Héloïse Gaillard recorder/oboe, Myriam Rignol gamba, Pierre Rinderknecht theorbo)
Château de Versailles Spectacles CVS060

The front of this CD package will lead you to expect a straightforward performance of these relatively well-known suites in their solo harpsichord guise. However, this is not what happens. These suites were originally published in two versions, for solo and for treble instrument and continuo. In addition, there is a 1702/3 notice for a London performance of ‘Mr Dieuparts Book of Lessons for the Harpsichord, made in Consorts’, and all of this leads our current performers to arrange the music for combinations of harpsichord, violin, oboe, various recorders, viol and theorbo. In addition, some movements are interpolated from other suites. In short, these are arrangements, or – in the current jargon – ‘re-imaginings’.

I don’t mind this too much when a suite retains a clear identity with a consistent scoring throughout but here not even movements enjoy this luxury, with changes of sonority being imposed at double bars or even more frequently. So, despite the commitment of the players, this is not for me and I do not think it can reasonably be described as HIP.

The booklet (in French, English and German) is at least honest about what we hear.

David Hansell


J. S. Bach: Harpsichord Concertos

The Hanover Band, Andrew Arthur director and harpsichord
Signum Classics SIGCD 710

This fine first CD – the second will include the other three harpsichord concertos and Brandenburg V – was recorded in the admirable acoustic of St Nicholas, Arundel and uses a harpsichord by Andrew Garlick, built in 2009 and after Jean-Claude Goujon, 1748 and tuned in a 1/6 comma circulating meantone at A=415.

What is particularly good is the splendid balance between the single strings of the Hanover Band’s A team and the harpsichord – a resonant and singing instrument, well able to hold its own. What is very odd is that the experienced and skilled leader of the Hanover Band, Theresa Caudle, is not mentioned at all in the liner notes, which list the violin II, viola, violoncello, double bass and harpsichord together with details of their instruments. This reflects poorly on Signum’s production team.

It is now largely accepted that using single strings is the best way to balance these exquisite concerti, the majority of which had earlier lives as concerti for violin before being re-scored for a six-instrument ensemble for Bach’s concerts in Zimmermann’s coffee-house. The fascinating detail of their reworking for keyboard can be studied in NBA VII.4, where you can see how the articulation in the cembalo part frequently differs from the identical line in the first violin, as well as seeing how the left hand of the keyboard part often varies from the basso continuo part, with its suggestive flourishes frequently hinting at the polyphonic overtones of Bach’s writing. Sometimes, the articulation of the sections is enhanced by suppressing the 16’ in some parts, as in the Adagio of BWV 1054 where only a violoncello plays the continuo line.

But these subtleties aside, what is so beguiling about these performances is the absolute integration of the players with one another. Not one player fails to contribute and the way the first violin and the right hand of the harpsichord play in complete sync – even when negotiating slight inégales in the rhythms – is so elegant and makes for that fluidity which only one-to-a-part can give.

Although the excellent performance by Francesco Corti and Shunsuke Sato uses a second harpsichord to play the continuo of BWV 1055 for All-of-Bach, this marvellous performance beats it for natural clarity and for the way all the players – even when they appear to be just filling in the realisation of the continuo – shape their lines to make them sing in response to one other and to the free but perfectly rhythmic playing of Andrew Arthur.

This is not only a very ‘correct’ textbook version that I shall enjoy returning to for a long time, but it is fluid, inventive and utterly musical. You should get it, even if you have Conti’s performances with Il Pomo d’Oro. Andrew Arthur is not a soloist in the modern sense of the word – out to stamp his personality on this music: he is content to help the ensemble to listen to each other and above all, to listen to Bach. There are no grand gestures or extremes of tempi. This is the best we are likely to get and I look forward to the second CD immensely.

David Stancliffe


Elizabethan Organ Music

Gustav Leonhardt at the Schnitger organ, Zwolle, Holland
Paradizo PA0019

Click HERE to buy this recording on
[If no-one uses these sponsored links, this free-to-view site will disappear]

For goodness’ sake do not do what I initially did, and dismissively assume that this is another re-hash of Leonhardt’s greatest hits. It is a unique recording, it is an historically significant recording, it is a superb recording, and anyone with an interest in early keyboard music will be delighted that this recording has been resurrected and made generally accessible. As Skip Sempé explains in the booklet, it was originally made for a niche American recording company in the spring of 1962, in a pressing of only a few hundred copies, available only in the USA. Now anyone and everyone can buy it, and the quality of the music and of the performances makes this a cause for rejoicing.

Sempé states that Leonhardt subsequently re-recorded only three of these eleven pieces: two for harpsichord and one for organ. The two harpsichord works are Farnaby’s Fantasia, and Gibbons’ Fantasia MB XX/6, both currently on Philips 4381532. The third re-recording that I have traced is Byrd’s Clarifica me pater III (on the CD it retains the superceded title that was current back in 1962) which Leonhardt plays on the claviorgan (Alpha 073); either Sempé has taken this performance to be on an actual organ, or I have missed a commercial recording of one of these pieces, played on an organ by Leonhardt. Either way, this is a release additionally to be treasured for these unique renditions by Leonhardt of eight fine Elizabethan pieces.

The organ which Leonhardt uses is in San-Michaelskerk, Zwolle, Netherlands, built by Arp and Frans Caspar Schnitger, 1721. Some Elizabethan music ostensibly composed for the virginals or harpsichord can sound strident at one extreme or reedy, even weedy, at the other when played on early organs. The Zwolle instrument sounds beautiful, though it does of course date from over a century after the repertory on this disc was composed. The choice of music is excellent, intermingling folk material with the rigours of plainsong fantasias, and free fantasias (and a prelude) with the discipline of a ground. The fantasias by Byrd and Philips are particularly well chosen, not only because they are both masterful compositions, but also because Philips, a pupil of Byrd, uses the same theme as his teacher. Their respective working out of the material makes for an enthralling comparison.

These compositions from a golden age are performed superbly. Leonhardt had a particular respect for Byrd, and there is the added frisson in hearing works of the first great composer for the keyboard being played by arguably the greatest modern performer on early keyboard instruments: it would be hard to imagine finer performances of either piece. The same can be said of the other nine pieces. Whether you own one, some, most, all, or none of these tracks, this is a recording that simply recommends itself: it is a major discographical event.

Richard Turbet


Krebs: Keyboard Works volume 2

Steven Devine harpsichord
resonus RES10100

Buy this on by clicking HERE.

[These sponsored links pay a pittance, but we have no other form of income!]

Steven Devine continues his splendid performances of Krebs’ keyboard works with this volume which comprises the substantial Overture in the French style (Krebs-WV 820), the Partita in B flat major (Krebs-WV 823) and the Sonata in A minor (Krebs-WV 838) – in all over 77 minutes of expert and beguiling playing.

Devine’s chosen instrument for this recording is a double-manual harpsichord by Colin Booth (2000) after a single manual by Johann Christof Fleischer (Hamburg 1710) at a=415Hz and tuned to Werkmeister III. The singing quality of this instrument is perfectly suited to the music – by turn lyrical, adventurous and complex, and for which Devine is a persuasive champion.

Bach’s favourite pupil, Krebs spans the shift from the essentially florid style of the toccatas and contrapuntal writing of the late 17th century to the gallant and appealing tunefulness of the 18th century. The Preludio and Fuga (tracks 10 & 11) in the B flat Partita give a good idea of the starting point of Krebs’ style, with the bold chromatic modulations, but for his more ‘modern’ leanings listen to Devine’s stylishly elegant Corranta (13). However, it is the genuinely post-Bachian music that is the most interesting to me. The inclusion of the A minor sonata gives us a foretaste of where music was heading with a modern, “Sturm und Drang” opening movement followed by a very grazioso middle movement and a finale full of classical gestures.

As you would expect, the playing is incredibly neat and stylish and blessedly free from those eccentricities which make repeated listening to some player’s recordings so irritating. Devine does us all a great service in producing this collected edition which couldn’t be bettered.

David Stancliffe


J. S. Bach – Works for Flute and Keyboard

Sonatas, Fantasias, Improvisations
Toshiyuki Shibata flute, Anthony Romaniuk fortepiano
Fuga Libera FUG 792

Click HERE to buy this on amazon,
[These sponsored links help keep these review FREE TO VIEW]

These two artists met in the summer gap in the 2020 lockdown in Antwerp, and agreed to get playing together. Both were baroque musicians and also jazz players, used to improvising. The result is this CD centred on Bach’s Flute Sonatas in E, E minor and B minor, for which Shibata commissioned a flute after Quantz as well as one after Eichentopf from around 1720. The harpsichord used by Romaniuk is by Detmer Hungerberg while the fortepiano after Silbermann used in the B minor sonata is by Kerstin Schwartz-Damm and has an intriguing variety of stops and makes an ideal partner to the Quantz flute. The pitch they play at is 402Hz after Quantz, which gives a lovely relaxed and unhurried feel to their playing.

In addition to their Bach sonatas, they introduce their improvisations, observing that often a piece was preluded in the 18th century, and that a baroque score was often more akin to jazz lead-sheets, where not only was a degree of ornamentation expected but in realising the basso continuo sometimes an additional melodic line was contrived more in the style of the right hand part in BWV 1030.

Before the purists sniff at this performing style, I urge them to listen to the results of this collaboration and decide whether this style of music-making does not have a good deal to teach the most HIP of practitioners, even if we might do it slightly differently. Bach was celebrated for being able to improvise an extra voice to a complex polyphonic structure whether in the right hand of a keyboard continuo instrument playing in a sonata or a violin descant to a chorale, as in many of the Weimar period cantatas. I have learned a lot about his compositional style by watching him at work in these modes as he crafted the organ chorale preludes, which, like the solo keyboard compositions, most likely had their origins in improvisations in preluding a chorale for Lutheran worship.

So while I put this CD aside while I made room for other more obviously attractive discs I had been sent, I am grateful for having heard it, and glad of the stimulus as well as the opportunity to eavesdrop on two able and thoughtful musicians at work as they ponder the place of what is now called improvisation in the performance of the high baroque.

David Stancliffe


Asioli: Cello Sonata, Piano Sonatas

Francesco Galligioni cello, Jolanda Violante fortepiano
Brilliant Classics 95908

Click HERE to buy this recording on amazon,
[These sponsored links keep this site FREE]

The fortunes of Bonifazio Asiola very much mirror the rise and fall of the Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy – in 1807 at the age of 38 he is appointed director of the Milan Conservatory by the French Viceroy only to be forced into early retirement by the fall of Napoleon in 1814, although he continued to teach and compose until his death in 1832. Labelled a ‘Sonata per Clavicembalo e Violoncello Obbligato’, Asioli’s Cello Sonata is very much in the new idiom where the cello usually takes the melodic initiative while the piano tends to accompany, although the demanding keyboard part is also allowed to sparkle. This is a substantial work with wonderfully idiomatic writing for the cello – it was after all in Italy that the cello had originally emerged from its traditional continuo role to become a solo instrument. This work was composed in 1784 as a Divertimento for cello and piano, although by 1817 when it was published it had acquired a name more befitting its substantial nature.

We also hear two of Asioli’s three Piano Sonatas op 8, published around 1790, works of considerable musical variety and charm. They are given powerful and expressive renditions by Jolanda Violante on a copy of a bright and incisive Walter & Son fortepiano of 1805, while Francesco Galligioni plays wonderfully eloquently on a late 17th-century Cremonese cello. The excellent programme note by Licia Sirch mentions in passing a wealth of other work by Bonifazio Asioli, and on the basis of these three attractive sonatas, he is a name we should watch out for. But for the vagaries of history, he would probably be much more generally appreciated.

D. James Ross


Frescobaldi: Complete unpublished works for harpsichord & organ

Roberto Loreggian
<TT> (6 CDs in a double CD case)
Brilliant Classics 96154

Click HERE to buy this boxed set on
[These sponsored links are your only way to support this FREE site]

This collection of six CDs marks the conclusion of Roberto Loreggian’s impressive journey through the complete keyboard music of Frescobaldi, begun back in 2008. While Frescobaldi was a careful preparer and editor of his music for publication, providing a significant canon of authentic pieces, a surprising amount survives in manuscripts scattered all round Europe. This recording has 166 pieces in total, all unpublished during the composer’s lifetime, but issued in 2017 by Etienne Darbellay and Costanze Frey as the final part of their complete edition for Suvini Zerboni. Only a handful are thought to be in Frescobaldi’s hand, but many have been identified as in the hands of collaborators and pupils such as Nicolò Borbone and Leonardo Castellani. Some are substantial pieces; others are short sketches, trial runs for later published pieces, teaching exercises, etc. Authenticating them is a complex business and has occupied scholars over many years, most notably Claudio Annibaldi, Etienne Darbellay, Frederick Hammond, Christine Jeanneret and Alexander Silbiger. Discussion continues about many pieces, and some at least are more likely to be by Frescobaldi’s pupils or followers. Silbiger maintains an online catalogue (Frescobaldi Thematic Catalogue Online (, hosted by the Journal of Seventeenth Century Music. He has attached F numbers to all pieces attributed to Frescobaldi, published and unpublished, thought to have at least the potential of having been composed by him; for the most part, these F numbers are attached to pieces in Loreggian’s recording, though some have been missed out. Hammond hosts an annotated catalogue of all sources on his website (Girolamo Frescobaldi: An Extended Biography – Frederick Hammond, Bard College), using Silbiger’s F numbers. Between them, these two websites provide the information necessary to contextualise Loreggian’s achievement; the liner notes provide only basic information about the sources.

For those already familiar with the works of Frescobaldi, listening to this recording is at once a disorientating and stimulating experience. Much of the language is familiar and sometimes whole sections are recognisable, but pieces are curtailed, go off in different directions, or use the basic building blocks in an altered way. It is fun speculating whether this or that piece is really by the composer. Above all, the recording provides a crucial insight into the workshop of Frescobaldi, his pupils and followers, and the raw material from which his published pieces emerged fully varnished. There are few surprises here: all the standard genres are found, with lots of random dance movements in particular. There are also sets of partite on familiar themes as well as canzonas, ricercars and toccatas. Some of these last are thought to be late works by Frescobaldi, but might also be by his pupils: they are certainly very accomplished. In particular, a set of three toccatas copied by the musician and engraver Nicolò Borbone in Ms. Chigi Q IV 25, and eleven canzonas also copied by Borbone and now in British Library Add. Ms. 40080, are well worth listening to. There are plenty of other gems too. At the other end of the scale, some pieces are extremely cursory, lasting less than a minute in some cases. Pieces seem to have been ordered by choice of instrument, rather than according to any particular criteria, with no attempt to single out the exceptional from the merely ordinary.

Loreggian has done a very impressive job, taking the pieces equally seriously, and giving them all the same level of attention. He plays on two organs: that built in 1565 by Graziadio Antegnati for the Cappella Palatina in Mantua’s Ducal Palace, and one made by Zanin Organi in 1998 for the Chiesa di S. Caterina in Treviso. He also plays on two modern copies of 17th-century Italian harpsichords by F. Gazzola and L. Patella. All work very well for their chosen pieces and are sensitively registered; recording quality is excellent throughout. There is one surprise in the registration, but I won’t spoil the fun by revealing it! Loreggian has a real gift for making the music sound as if he is improvising it – it is easy to imagine Frescobaldi himself in the room with the listener. As a performer, he is steeped in the musical language of the period and responds with great fluency to the changing declamatory rhythms and affective figures so typical of the composer and his milieu. He is to be congratulated for making all of this music, warts and all, available to listeners. This is a collection to dip into repeatedly for rewarding insights and is a very welcome addition to Frescobaldi discography.

Noel O’Regan