Friday, 20 July 2018

da Milano - A Decoration of Silence - North

Rating: 5/5

An excellent disc

This is yet another excellent disc from the great Nigel North.  It is the second in a projected series of three discs of da Milano, nicknamed "Il Divino" with some justification.

The music is lovely; a wide selection of pieces with a variety of feel and atmosphere and all full of melodic and harmonic invention.  North plays it beautifully, of course.  He is one of the world's finest lutenists and is completely at home here; I already have much-loved discs of da Milano by both Paul O'Dette and Hopkinson Smith, and this is at least their equal.  North's style and tone is perhaps a little more mellow, which for me suits this music very well.

The recorded sound is excellent and this is a very fine disc all round.  Warmly recommended.

Monday, 9 July 2018

Jakob Lindberg - Nocturnal

Rating: 5/5

An outstanding disc

Nocturnal is yet another first-rate disc from Jakob Lindberg.  He has, of course, been one of the world's greatest lutenists for many years and this is well up to his usual phenomenal standard.

Nocturnal is a collection of English lute pieces by the greats of the Elizabethan era, plus a transcription of Britten's Nocturnal After John Dowland.  Many familiar composers are featured; Dowland himself, of course, Holborne, Bacheler and others, and I was very pleased to be introduced to the music of Edward Collard.  All of it is excellent and quite beautifully played.  Lindberg has a deep understanding of this repertoire and an exquisite touch.  His instruments sound lovely and are, as always, superbly recorded by BIS.

This is, in short, an outstanding disc of wonderful music played by a true master.  Very warmly recommended.

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Weiss - Suites for Lute - Junghanel

Rating: 5/5

An excellent disc

This is an excellent disc of Weiss's lute music.  There are some superb recordings of Weiss available – notably for me by Jakob Lindberg and Robert Barto – but this stands with them, I think.

Weiss, held to be the foremost lutenist of his time, was an almost exact contemporary of Bach and so his time was the last flowering of Baroque lute music. He left a huge and very distinguished legacy of compositions, which really show the true beauty and versatility of the lute. All of the music is full of melodic invention and Weiss's mastery of his instrument is clear from the richness of the harmonic structures.  Konrad Junghänel brings all of this out beautifully; he is a fine lutenist and is absolutely at home in this repertoire, so Weiss's music blossoms in his hands.  His lute sounds simply lovely and is beautifully recorded by Glossa.

You simply can't go wrong woth this disc, in my view.  It's lovely music, superbly played and recorded, and very warmly recommended.

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Bach - Cello Suites - Zipperling

Rating: 2/5

Not for me

I'm afraid this recording wasn't for me.  There are certainly good things about it, but it has some serious flaws.

Rainer Zipperling is a very fine cellist; he has a lovely tone here and there is virtuosity in abundance – but therein lies some of the problem, I think.  He takes some movements at breakneck speed which certainly shows what amazing technique he has, but does Bach's music no favours at all.  For example, the wonderful Prelude to the Third Suite is played so fast that all it's beauty, including those magnificent, moving wide arpeggios, is lost in a blizzard of notes.  Even the extraordinary Sarabande from the Fifth Suite, although it is taken at a sensible tempo, lacks the real spiritual depth brought to it by, for example, Steven Isserlis or David Watkin in their superb recordings.

It is possible to take some movements quite quickly and to bring individual quirkiness to the Cello Suites while still doing them proper justice – try Anne Gastinel's delightful interpretation, for example.  I'm afraid I don’t think that Zipperling manages it, though, and although I admire his work with the excellent Camerata Colln very much, I can't recommend this solo effort.

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Fuenllana & Narváez - Je veulx laysser melancolie - Costoyas

Rating: 5/5

A lovely disc

I think this is a terrific disc. 

I sometimes struggle a little with vihuela music even when played by the great Hopkinson Smith because I find the vihuela a slightly unsympathetic instrument, but here the overall sound is lovely and both the playing and music are excellent.  It's a lovely, varied selection from both Fuenllana and Narvaez, which is given real life and feeling by Dolores Costoyas.  The recored sound is truly lovely and I think it's an excellent disc all round.  Very warmly recommended.

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Bach - Guitar Works Vol. 1 - Veslocki

Rating: 3/5

Not for me

Whether or not you like this disc will be a matter of personal taste.  Bach's music is wonderful, of course, and David Veslocki is a fine guitarist, but his interpretations won't be for everyone.

The chief work here is Bach's Lute Suite in E minor, BWV 996, plus a selection of movements from other works.  There is a slight air of Bach's Greatest Hits about it, but that’s fine by me.  What I find harder to take is the very romantic, almost sentimental style in which Veslocki plays.  To my surprise, I rather like the Prelude to the First Cello Suite played as though it were a gentle lullaby, but that feeling throughout the disc gets far too much for me.  Many of these movements are dances, but that gets lost much too often for my taste.

So, this isn't really a disc for me, but others with different taste may like it much more.  Certainly the musicianship is very good, so I'd recommend listening to a few samples and if you like them then the disc won't let you down.  For me, though, it's not Bach as I like to hear him so my own recommendation is very qualified.

Dowland - Lachrimae - North, Les Voix Humaines

Rating: 5/5


This is a terrific interpretation of Dowland's Lachrimae.  It's up against some extremely stiff competition but is among the best, I think.

The music is fabulous, with arrangements for viol consort of the Lachrimae and a number of other Dowland pieces, some well known and others less so.  As a programme it works very well and never drags or becomes at all samey.  The playing is excellent, with a fairly mellow overall sound from a superb viol consort and Nigel North's brilliant lute playing.  It's a delight from start to finish, excellently recorded by ATMA.

I find it hard to choose between this and the recent outstanding release from Phantasm and Elizabeth Kenny.  Both are brilliant, with Phantasm perhaps a little more intense and tragic than Les Voix Humaines, who are a little more mellow and melancholy.  I love both and I can recommend this very warmly indeed.