Monday, 18 May 2020

de la Rue - Missa de Sancta Anna - Scola Descantus/Moll


Rating: 2/5

Review:
Uninspiring

I’m afraid I’m not keen on this recording. Pierre de la Rue was a magnificent composer but this doesn’t do justice to his work. The choir sound soulless and unengaged, the balance is poor with very dominant sopranos, intonation isn’t perfect and the overall effect is distant (both geographically and emotionally) and a bit soggy. De la Rue’s deep passion and sometimes slightly edgy settings are smoothed over in a monotonous, rather dull sound.

There are some superb recordings of de la Rue by Amarcord, The Brabant Ensemble, Beauty Farm, Cappella Pratensis, The Clerk’s Group and others. My advice is to try one of them and avoid this.

Thursday, 7 May 2020

Zamboni - Lute Music - Genov


Rating: 4/5

Review:
Very pleasing lute music

Zamboni is a new composer to me so this was a bit of a punt, but I’m glad I tried it because it’s a very pleasing collection.

Zamboni was active in the late 17th- and early 18th-centuries, making him a generation or so before Bach and Weiss. His lute music, to my ears anyway, isn’t as inventive as either of them, but it’s certainly good stuff, full of melody and a wide variety of well-evoked moods. Yavor Genov plays it very well, with a sound technique and a touch which brings out the feeling of what he’s playing. The recording is good; there is some rather intrusive fret noise in places, but it’s not enough to spoil my enjoyment.

This is perhaps not essential lute music, but anyone with a love of the lute (like me) will find much to enjoy here and I can recommend it.

Tuesday, 7 April 2020

Ballard - Premier livre de luth 1611 - Kolb


Rating: 4/5

Review:
Very enjoyable

This is a very enjoyable disc of Late Renaissance/Early Baroque lute music.

Robert Ballard is a new composer to me. The music is rewarding; it doesn’t have the emotional intensity of Dowland, say, nor the inventiveness of Kapsberger, but it has an elegant charm which makes it well worth listening to. Robert Kalb (also new to me) is plainly a fine lutenist who handles some pretty virtuosic passages with no hint of strain and gives the music a refined grace which suits it very well.

The recorded sound is very good and I can recommend this disc warmly.

Friday, 20 March 2020

Arcadlt - Estote fortes in bello - Josquin Capella/Bruser


Rating: 3/5

Review:
Lovely sound, but...

This recording has good things about it but it has its faults, too.

There is a good selection of Arcadelt’s work, including his Missa Ave regina caelorum and Lamentations. The singers are good, with a nice blend and the lower pitch and very resonant acoustic makes of a very pleasing overall sound. However, there is little in the way of engagement with the text which, combined with the somewhat muddy texture, does get rather samey and in the end, slightly dull.

It’s not a bad recording by any means, but rather more attention to detail rather than just basking in a lovely sound would have improved it considerably. A qualified recommendation only.

Wednesday, 11 March 2020

de la Rue - Missa Nunca fue pena mayor etc - Ars Aniqua de Paris


Rating: 2/5

Review:
A poor recording

I’m afraid I don’t like this recording at all. I have tried both this and Ars Antiqua de Paris’s recording of de la Rue’s Missa Puer natus est nobis and my response to both has been very similar.

To put it bluntly, the singers aren’t very good, and nor is the direction. There is almost nothing in the way of blend or, more importantly, balance so the impression is of a group of people doing their own thing with little reference to anyone else – which entirely negates much of the point of polyphony. The singers themselves sound tentative to the point of being scared much of the time, intonation is occasionally dodgy, there is some intrusive vibrato...it just sounds pretty grim to me.

I don’t like to be so critical, but I really think this is a poor recording which does no justice to the music. De la Rue was a wonderful composer and there are some excellent recordings of his work; this isn’t one of them. My advice is to try some of the fine recordings by The Clerk’s Group, Henry’s Eight, Amarcord, Gothic Voices and others and to leave this one well alone.

Monday, 9 March 2020

de la Rue - Missa Puer natus est nobis etc. - Ars Antiqua de Paris


Rating: 2/5

Review:
A poor recording

I’m afraid I don’t like this recording at all. Pierre de la Rue was a wonderful composer and there are some excellent recordings of his work; this isn’t one of them.

To put it bluntly, the singers aren’t very good, and nor is the direction. There is almost nothing in the way of blend or, more importantly, balance so the impression is of a group of people doing their own thing with little reference to anyone else – which entirely negates much of the point of polyphony. The singers themselves sound tentative to the point of being scared much of the time, intonation is occasionally dodgy, there is some intrusive vibrato...it just sounds pretty grim to me.

I don’t like to be so critical, but I really think this is a poor recording which does no justice to de la Rue’s music. My advice is to try some of the fine recordings by The Clerk’s Group, Henry’s Eight, Amarcord, Gothic Voices and others and to leave this one well alone.

Monday, 10 February 2020

Bach - The Well-Tempered Consort - Phantasm


Rating: 5/5

Review:
Another beauty from Phantasm

This is yet another terrific disc from Phantasm. They have made transcriptions of some of Bach’s keyboard music (largely drawn from The Well-Tempered Clavier and the Clavier-Übung III, it’s an interesting and very beautiful collection. The music, of course, is simply wonderful, Phantasm’s playing gives it depth and meaning and their overall sound is magnificent, as always – rich, clear and quite thrilling to my ears.

I love this disc. It’s beautifully recorded by Linn and the notes and presentation are excellent. Very warmly recommended.