Tuesday, 16 July 2019

Haydn - Piano Sonatas Vol. 8 - Bavouzet

Rating: 5/5

Excellent Haydn

This, the eighth volume of Jean-Efflam Bavouzet's projected complete cycle, is an excellent disc of three of Haydn's early piano sonatas, two much more substantial late sonatas and two excellent free-standing single-movement pieces. I love Haydn's piano music; in my view it is the equal of Mozart's and deserves to be much better known. It has all of Haydn's trademark wit and joy, but also real tenderness and beauty and a depth that marks it out as genuinely great piano music. Bavouzet does it proud.

Bavouzet's admirable technique allows him to get right into the heart of the music. He articulates it very crisply and preserves the structures so essential to Haydn but uses just the right amount of rubato and subtle phrasing to convey the music's meaning and give it real character. He understands, crucially, that Haydn often said serious things in a witty way so that the depth comes through the often melodious and genial air.

With excellent recorded sound and very full notes this is a very good disc all round. This series now stands with my much-loved Brendel and Schornsheim recordings in my affections, which is high praise indeed. Very warmly recommended.

Wednesday, 10 July 2019

Bach - Cello Suites - Gaillard

Rating: 5/5

A fabulous recording

There are dozens of recordings of these magnificent works available; in my view this is one of the best.

Ophélie Gaillard is a superb cellist who plainly really understands Bach. She takes a fairly understated approach to the Cello Suites which works extremely well in her hands. There is a quiet authority here, with lovely phrasing which is never overdone and a wonderful fluidity so that the essential pulse of the dances beats subtly but engagingly throughout and the spirit of Bach shines through the whole thing. The sound of Gaillard’s cello is deep, rich and simply lovely and I find myself immersed in her playing.

I have a number of dearly loved recordings of the cello Suites (and quite a few less dearly loved ones, too). Ophélie Gaillard is among the loved, along with greats like Steven Isserlis, Pierre Fournier, David Watkin and Anne Gastinel. I can probably pay her no higher compliment than to place her in such company. This is, in short, a fabulous recording and very warmly recommended.

Monday, 1 July 2019

Baroque Recorder Concerti - Thorby/Sonnerie

Rating: 5/5

Terrific stuff

I think this is a terrific disc. Pamela Thorby is an astonishingly fine player and her work always leaves me open-mouthed that the recorder can be such a delightful, expressive instrument.

This is a sequence of concerti by three baroque giants, Vivaldi, Telemann and Sammartini, all of which are musically very rewarding. Thorby gives every movement genuine meaning and the playing of Monica Huggett’s Sonnerie is, as always, excellent: supple sensitive and with real zing when required. In short, the whole thing is a pleasure from start to finish and I can recommend it very warmly.

Monday, 10 June 2019

Vivaldi - Le Quattro Stagioni - Podger/Brecon Baroque

Rating: 5/5

Great stuff

I love this disc. If it hadn’t been by Rachel Podger I wouldn’t have bothered with it (yet another Four Seasons? Seriously?) but Podger always bring something special to her recordings and this is no exception.

Others have already said what makes this so good: the chamber ensemble sounds so light and supple, there are no gimmicks but the whole thing sounds fresh and really well considered, a sense of delight in the music...and so on. It’s hard to put my finger on exactly what is so good about it, but it’s a genuine pleasure to listen to.

Even if you’re heartily sick of hearing the Four Seasons, this may well restore your enjoyment in what is, after all, very enjoyable music, and there is plenty more to enjoy here as well. Very warmly recommended.

Sunday, 2 June 2019

Obrecht - Masses - Beauty Farm

Rating: 4/5

Very good but slightly dry

This is another good recording from Beauty Farm, although I’m not quite so keen on it as on some of their others.

This is a double CD of two major mass settings by Obrecht, Missa Fortuna desperata and Missa Maria Zart. They are both fine works which Beauty Farm sing with just four voices: countertenor, two tenors and bass. This emphasises the spare beauty of Obrecht’s music, which for me could do with just a little more richness of tone occasionally. This could just be because I have loved The Tallis Scholars’ disc of Missa Maria Zart and The Clerk’s Group’s excellent Obrecht recordings for many years so Beauty Farm’s rather bleaker sound here is quite a contrast, but I do find both masses a little bit dry.

That said, this is fine music which is very well sung and recorded. Beauty Farm (in spite of their silly name and dreadful covers) are an excellent ensemble and this is a good addition to their body of work. For me, it’s not quite as enjoyable as their excellent de la Rue release, for example, but it’s still very recommendable.

Monday, 29 April 2019

de la Rue - Masses - Beauty Farm

Rating: 5/5

An excellent recording

This is an excellent double-CD. Don’t be put off by the silly name of the ensemble or the abominably bad cover because the music is wonderful.

The set consists of four hitherto unrecorded mass settings by Pierre da la Rue: Missa Almana, Missa De Sancto Antonio, Missa Puer natus est nobis and Missa Tous les regretz. They are varied but all very fine settings as one would expect from de la Rue, who was an excellent composer. There is a spare beauty about them which I love and we owe Beauty Farm a debt of gratitude for making them available to us.

The performances are excellent. Beauty Farm sing one to a part here; they are technically impeccable, with a lovely fluency of line and genuine engagement with the text. At a lower Flemish pitch the lovely acoustic makes the overall sound extremely beautiful and this is a very rewarding recording all round which I can recommend very warmly.

Thursday, 18 April 2019

Alon Sariel - Rembrandt!

Rating: 3/5


I’m rather disappointed in this disc. I generally love lute music, but this collection left me pretty cold. The music itself is nice enough and there’s nothing actively wrong with the playing, but for me it all sounds rather bland and never quite takes off. I found my attention wandering after quite a short time listening to Rembrandt!, which is never a good sign.

Others may not share my reservations and find this to their taste, but I can only give it a very qualified recommendation.