Friday, 14 April 2017

Guerrero - Missa Surge propera etc - Sydney Chamber Choir/Noone

Rating: 3/5

Rather disappointing

I love much of Michael Noone's work, but I'm afraid this isn't one of his best recordings,

Guerrero's music is very fine, with a rich, distinctively Spanish feel.  It lends itself very well to Noone's approach which mixes voices with contemporary instruments.  His fabulous recording of Guerrero's Requiem from 1999 adopts the same approach and remains a real favourite of mine.   The motets recorded here have much of the same quality but sadly, for me the same can't be said of the Mass.  The voices seem to lack the blend and balance they need; there is little cohesion in the choral sound and too often individual voices dominate inappropriately.  As a result the music loses much of its beauty and spiritual power and I found it a disappointment.

I am sorry to be critical of a musician whom I admire greatly, but this didn't do much for me and I'll be sticking to The Tallis Scholars' excellent recording of this mass.

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Bach - The Partitas - Egarr

Rating: 5/5

Review :
An excellent recording

This is another excellent recording from Richard Egarr, who is now well established as one of the world's leading harpsichord players.

Bach's keyboard Partitas contain some truly wonderful, inventive writing.  In his extremely detailed notes, Egarr dissects the pieces and shows the extraordinary patterns and symbolism contained within them.  Whether or not you accept all of the numerology, it makes fascinating reading and illuminates this extraordinary music which, whatever complex architecture may underpin it, sounds completely natural when played and is a delight to listen to.

Egarr plays it beautifully.  He catches the essential pulse of Bach, dances where he ought to and gives us real clarity of individual lines while blending the whole into a lovely, balanced overall sound.  I already have very, very fine recordings of these works by Angela Hewitt and Murray Perahia on the piano and by Trevor Pinnock and Christophe Rousset on the harpsichord, but I am very glad to have this, too and I expect it to become just as well-loved.

The recording is very good, capturing the rich sound of Egarr's harpsichord very well, and the presentation is attractive.  This is an excellent set all round, and I can recommend it very warmly.

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Roma Aeterna - Masses by Palestrina and Victoria - New York Polyphony

Rating: 4/5

A good disc

I like New York Polyphony's work; this is another good recording by them, although I have some personal reservations about it.

The two major works here are Palestrina's famous Missa Papae Marcelli and Victoria's Missa O Quam Gloriosam.   I think this recording of the Palestrina works very well; New York Polyphony have quite a spare, haunting sound which I find slightly reminiscent of The Hillard Ensemble, and they bring a new and welcome intimacy to the Missa Papae Marcelli.  There have been many fine recordings of it.  For example, I have loved The Tallis Scholars' classic account since I first heard it soon after it was released in 1980 for its engagement with the text and control of mood, its wonderful clarity of line and its huge, almost Wall Of Sound impact in places.  This is quite different yet shares the qualities of clarity and engagement while being much smaller and more intimate in approach.  It's a lovely take on a much-recorded work.

I donn't think the Victoria works quite so well.  For me, Victoria needs a full, rich sound for the music to really speak, and this felt slightly emotionless to me.  I am sure others may disagree, but I don't find this nearly as satisfying as the Palestrina.

Nonetheless, this is a good disc by a fine ensemble.  The recorded sound is excellent in a lovely acoustic with just the right amount of resonance for me, and I can recommend it with only slight personal reservations.