Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Bach etc. - Stolen Roses - Diaz-Latorre

Rating: 5/5

A lovely disc

This is a lovely disc of Baroque lute music.  I hadn't heard Xavier Diaz-Latorre play before and I am impressed.  He has excellent technique and plainly really gets the music of the period.

The music is by Bach, Biber, Telemann and von Westhof; all of it is very good music indeed.  The Bach suite and the great Chaconne from the Partita in D minor are the most familiar works here and Diaz-Latorre gives them real life and depth – as he does to all of the music here.  His thirteen-course lute sounds lovely and it is very well recorded, so it's a fine disc all round.  If you have any interest in the lute or in Baroque music, I can recommend this very warmly.

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Boesset - Je meurs sans mourir - La Poeme Harmonique

Rating: 5/5

A lovely disc

This is a lovely disc of early 17th-Century instrumental and vocal music.  I sometimes find music of this period a bit of a challenge, but I love this disc.

Boesset was a new composer to me, but I am very glad to have made his acquaintance.  He was a court musician and composer whose work is represented here in a variety of moods and in both instrumental and vocal settings.  It is beautifully played and sung by members of La Poeme Harmonique, who are a very fine ensemble indeed.  They play with an easy virtuosity and produce a simply lovely, rich sound and the singers are uniformly excellent.  All bring genuine feeling to each piece and there is never any sense of sameness, which I do sometimes get in programmes from this period.

My suggestion is that you listen to a few samples.  If you like what you hear, don't hesitate; this is a beautiful disc, excellently performed and recorded and which I can recommend warmly.

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Rameau - Les Tendres Plaintes

Rating: 3/5

Fine playing, questionable interpretation

This is an interesting idea and Sylvie Proulx plays very well, but I'm not wholly convinced by this disc, I'm afraid.

Rameau's music is very firmly French Baroque, with powerful rhythms and some intricate counterpoint in places.  Proulx is plainly a very fine guitarist who gets the counterpoint part very well indeed, making these often complex textures sound unforced even in some virtuosic passages.  However, her emphases, phrasing, use of rubato and even the tone of her guitar at times give a much later, more Romantic and more Spanish feel to these pieces so that at times I feel that I might almost be listening to Sor or even Albeniz.  It is striking that when she adopts a more harpsichord-like tone and stricter rhythm in Le Rappel des Oiseaux, I found the whole thing worked much better.

These are matters of personal taste, of course.  Rameau's music is terrific, Proulx's playing is technically excellent and the recorded sound is very good, so if this style appeals to you it's a disc which should give a lot of pleasure.  Personally, though, I can only give it a qualified recommendation.

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Isaac, Senfl - Missa Carminum etc

Rating: 2/5

Spoiled by poor instrumental sound

I'm afraid that this recording, originally from 1967, has not aged well. 

The singing is actually very good, but the addition of instruments is a problem.  It's a perfectly legitimate move, based on practice in Isaac's time, but the effect here is, to my ears anyway, very unsuccessful because the recording makes the chaumes sound as though someone is playing a loud and distracting kazoo along with the male voices.  Frankly, it ruins the whole thing for me; in the brief passages when they are quiet, the performance is rather good, but then they come back in and wreck it again.

I'm sorry to have to say this because Isaac and Senfl are very under-represented in the catalogue so any recording should be very welcome – but not this one, I'm afraid.

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Toys For Two - From Dowland To California

Rating: 4/5

Very enjoyable

I like this disc.  I was almost put off by the name of the duo, but I'm glad I wasn't because it's an enjoyable and imaginative collection.

These are pieces arranged for lute and triple harp, largely by English composers of the 16th and 17th centuries.  There's good stuff here from Dowland, Byrd, Holborne, Locke and others, which sounds very good in these arrangements and is well played.  What lends the programme a bit of spice, however, is the inclusion of five transcriptions of tracks by – wait for it – Led Zeppelin: Bron-Y-Aur, Bron-Y-Aur Stomp, Black Mountain Side, Tangerine and Going To California, all very familiar to me from my teenage years.  This could be dreadful, but in fact I think it works really well.  They are obviously modern, blues-influenced pieces, but to me they don't jar with the others and I find them very enjoyable indeed.

I'm not sure I quite buy the arguments advanced in the notes by Luca Pianca about "elements that inseparably link it [the Led Zeppelin pieces] to the musical and cultural past of the glorious Albion," but he (slightly convolutedly) asks that "the non-judgmental listener pass their judgement on the outcome of this project," and my judgement is very favourable.  This is a proper programme of well played lute music with some imaginative and very enjoyable modern inclusions which I can recommend warmly.