Saturday, 21 April 2018

Nils Mönkmeyer - Baroque

Rating: 2/5

Not for me

This is an interesting idea but for me it doesn't make a very satisfactory disc. 

The centrepiece of this programme is Bach's 5th Cello Suite. Arrangements of Bach often work very well and are very much in the composer's own idiom.  However, I don't think the addition of a continuo part to this most intense and inward-looking of the Suites works well at all here.  For me it rather trivialises the powerful spirituality of the work, and the wonderful Sarabande, especially, is robbed of much of its depth and impact.  Nor do I like the idea of having each movement played twice in succession, once with continuo and once simply transposed for solo viola; it just sounds very odd to me and I'm not wholly convinced by Mönkmeyer's solo Bach playing, either.

I'm sorry to be critical of what is an adventurous project, but it simply doesn't do it for me.  Maxim Rysanov has shown how good the Cello Suites (including the 5th) can sound on the viola, and I'll be sticking to his recording.

Saturday, 14 April 2018

Tallis - Ave rosa sine spinis - The Cardinall's Musick/Carwood

Rating: 4/5

Good, but not a favourite

I love The Cardinall's Musick and their series of Byrd, Fayfax and Ludford are among my favourite discs.  For some reason, their Tallis recordings (with the exception of the marvellous Lamentations) don't have the same thrilling effect on me.

This disc is part of their eventual Complete Tallis, so it's a very mixed programme of both Latin and English settings from the well known to small obscurities.  I like this approach and it's good to have such a variety easily available.  The singing is, of course, technically excellent and their sound is as lovely as ever.  Somehow, though, the depth and spirituality isn't as strong for me as it often is in Cardinall's Musick recordings and as a result these aren't among my favourite versions.  In the Mass For Four Voices, for example, I much prefer the haunting plangency of The Hilliard Ensemble or the fuller but still quite spare recording by Magnificat.

This is entirely personal preference, of course.  It is a superbly sung and recorded disc which I'm sure many people will love.  I like it, but I can't give it an unqualified recommendation.

Sunday, 1 April 2018

Tallis - Lamentations - The Cardinall's Musick/Carwood

Rating: 5/5

A very fine Lamentations

I think this is a wonderful recording of Tallis's Lamentations.  I have several versions and this is among my very favourites.

Andrew Carwood has used male voices only for the Lamentations, allowing him to pitch it quite low – a minor third below The Tallis Scholars' version, for example.  This gives the whole thing a fabulous depth and resonance of sound which I find quite thrilling throughout.  The basses descend to positively Russian depths in "Ierusalem, Ierusalem" in the first set, for example, which I find spine-tingling every time.  It's a matter of taste, of course, and there is some loss of clarity, but as a performance it's full of yearning lament and I find it deeply moving. 

The other works on the disc are a varied selection.  This is a part of what will eventually become a cycle of Tallis's Complete Works, so included here are some quite obscure liturgical settings in both English and Latin, along with fine performances of Sancte Deus, Dum transisset Sabbatum and other better-known works.  It's an interesting and enjoyable programme, but there is no doubt that for me the Lamentations is the real point of this disc.

The notes and presentation are very good and Hyperion's recorded sound is of the excellent standard we have come to expect.  It's a terrific release all round and very warmly recommended.