Saturday, 27 July 2019

Galilei - Intavolatura di liuto - Bailes

Rating: 5/5

Lovely music, very well played

This is a very good disc of music by Michelagnolo Galilei, with contributions from his father Vincenzo. (They were, incidentally, the brother and father respectively of the great astronomer and physicist, Galileo.) It’s lovely music, very well played.

Both the Galileis were very good composers for the lute, and what we get here is music at the cusp of the Renaissance and the early Baroque. It is inventive, often beautiful and very rewarding, and Anthony Bailes plays excellently so all these qualities are well in evidence. He is thoughtful and has the technical excellence to really make these pieces shine. The recorded sound is lovely so the disc is a pleasure from start to finish.

I am a great fan of the lute and this is a very welcome addition to my collection. Warmly recommended.

Thursday, 18 July 2019

Schütz - Cantiones sacrae - Magnificat/Cave

Rating: 4/5

Excellent performance, slightly odd music

This is yet another very fine recording by Magnificat. It’s a bit of a departure from their usual Renaissance repertoire but they perform Schütz with all the skill, insight and beauty of sound of their previous discs.

I have struggled with Schütz in the past. In the notes for this disc, Gregory S. Johnson says, “The works, perfectly crafted, are composed in a learned, contrapuntal style rich in dissonance and range of expression,” and speaks of “Gesualdo-esque harmonic twists.” This pretty much sums up why I find Schütz quite a tough listen. However, these Cantiones sacrae are rather less wild and harmonically strange than some of his other work and, for me anyway, musically more approachable.

The performances are excellent. Philip Cave has assembled a fine group of singers and instrumentalists and they all plainly really get this music. The choral sound is beautiful, they engage fully with the text and there is a perfect balance between the singers and continuo players who add a lovely, subtle texture to the music. The recorded sound is outstanding – but it’s Linn, so of course it is. I still can’t say that this is my favourite repertoire, which is why I have given this disc four stars rather than five, but it’s certainly a five-star performance.

(And I'm sorry to say that when I came across Turbabor, sed non perturbabor, I wondered whether this was how Iacomus Vinculum might order his Martini…

I’ll get me coat.)

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.