Monday, 21 October 2019

De Rippe - Un perfaict sonneur de leut - O'Dette

Rating: 5/5

Another gem from Paul O'Dette

De Rippe was a new composer to me, but I will listen to anything Paul O’Dette chooses to record. This turns out to be lovely, rewarding Renaissance lute music of the highest quality.

O’Dette has brought together a deliberately and delightfully varied programme, “representing all three of the most popular forms in the repertoire of the time: fantasias, intabulations of vocal pieces (in our composer’s case, mostly ‘chansons’), and dances,” as he says in his notes. It’s great stuff, full of technical virtuosity and with a very pleasing overall effect. O’Dette, of course, plays it beautifully, making light of the technical challenges and bringing the music’s inner quality out fully. The sound of his instruments is very beautiful throughout ane excellently recorded by Harmonia Mundi.

This is a first-rate disc all round and warmly recommended.

Saturday, 12 October 2019

Cardoso - Requiem etc. - Cupertinos/Toscano

Rating: 5/5

A very fine recording

This is a lovely recording. I have owned and loved The Tallis Scholars’ disc of Cardoso for many years; this is a different in feel but just as good, I think.

Cardoso was a late-Renaissance Portuguese composer and the complexity and overall sense of his music reflects both the period and place. It is beautiful and rich, and reflects almost the final flowering of Renaissance polyphony. Cupertinos, a Portuguese ensemble, understand the music extremely well and sing it beautifully. They are technically impeccable with a lovely blend and fluency of line. They have a fuller, more rounded sound than the Tallis Scholars with rather less laser-like precision while still preserving the distinct structure of the music but have a warmer feel which I like very much. It is beautifully recorded by Hyperion, as always.

Cupertinos are a new ensemble to me but I will be looking out for their recordings in the future. This is a very fine disc indeed and I can recommend it very warmly.

Tuesday, 8 October 2019

Bach - Cello Suites - Brinkmann

Rating: 3/5

Not for me

I’m afraid this isn’t an interpretation for me. Mime Yamahiro Brinkmann is plainly a fine cellist but I’m not keen on the way she plays these magnificent works.

Brinkmann’s tempi are generally slow, which in itself is fine and can be very effective. However, she also makes generous use of rubato, so that some phrases can slow almost to a standstill. I found the opening Prelude to the first Suite like walking behind someone who kept making me check my stride suddenly to avoid bumping into her. It was very disconcerting and while it’s not always so pronounced I did find the rubato pretty excessive throughout so that Bach’s essential pulse was often lost.

This is, of course, a personal view which others may not share. Certainly Brinkmann produces a very beautiful sound from her cello which is very well recorded by Arcantus but given the number of outstanding recordings of the Cello Suites by people like Pierre Fournier, Steven Isserlis, David Watkin, Anne Gastinel and others, I can’t really recommend this.

Wednesday, 2 October 2019

de Févin - Missa Ave maria etc - The Brabant Ensemble/Rice

Rating: 4/5

Superb performances

This is another superbly sung and produced disc from the Brabant Ensemble, but for me the music isn’t quite as great as some of their other recordings.

de Févin was a rough contemporary of Josquin and in his excellent notes, Steven Rice describes him as “one of the most accomplished creators of sacred music around 1500.” He was also a pioneer of the parody mass and plainly an important musical figure of his time. However, “accomplished” doesn’t necessarily mean moving or deeply spiritual and although I find his music beautiful in places, it doesn’t quite speak to me a some others do – like the Brabant Ensemble’s fabulous recordings of other quite obscure composers such as Phinot and Crecquillon.

That’s not to say that this is a sub-standard disc in any way. The singing is superb: technically impeccable, perfectly balanced, fully engaged with the texts and with that luminous beauty which the Brabants so often create. The recorded sound does it full justice, the notes are full and very illuminating and the presentation is lovely. The only non- five-star thing about this disc for me is de Févin’s music itself. You may well disagree with me about this; Steven Midgley, whose judgement I respect greatly, finds it sublime, so it’s plainly a personal thing. It’s certainly a wonderful performance and I would recommend that you try it and see for yourself.