Jul 07

Sutherland, Pavarotti, Milnes, LSO, Richard Bonynge – Verdi: Rigoletto (1971/2014)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96 kHz | Time – 01:57:53 minutes | 2,08 GB | Genre: Classical
Studio Master, Official Digital Download – Source: PrestoClassical | Artwork: Digital booklet | © Decca

For sheer vocal splendor you can’t go wrong with the 1971 Decca recording featuring the virile baritone Sherrill Milnes as Rigoletto, Luciano Pavarotti in radiant voice as a stylish but slightly scene-stealing Duke, and Joan Sutherland as a Gilda who is a little too vocally resplendent to come across as innocent, but is certainly a treat to hear.

This Rigoletto has been around for so long it might be easy to take it for granted or skip it for a newer set. Don’t! It features all three principals in superb voice, as well as pacing from Maestro Bonynge that is much heavier on drama than most of us expect from him. Sutherland may sound a bit mature (and mush-mouthed) for Gilda, but not only is she sympathetic, she sings gorgeously. And speaking of gorgeous, those familiar only with the Pavarotti of the last 10 years would be wise to hear him here–this is stylish, full-blooded, Golden Age singing. The beautifully round tone, the easy high notes, the impeccable diction, and the pointed characterization are unique. Milnes, in the title role, is also in splendid voice, offering smooth legato, brilliant, Verdian ring and real attention to the text. The ADD sound is excellent. No other modern recording offers the visceral thrill of this Rigoletto – go for it.

Tracklist:
01 – Rigoletto: Overture (Preludio)
02 – Act 1: ‘Della mia bella incognita borghese’
03 – Act 1: ‘Questa o quella…Partite? Crudele!’
04 – Act 1: ‘Gran nuova! Gran nuova!’…’Tutto è gioia, tutto è festa’
05 – Act 1: ‘Ch’io gli parti…Voi congiuraste contro noi’
06 – Act 1: ‘Quel vecchio maledivami…Va, non ho niente’
07 – Act 1: ‘Pari siamo’
08 – Act 1: ‘Figlia..Mio padre!’…’Quanto dolor’
09 – Act 1: ‘Ah! Veglia, o donna, questa fior’
10 – Act 1: ‘Giovanni, ho dei rimorsi…E il sol dell’anima’
11 – Act 1: ‘Che m’ami, deh, ripetimi’ – ‘Addio… speranza ed anima’
12 – Act 1: ‘Gualtier Maldè’ – ‘Caro nome’
13 – Act 1: ‘Riedo!… Perché?’
14 – Act 1: ‘Zitti, zitti…Soccorso, padre mio’
15 – Act 2: ‘Ella mi fu rapita…Parmi veder le lagrime’
16 – Act 2: ‘Duca, duca!’…’Scorrendo uniti’
17 – Act 2: ‘Possente amor mi chiama’
18 – Act 2: ‘Povero Rigoletto!’ ‘La rà, la rà’
19 – Act 2: ‘Cortigiani, vil razza dannata…Ebben piango’
20 – Act 2: ‘Mio padre!…Compiuto pur quanto’
21 – Act 2: ‘Schiudete, ire al carcere’
22 – Act 3: ‘E l’ami!’
23 – Act 3: ‘La donna è mobile’ – ‘E là il vostr’uomo’
24 – Act 3: ‘Un dì, se ben rammentomi’
25 – Act 3: ‘Bella figlia dell’amore…M’odi, ritorna a casa’
26 – Act 3: ‘Venti scudi hai tu detto’
27 – Act 3: ‘Ah, più non ragiono!…’
28 – Act 3: ‘Della vendetta alfin…Chi è mai’
29 – Act 3: ‘V’ho ingannato’ – ‘Lassù… in cielo’

Libretto: Francesco Maria Piave after Victor Hugo’s play “Le roi s’amuse”.
Recorded at Kingsway Hall, London, U.K., in June 1971.

Performers:
Joan Sutherland – Gilda
Luciano Pavarotti – Il Duca
Sherrill Milnes – Rigoletto
Huguette Tourangeau – Maddalena
Martti Talvela – Sparafucile
Gillian Knight – Giovanna
Clifford Grant – Monterone

London Symphony Orchestra, Conducted by Richard Bonynge.
Ambrosian Opera Chorus. Chorus Master: John McCarthy.

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Jul 05

Elgar: Symphony No 2 – Barenboim, Staatskapelle Berlin (2014)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96 kHz | Digital Booklet | 1.01 GB | Genre: Classical
Official Digital Download – Source: Qobuz | © Decca

Following his critically-acclaimed Elgar Cello Concerto recording with Alisa Weilerstein, Barenboim turns to the symphonies. The Second Symphony is released first, in a 2013 recording with the Staatskapelle Berlin. The First Symphony will follow in 2015.

“To hear an orchestra with such a distinctive central European sound playing Elgar, and relating his music so securely to the wider late-romantic tradition, is one of the disc’s great pleasures.” Andrew Clements, The Guardian (of the Cello Concerto recording)

Composer: Sir Edward Elgar
Conductor: Daniel Barenboim
Orchestra/Ensemble: Berlin Staatskapelle Orchestra

Reviews: 

“This is a superb, in fact I feel justified in calling it a great, Elgar Two. It’s difficult to know where to start in listings its excellences…But one must start and finish with Barenboim’s interpretation…this is a marvellously full-blooded reading of the Symphony, full of drama and passion…This must be one of the finest performances currently on offer.”

“The surging, unquenchable energy of this account is obvious from the opening bars, which are borne on an irresistible flood of sound from the Berlin Staatskapelle…Every department of this fabulous orchestra seems to make a telling contribution to this performance at some point or other, and it’s as much a triumph for the Staatskapelle as it is for its conductor”

Tracklist:
1. Symphony no 2 in E flat major, Op. 63 by Sir Edward Elgar
Conductor: Daniel Barenboim
Orchestra/Ensemble: Berlin Staatskapelle Orchestra
Period: Romantic
Written: 1909-1911; England

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Jul 05

Jonas Kaufmann – Dolce Vita (2016)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/44,1 kHz | Time – :06:57 minutes | 2,17 GB | Genre: Classical
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download – Source: HDTracks | Digital booklet | © Sony Classical

Italy! Like nowhere else on earth – the sunshine and sea salt, the smell of citrus and coffee, a flirtatious glance, an incomparable song drawn deep from the heart. Italy and its immortal music have a magical pull on people like no other culture – and Jonas Kaufmann feels this particularly keenly. The new album Dolce vita is his tribute to this culture, this way of life that has conceived one immortal melody after the other for the tenor voice and influenced him so much. Now Sony Classical is proud to present this special collection of timeless Italian songs – sung by “The world’s greatest tenor” (The Daily Telegraph).

Jonas Kaufmann has had a special bond with Italy since his youth. Growing up in Germany’s most southern city – Munich, locally known as “the most northern city of Italy” – meant that holidays in Italy were just a car ride away for him and his family. Since spending these childhood holidays playing with local bambini, Jonas Kaufmann has absorbed much more than just the Italian language: long familiar with Italy’s ways, its southern temperament, its love of good food, and its fashion and flair, Jonas feels very much at home in this adopted culture. Naturally, much of the magic and authority that Jonas brings to the opera stage stems from his passion and understanding of this Mediterranean land and its music.

But the opera stage is not the only place where the magic of an Italian tenor melody is to be found. Many wondrous songs were written so perfectly for great tenor voices throughout the late 19th and 20th centuries, such as Mattinata, which was dedicated to Enrico Caruso; Non ti scordar di me, which was first sung by Beniamino Gigli in the 1935 movie of the same title; and Parlami d’amore, Mariù, written for the future film director Vittorio De Sica to sing in the comedy Gli uomini, che mascalzoni. The passion and beauty of Italian melody can also be heard in such Neapolitan hits as Torna a Surriento, Core ’ngrato and Passione. Even some of today’s pop songs display the unmistakable stamp of italianità, as for example in Un amore così grande, which was first sung and recorded by Mario Del Monaco in 1976, or in Lucio Dalla’s Caruso and Romano Musumarra’s Il canto, written expressly for Luciano Pavarotti.

Now Jonas presents his own personal homage to a culture where the influence and beauty of opera are felt far beyond the walls of the opera houses. Jonas recorded the album in Palermo with conductor Asher Fisch and the Orchestra del Teatro Massimo di Palermo, who bring their innate Italian flair to this music.

Tracklist:

01. Caruso
02. Mattinata
03. Parla più piano
04. Passione
05. Un amore così grande
06. Il canto
07. Voglio vivere così
08. Catari’, Catari’ (Core ‘ngrato)
09. Ti voglio tanto bene
10. Non ti scordar di me
11. Fenesta ca’ lucive
12. Musica proibita
13. Parlami d’amore Mariù
14. Torna a Surriento
15. Volare
16. Rondine al nido
17. Con te partirò
18. Il Libro dell’ Amore

Personnel:

Guglielmo Cottrau
Stanislao Gastaldon
Ernesto de Curtis
Salvatore Cardillo
Ernesto De Curtis
Stephin Raymond Merritt
Christopher Alder
Francesco Sartori
Cesare Andrea Bixio
Domenico Modugno
Giovanni D’Anzi
Asher Fisch
Ruggero Leoncavallo
Orchestra del Teatro Massimo di Palermo
Vincenzo De Crescenzo
Lucio Dalla
Ernesto Tagliaferri
Guido Maria Ferilli
Romano Musumarra
Nino Rota
Nicola Valente
Andreas Tarkmann, Arranger
Philip Siney, Engineer
Ennio Neri, Lyricist
Lucio Quarantotto, Lyricist
Domenico Furnò, Lyricist
Luigi Sica, Lyricist
Franco Migliacci, Lyricist
Giovanni Battista de Curtis, Lyricist
Riccardo Cordiferro, Lyricist
Libero Bovio, Lyricist
Giandomenico Boncompagni, Lyricist
Zucchero, Lyricist
Tito Manlio, Lyricist
Luca Barbarossa, Lyricist
Antonella Maggio, Lyricist
Matthias Spindler, Preparer
Jonas Kaufmann, Tenor

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Jul 04

Kirill Kondrashin, Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra / RSFSR Russian Chorus / Boys Choir of Moscow Choir School (2011)
Prokofiev: Cantata for the 20th Anniversary of the Russian Revolution & Shostakovich: The Sun Shines over our Motherland
Transferred from a Angel/Meloydia 4-Track Tape | FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/192 kHz | Time – 43:27 minutes | 1,67 GB
Recorded 1965 in Moscow, U.S.S.R. | Studio Master, Official Digital Download | Artwork: Digital Booklet

Serge Prokofiev had been deeply engrossed in the writings of Vladimir Lenin when the All-Union Radio Committee approached him with the idea of a patriotic cantata, one that might incorporate “Revolutionary texts.” The germs of the idea began in 1934, but Prokofiev undertook the main body of the ten-movement work in 1936-1937. Prokofiev repressed the score, however, and it did not receive its premier until 5 May 1966 under Kondrashin. The sheer number of forces involved–which can easily involve up to 500 musicians–suggests another reason for the rarity of this colossus. The musical fecundity of Prokofiev’s style–with clear analogies to Alexandre Nevsky and to the G Minor Violin Concerto–mark the piece as an inspired rather than a merely propagandist vehicle. For the prologue or Introduction, Prokofiev utilizes the phrase “A specter is haunting Europe,” the first sentence from Marx and Engels’ Communist Manifesto. The 1966 recording by Kirill Kondrashin omits two movements–Stalin’s Oath and The Constitution–movements no longer “politically correct” during the period of anti-Stalin reaction, since the Soviet government wished to detach itself from his crimes.

After the Introduction, the dense music and inflammatory texts trace the philosophical seeds of the October Revolution through its various means of political realization and political action. Prokofiev incorporates various masses of sound–including an accordion orchestra–from the folk as well as the classical-concert world to embrace the total will of the people. “We choose to fight and do not seek appeasement” becomes the rallying cry of section four, “We March Closely Together.” The battle scene emerges with terrific force, imitating the sounds of gunfire and the inflamed spirit of the people: “We shall take bread and shoes from the capitalists. . . .We must mobilize and arm the workers.” A frightful peasant dance emerges from the tumult and pandemonium of war and slaughter, a dizzy dance of death and celebration, the voice of Lenin megaphoned over rattling machine gun fire and sirens, Socialist Realism at its most ardent. The throes of revolt clearly hearken to Tybalt’s Death from Romeo and Juliet, then the atmosphere clears with the sense of Victory: “Comrades, spring is coming. . .the ice is broken in all corner of the earth.” A Symphony–Allegro energico–ensues in the manner of scherzo that embodies the ecstatic affirmation of the Revolution’s aims. The cantata ends with a reprise of Philosophers of movement two, an assertion of the difference between those men who dream of a better world and those who bring such change to ecstatic fruition. That much of this music Prokofiev meant as satire escaped the Soviet censors, but its extraordinary sonority appeals to Kondrashin, who controls all his forces with ripe dignity.

Dimitri Shostakovich can hardly be called a “defender” or “apologist” for Soviet Communism, but he did compose his cantata, The Sun shines over our Motherland–after the poem by Yevgeny Dolmatovsky–in 1952, when the Russians were celebrating the 35th anniversary of the October Revolution. The scoring has an airy woodwind character that makes it kin to The Song of the Forests. It opens with a boys’ chorus to establish political innocence. Nevertheless, the squalid post-1948 political atmosphere–which promised more repressions for creative artists–made any “patriotic” project unpalatable for Shostakovich, and many find his twelve-minute cantata bland, to say the least. The sun becomes the dominant metaphor of the “philosophical light” of Soviet Communism that had led Russia away from the capitalist darkness. The men’s chorus and mixed chorus sings of the struggles of the past, and the subsequent battles and the hard work of the People for “the splendid life” of Russia in the bounteous rays of Nature. “We have become wealthy and strong beneath the sun of freedom.” A majestic hymn announces spiritual victory, but hindsight and the composer’s own Testimony impose a hollow sound on an otherwise resonant series of patriotic declamations.

Tracklist:
01-07. Sergei Prokofiev: Cantata for the 20th Anniversary of the October Revolution
08. Dmitri Shostakovich: The Sun Shines over our Motherland
Produced & Engineered by David Gaklin. Recorded 1965 in Moscow, Russia.

Note: HDTT does not supply recording information, and the banding of the tracks runs contrary to the liner notes: 1-7 Prokofiev; 8-Shostakovich. No individual timings for the Prokofiev movements are provided. The sound does hammer us with audiophile fidelity.

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Jul 03

Hora Cero – Die 12 Cellisten der Berliner Philharmoniker (2016) 
FLAC (tracks) 24-bit/96 kHz | Time – 01:08:26 minutes | 1,26 GB | Genre: Classical
Studio Master, Official Digital Download – Source: Q0buz | Digital Booklet | © Sony Classical
Recorded: Teldex Studio Berlin, January 2-5, 2016

The world’s best known classical cello ensemble’s new CD after 6 years – with Tangos from Piazzolla, Salgan and others. They are unique. Naturally, every symphony orchestra has its cello section. But nowhere else in the world have the deeper, larger strings joined together to form an independent ensemble – an orchestra within an orchestra – meeting with success after success. That is why every music lover knows immediately where the “12 Cellists” come from, even if they cannot name their orchestra. They are an institution. They are the only ensemble formed from the orchestra that is actually officially allowed to use “of the Berlin Philharmonic” in their name. They have played together since 1972, appearing as an ensemble, occasionally in Berlin, often elsewhere, and quite often traveling great distances. “Hora Cero” (Spanish for “zero hour”) is the ensemble’s first album after their last release 6 years ago and named after Piazzolla’s “Buenos Aires Hora Cero” which is also on the album. It features Tangos that were specifically arranged for them. In fact most of the arrangements.

Tracklist:

Horacio Salgán (b.1916)
1. A Don Agustin Bardi 03:19

Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992)
2. Escualo 03:33
3. Duo de Amor 05:29
4. Calambre 02:41
5. Lunfardo 06:23
José Carli (b.1931)
6. La Diquera 01:52

Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992)
7. Pedro y Pedro 04:10
8. Decarisimo 03:02
9. Soledad 07:44
José Carli (b.1931)
10. Para Osvaldo Tarantino 03:19

Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992)
11. Revirado 03:39
12. Libertango 02:34
13. Buenos Aires Hora Cero 08:04
14. Caliente 04:46
Pasquale Stefano (b.1972)
15. Milonguita 04:43

Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992)
16. Tres Minutos con la Realidad 03:17

Die 12 Cellisten der Berliner Philharmoniker:
Ludwig Quandt, Bruno Delepelaire, Nikolaus Römisch
Dietmar Schwalke, Richard Duven, Christoph Igelbrink
Olaf Maninger, Martin Menking, Knut Weber, Rachel Helleur
Stephan Koncz, David Riniker, Solène Kermarrec, Martin Löhr

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Jul 02

John Cage – Sonatas & Interludes – Cedric Pescia (2012)
FLAC (tracks) 24-bit/88,2 kHz | Time – 01:03:48 minutes | 867 MB | Genre: Classical
Studio Master, Official Digital Download – Source: Qobuz | Digital Booklet | © Aeon/Outhere Music France
Recorded: 7-8/10/2011, Saal 3, Funkhaus Berlin Nalepastrasse

With this new disc, æon is doing its part to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of John Cage, born on 5 September 1912 in the United States. This recording of the Sonatas and Interludes for prepared piano, some of the most emblematic works in his catalogue, proposes discovering one of the great classics of 20th century music performed by the young Swiss pianist Cédric Pescia. The interpretation is luminous, featuring unrivalled sensitivity and perceptiveness.

Easily the best known and most popular of John Cage’s works for prepared piano, the Sonatas and Interludes (1946-1948) capture the imagination through their delicacy and exoticism. (The instrument, pioneered by Cage, is a piano that has been preset with various sound modifiers or “preparations” of different materials on its strings, hammers, and dampers.) Cédric Pescia’s 2012 release on Æon is a worthy addition to the growing list of first-rate recordings, and the care and subtlety he brings to his performance contribute to the music’s piquant charm and haunting ambience. Because much of this work is quite soft and sparse, and intended to be played with the lightest touch, listeners should pay close attention to follow Pescia’s controlled and extremely refined interpretation. But be careful not to boost the volume too high, because there are some boldly accented and strongly rhythmic passages that provide contrast and may startle the unsuspecting listener. Even so, the overall character of Sonatas and Interludes is strongly reminiscent of Asian music, and the bell-like tones and repeated patterns can induce a soothing or meditative state, not unlike the effect of Javanese gamelan music. Thanks to close microphone placement, the varied sounds of the prepared piano are clearly distinguished and fully audible, and the resonant studio space lends a pleasant aura to the performance.

Tracklist:
John Cage (1912-1992)
Sonatas & Interludes (1946-1948)
1 Sonata I 2’50
2 Sonata II 2’07
3 Sonata III 2’25
4 Sonata IV 2’16
5 First Interlude 3’05
6 Sonata V 1’18
7 Sonata VI 2’10
8 Sonata VII 2’01
9 Sonata VIII 2’52
10 Second Interlude 4’42
11 Third Interlude 2’46
12 Sonata IX 4’22
13 Sonata X 3’33
14 Sonata XI 3’11
15 Sonata XII 3’11
16 Fourth Interlude 3’16
17 Sonata XIII 4’29
18 Sonata XIV (Gemini) 3’14
19 Sonata XV (Gemini) 3’11
20 Sonata XVI 7’01

Personnel:
Cédric Pescia, piano

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Jul 02

Kavakos, Nagy, Chailly – Brahms: Violin Concerto, Hungarian Dances; Bartok (2013)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96 kHz | Digital Booklet | 1.37 GB
Genre: Classical | Official Digital Download – Source: Linn records

Leonidas Kavakos tackles a pillar of the violin repertoire in a disc that establishes him as a concerto soloist for Decca Classics. His first concerto disc for Decca features the Brahms Violin Concerto, for which he is joined by one of the world’s greatest orchestras and conductors, the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig and Riccardo Chailly. Leonidas is also accompanied by pianist Péter Nagy for Brahms’ timeless Hungarian Dances (No.s 1, 2 ,6 and 11) and Bartók’s energetic Rhapsodies and Romanian Folk Dances – two great composers hugely influenced by Hungarian folk music.

Richly charismatic music in superbly spirited performances by musicians who have this repertoire in their blood.

Composer: Johannes Brahms, Béla Bartók
Performer: Leonidas Kavakos, Péter Nagy
Conductor: Riccardo Chailly
Orchestra/Ensemble: Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra

Reviews:

To hear Leonidas Kavakos play the Brahms Violin Concerto is to be newly apprised of the work’s reputed difficulties. Not that Kavakos struggles with the solo part—far from it. But he presents the myriad double-stops, compound-chords, and wide leaps with such clarity and vividness that your ear is drawn to these effects more than usual. Yet for all this, Kavakos’ rendition is a thoroughly musical one, fully cognizant of Brahms’ structure and overall symphonic plan. Riccardo Chailly’s cleanly articulated, tersely-romantic accompaniment makes an apt foil for his soloist, as do the clear textures and lean string sound he evokes from the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra.

That Kavakos would choose the warhorse Joachim cadenza at first seems at odds with his interpretive stance, but his fresh approach proves otherwise. By sculpting each phrase so inventively, Kavakos rivets your attention and at times gives the impression that he’s improvising. In the songful slow movement (which showcases beautiful playing by the Leipzig winds) Kavakos soothes without sounding saccharine, while the finale crackles with life, thanks in part to the violinist inserting a bit of gypsy flair into the famous “Hungarian” tune.

This Hungarian flavor, albeit of a more rustic variety, carries over to Bartók’s Rhapsodies for violin and piano, which Kavakos and pianist Péter Nagy dispatch with jaunty bravura and folksy style. These same characteristics lend the more cosmopolitan Brahms Hungarian Dances a certain authenticity that the orchestral versions lack. The recording places the orchestra slightly to the rear in the acoustic, but produces a satisfying full sound in louder passages (although the violin is oddly more prominent when playing with the orchestra than with just the piano). This is a fine modern Brahms Violin Concerto that can hold its own in a crowded catalog.

Tracklist:
1. I. Allegro non troppo
2. II. Adagio
3. III. Allegro
4. I. Moderato
5. II. Allegretto moderato
6. I. Lassù: Moderato
7. II. Friss: Allegro moderato
8. Hungarian Dance No.1 in G minor
9. Hungarian Dance No.2 in D minor
10. Hungarian Dance No.6 in Bb
11. Hungarian Dance No.11 in D minor
12. Roumanian Folk Dances, Sz. 56, BB 68 – I. Jocul cu Bata
13. Roumanian Folk Dances, Sz. 56, BB 68 – II. Braul
14. Roumanian Folk Dances, Sz. 56, BB 68 – III. Pe Loc
15. Roumanian Folk Dances, Sz. 56, BB 68 – IV. Buciumeana
16. Roumanian Folk Dances, Sz. 56, BB 68 – V. “Poarga” Romaneasca
17. Roumanian Folk Dances, Sz. 56, BB 68 – VI. Manuntelul 1, Manuntelul 2

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Jun 26

Her Heavenly Harmony: Profane Music from the Royal Court – The Queen’s Six (2016)
FLAC (tracks) 24-bit/44,1 kHz | Time – 01:02:07 minutes | 0,98 GB | Genre: Classical
Studio Master, Official Digital Download – Source: Qobuz | Digital Booklet | © Resonus Limited
Recorded: Ascot Priory on 14-16 September 2015

Following the critical acclaim of their debut album ‘Music of the Realm’, The Queen’s Six return to Resonus with a programme of secular madrigals from the same six English Renaissance composers all associated with the royal court of Queen Elizabeth I, from whom the group take their name.
Entitled ‘Her Heavenly Harmony: Profane Music from the Royal Court’, The Queen’s Six present a recital of well- and lesser-known works by Morley, Weelkes, Tomkins, Byrd, Tallis and Gibbons, with various themes of ‘Royalty’, ‘Planets’, ‘Ballets’, ‘Birds and Flowers’, ‘Dedications’ and ‘Love and Death’.

‘This is The Queen’s Six’s ‘difficult second album’ – their debut album (“Music of the Realm” RES10146) establishing them as the new boys on the block – and they have passed the test with flying colours.’ –Early Music Review

‘This is the second album from this choir devoted to music by familiar names of the Tudor and Jacobean royal courts. Morley, Tomkins, Tallis, Byrd, Gibbons & Weelkes are all represented by secular songs of love, death and other themes. A lovely collection.’ –Lark Reviews

Tracklist:
Thomas Morley (1557-1602)
1. Hard by a crystal fountain 03:02
2. Arise, awake 02:11
Thomas Tomkins (1572-1656)
3. The fauns and satyrs tripping 04:11
Thomas Tallis (1572-1656)
4. O ye tender babes 01:19
Thomas Weelkes (um 1575-1623)
5. Like two proud armies 01:35
Thomas Tomkins (1572-1656)
6. See, see the shepherds’ Queen 02:09
7. O let me live for true love – O let me die for true love 03:42
Thomas Morley (1557-1602)
8. No, no, Nigella 01:46
William Byrd (1543-1623)
9. Compel the hawk 02:53
10. The eagle’s force 02:23
Thomas Tallis (1572-1656)
11. Like as the doleful dove 01:28
Orlando Gibbons (1583-1625)
12. The silver swan 01:55
13. Dainty fine bird 02:34
Thomas Morley (1557-1602)
14. Now is the gentle season 02:49
Thomas Weelkes (um 1575-1623)
15. Thule, the period of cosmography / The Andalusian merchant 04:01
Orlando Gibbons (1583-1625)
16. Fair is the rose 03:07
William Byrd (1543-1623)
17. Ye sacred muses 03:24
Thomas Tomkins (1572-1656)
18. Cloris when as I woo 02:31
Thomas Weelkes (um 1575-1623)
19. Death hath deprived me 02:20
Thomas Weelkes (um 1575-1623)
20. Mars in a fury 01:35
William Byrd (1543-1623)
21. And think ye nymphs 01:52
Orlando Gibbons (1583-1625)
22. Ah, dear heart 01:58
Thomas Tallis (1572-1656)
23. When my sorrowful sighing slake 03:48
Thomas Tomkins (1572-1656)
24. Music divine 03:34

The Queen’s Six:
Daniel Brittain, countertenor
Timothy Carleston, countertenor
Nicholas Madden, tenor
Dominic Bland, tenor
Andrew Thompson, bass
Simon Whiteley, bass

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Jun 26

Max Bruch – Violin Concerto No 1 & other works – Jack Liebeck, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Martyn Brabbins (2016)
FLAC (tracks) 24-bit/96 kHz | Time – 01:12:11 minutes | 1,28 GB | Genre: Classical
Studio Master, Official Digital Download – Source: hyperion-records | Digital Booklet | © Hyperion Records
Recorded: September 2014 at the City Halls, Candleriggs, Glasgow, Scotland

Max Bruch’s Violin Concerto No 1 is the daddy—the most popular ever written. Much recorded, Jack Liebeck turns in a dazzling performance of youthful vigour, prefacing the Concerto with the gorgeous Serenade and a Romance.

One couldn’t help wondering, when Jack Liebeck launched his exploration of Bruch’s violin works last year, why he began with the Third Concerto. It was an uphill struggle, with Liebeck attempting to convince us that this is more interesting music than it is. Still, it was a worthy project, for completeness’s sake, showcasing an approach as fresh as we have come to expect from this violinist.

It’s an approach that pays dividends in this latest recording, which unites Liebeck with Bruch’s evergreen Concerto No 1. No sign here of nanny-goat vibrato or the banana-skin slides that mar Daniel Hope’s otherwise well-judged recording. No, what Liebeck seems to be saying is that Bruch needs no additional sweeteners. His playing is unpretentious and strikingly introspective, resulting in an Adagio of quiet dignity. And even if the first movement doesn’t quite match the grandeur of Julia Fischer’s or the sweaty passion of Vadim Gluzman’s, it stands out for its poise and clarity.

The rest of the programme profiles lesser-known fodder. Lesser known for good reason, because neither the Romance in A minor nor the four-movement Serenade in A minor can compete with the First Concerto for nuance and emotional depth, let alone memorable tunes. Nonetheless, they draw urgent, vibrant playing from Liebeck, who embraces every opportunity for contrast. And it says much for the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and conductor Martyn Brabbins that they sound, throughout, as though genuinely enamoured of this music. –Hannah Nepil, Gramophone

Tracklist:
Max Bruch (1838-1920)
Serenade in A minor Op 75
1 Andante con moto[8’46]
2 Allegro moderato, alla marcia[9’50]
3 Notturno: Andante sostenuto[9’05]
4 Allegro energico e vivace[8’45]
5 Romance in A minor Op 42[10’21]

Violin Concerto No 1 in G minor Op 26
6 Prelude: Allegro moderato –[8’24]
7 Adagio[9’11]
8 Finale: Allegro energico[7’49]

Musicians
Jack Liebeck, violin
BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra
Martyn Brabbins, conductor

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Jun 24

Georg Friedrich Handel – Messiah, HWV 56 – Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks, B’Rock, Peter Dijkstra (2015)
FLAC (tracks) 24-bit/48 kHz | Time – 02:15:30 minutes | 1,38 GB | Genre: Classical
Studio Master, Official Digital Download – Source: Qobuz | Digital Booklet | © BR Klassik
Recorded: München, Herkulessaal, 21.-27.11.2014

As a steady favourite with audiences, Handel’s most famous oratorio “Messiah” has met regularly with rapturous receptions ever since its premiere back in 1742! This three-part masterpiece portrays the life of the “anointed one” (the literal meaning of the Hebrew word ‘Messiah’), from the Annunciation and his birth to his death on the cross and revelation, and contains a considerable number of baroque super-hits – including the world-famous ‘Hallelujah Chorus.’

What makes the present complete recording into something really special is, above all, the successful interpretation with its excellent line-up of performers: Julia Doyle, Lawrence Zazzo, Steve Davislim and Neal Davies, the Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks (recently called “a new center for historically informed performance practice”) under the overall direction of Peter Dijkstra, accompanied by B’Rock, the Belgian Baroque Orchestra Ghent.

This recording of Handel’s masterpiece was recorded at performances in Munich in November 2014. I’m not sure quite how many members of the Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks were involved – the booklet photos suggest just over forty singers took part. I’ve heard this choir on many occasions in the past – usually at fuller strength than here – and their excellence can pretty much be taken as read. However, I’ve not previously encountered the Belgian period instrument ensemble B’Rock. They contribute very stylish, crisp playing here. The performance is under the direction of Peter Dijkstra, the choir’s Artistic Director since 2005.
Dijkstra sets out his stall at the outset with a cleanly articulated, crisp and fleet account of the Overture. During the course of the performance his tempi are often swift but there weren’t too many occasions when I felt that the music was being rushed. Furthermore, he’s prepared to adopt a relaxed or spacious speed when the need arises. From time to time I noticed a little bit of fussiness about dynamics but these were isolated instances. The members of B’Rock play extremely well for him.

The choir’s contribution is one of the great pleasures of this performance. The singing is consistently alert and precise – as you’d expect from a professional ensemble – and their diction is crystal clear, allowing us to hear that their pronunciation of the English text is faultless. The choir is capable of producing a nice, full sound but this is never overdone. ‘For unto us a child is born’ is lightly sung, the performance invigorating and joyful. There’s excellent discipline in such choruses as ‘His yoke is easy’ and ‘All we like sheep’. The big moments, such as ‘Hallelujah’ and ‘Worthy is the Lamb’ make a satisfying impact. Anyone acquiring this set should feel more than satisfied with the choral singing.

Dijkstra opts for a male alto rather than a female – there are arguments for either. His soloist is the American counter-tenor, Lawrence Zazzo. I enjoyed much of what he does though I felt that once or twice he overplayed his hand in the matter of decoration. I noticed that, for example, in the da capo of ‘But who may abide the day of His coming’ – yet I relished his vocal athleticism in the faster sections of this aria. Similarly, parts of ‘He shall feed his flock’ were a bit too elaborate for my taste. For comparison I turned to the Stephen Layton performance that I reviewed a few years ago. There the alto soloist is Iestyn Davies, who I thought was the pick of Layton’s solo team. He, too, decorates the line, of course, but in a way that seems less obtrusive to me. Also, as a matter of purely subjective taste, I prefer Davies’s rather ‘narrower’ tone to Zazzo’s more fulsome sound. Having decided that I prefer Layton’s alto in ‘He shall feed his flock’ I should record that I preferred the more languorous speed that Peter Dijkstra adopts in this number; his speed invests the music with rather more expression than Layton allows.

My reason for taking the Layton performance down from the shelves, however, was that both recordings use the same soprano: Julia Doyle. I like her contribution to this Dijkstra performance. She uses many of the embellishments that she deployed in the Layton version but I have the impression that she decorates her lines slightly less in the Layton performance than she does for Dijkstra. Here I like the agile, happy rendition of ‘Rejoice greatly’. As on the Layton recording the 4/4 version is performed – I must admit to a preference for the compound-time alternative. Dijkstra’s tempo is quite brisk but Miss Doyle is unfazed. Later she offers a lovely, poised account of ‘I know that my Redeemer liveth’. We also hear her in the second half of the so-called Passion Arias in Part II for Peter Dijkstra opts to switch from tenor to soprano solo for ‘But thou didst not leave his soul in hell’ and its preceding accompagnato. Incidentally, the booklet compiler was clearly unaware of the change of soloist for all four of these items are listed as being sung by the tenor. The use of a soprano at this point is by no means unusual and Miss Doyle sings the music beautifully. However, I think the switch of voice is a mistake. These numbers represent a pivotal shift between the sorrow of the suffering of Christ and the joy of the Resurrection. The whole of Part II – and, arguably, of the whole oratorio – is turned around here and I believe there’s a very strong argument that this is best conveyed through one voice.

Dijkstra’s tenor is the Malaysian-born Australian, Steve Davislim. As it happens, I find the way that he delivers his portion of the Passion Arias rather disappointing. He’s certainly expressive in ‘Thy rebuke hath broken his heart’ and ‘Behold, and see’. However, for my taste he uses too full a voice and there’s no real sense of inwardness. He’s better in the opening solos, ‘Comfort ye’ and ‘Ev’ry valley’ to both of which his clear articulation and vocal ring are well suited. ‘Thou shalt break them’ in Part II also suits his dramatic style but in this aria I disliked the slight holding back that he regularly deploys on the words ‘Thou shalt’; it sounds affected.
The bass is Neal Davies and he’s very much to my taste. In ‘Why do the nations?’ he offers splendidly dramatic singing – there’s terrific vocal presence here – and in the section that begins ‘The kings of the earth rise up’ his articulation of the notes is enviable. The highlight of his contribution, however, is ‘The trumpet shall sound’. In the outer sections his singing is truly commanding and he sounds absolutely splendid. But what really made me sit up and take notice was the quietly lyrical, almost confiding way in which he delivers the central section, ‘For this corruptible must put on incorruption’; this is understanding and imaginative Handel singing.

Despite one or two slight reservations this is a version of Messiah that I enjoyed very much. At the end of his note accompanying his own recording Stephen Layton pointed out that performances of this great oratorio are never the same: “Handel’s Messiah is ever renewed.” I certainly felt that about this recording. The performance is relayed in a recording that is clean, clear and well-balanced. Though it’s a live performance there’s no intrusion by the audience – and there’s no applause. The documentation is good but I do feel it’s a bit rude to include information about the choir, orchestra and conductor but not a word about the soloists. ~~John Quinn, MusicWeb International

Tracklist:

Georg Friedrich Händel (1685-1759)
Messiah
Oratorio in Three Parts for solo, chorus and orchestra, HWV 56

Part I
1. Symphony: Grave 02:59
2. Accompagnato: Comfort ye my people (Tenor) 03:01
3. Aria: Ev’ry valley shall be exalted (Tenor) 03:16
4. And the glory of the Lord (Chorus) 02:30
5. Accompagnato: Thus saith the Lord (Bass) 01:22
6. Aria: But who may abide the day of his coming (Alto) 04:18
7. And he shall purify the sons of Levi (Chorus) 02:32
8. Behold, a virgin shall conceive (Alto) 00:25
9. Aria: O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion (Alto,… 05:08
10. Accompagnato: For behold, darkness shall cover the earth… 02:06
11. Aria: The people that walked in darkness have seen a… 03:34
12. For unto us a child is born (Chorus) 03:55
13. Pifa (Pastoral Symphony): Larghetto 00:56
14. Recitative: There were shepards abiding in the field… 00:14
15. Accompagnato: And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon… 00:19
16. Recitative: And the angel said unto them (Soprano) 00:31
17. Accompagnato: And suddenly there was with the angel… 00:17
18. Glory to God in the highest (Chorus) 01:52
19. Aria: Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion (Soprano) 04:14
20. Recitative: Then shall the eyes of the blind be open’d… 00:30
21. Aria: He shall feed his flock (Soprano, Alto) 05:26
22. His yoke is easy (Chorus) 02:18

Part II
23. Behold, The Lamb of God (Chorus) 03:11
24. Aria: He was despised and rejected of men (Alto) 10:18
25. Surely, he hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows… 01:36
26. And with his stripes we are healed (Chorus) 01:40
27. All we like sheep (Chorus) 03:58
28. Accompagnato: All they that see him (Tenor) 00:39
29. He trusted in God (Chorus) 02:16
30. Accompagnato: Thy rebuke hath broken his heart (Tenor) 01:43
31. Arioso: Behold, and see if there be any sorrow (Tenor) 01:17
32. Accompagnato: He was cut off (Tenor) 00:16
33. Aria: But thou didst not leave his soul in hell (Tenor) 02:07
34. Lift up your heads (Chorus) 03:00
35. Recitative: Unto which of the angels said he at any time… 00:13
36. Let all the angels of God worship him (Chorus) 01:29
37. Aria: Thou art gone up on high (Alto) 03:07
38. The Lord gave the word (Chorus) 01:11
39. Aria: How beautiful are the feet (Soprano) 02:21
40. Their sound is gone out into all lands (Chorus) 01:23
41. Aria: Why do the nations so furiously rage together (Bass) 02:47
42. Let us break their bonds asunder (Chorus) 01:46
43. Recitative: He that dwelleth in heaven (Tenor) 00:12
44. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron (Tenor) 02:04
45. Hallelujah (Chorus) 03:37

Part III
46. Aria: I know that my Redeemer liveth (Soprano) 05:25
47. Since by man came death (Chorus) 02:16
48. Accompagnato: Behold, I tell you a mystery (Bass) 00:34
49. Aria: The trumpet shall sound (Bass) 08:49
50. Recitative: Then shall be brought to pass (Alto) 00:16
51. Duet: O death, where is thy sting (Alto, Tenor) 00:58
52. But thanks be to God (Chorus) 02:02
53. Aria: If God be for us (Soprano) 04:24
54. Worthy is the Lamb that was slain (Chorus) 03:17
55. Amen (Chorus) 03:50

Personnel:
Julia Doyle soprano
Lawrence Zazzo countertenor
Steve Davislim tenor
Neal Davies bass baritone
Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks
B’Rock – Belgian Baroque Orchestra Ghent
Peter Dijkstra conductor

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