Imaginario: De un Libro de Música de Vihuela

Imaginario: De un Libro de Música de Vihuela
Armonía Concertada
María Cristina Kiehr, Ariel Abramovich

with Jacob Heringman & John Potter
Outhere/Arcana A460. 61’37

album cover

This recording is based on an imaginarly Vihuela songbook as might have been published in Valladolid or Seville sometime around 1575. That premise is based on and inspired by seven surviving earlier vihuela songbooks, dating from between 1536 and 1576. Versions of pieces from those earlier songbooks have been arranged by lutenists Ariel Abramovich and Jacob Heringman in Spanish style. The result is an attractive and musically sensible reinterpretation of some delightful music, brilliantly performed by María Cristina Kiehr and Ariel Abramovich, with occasional contributions from Jacob Heringman and a single offering from John Potter. Continue reading

Bach: An Italian Journey

Bach: An Italian Journey
Luca Oberti, harpsichord
Outhere/Arcana A443. 71’18

This 2018 release is from a harpsichord player that I am not familiar with. His programme gathers together pieces with an Italian influence, including transcriptions of concertos by Vivaldi and Marcello, and pieces of Italian inspiration like the Aria Variata alla maniera Italians and the Capriccio sulla lontananza del fratello dilettissimo. It finishes, inevitably, with the Italian Concerto. Continue reading

Bach: Sei Suonate

J S Bach: Sei suonate à cembalo certato è violino solo
Chiara Zanisi, Giulia Nuti
Outhere/Arcana A426. 2CDs, 41’16+54’03

Bach’s Six sonatas for violin and obbligato harpsichord (BWV 1014–1018) were first composed during Bach last few years in Köthen (c1720-23) although he continued to revise them after his move to Leipzig in 1723, from where all the surviving sources are found.  This recording, released in 2017, features  violinist Chiara Zanisi and Giulia Nuti, harpsichord. Continue reading

Il Barbarino: Musica per Liuto e viola

Il Barbarino
Musica per liuto e viola da mano nel cinquecento Napoletano
Paul Kieffer
Outhere/Arcana AD 105. 59’54

As the title suggests, this recording focusses on the flourishing of music for lute and the viola da mano in early 16th-century Naples. The viola da mano is the Italian version of the Spanish vihuela, with the same tuning as a lute but in a guitar-shaped body, It has a slightly more delicate and resonant timbre than the lute, and is used for six of the 24 pieces on the CD. 15 of the tracks are premiere recordings with 11 taken from from the Barbarina lute book of the title, dating from around 1600 and now in the Kraków Biblioteka Jagiellońska (PL-Kj Mus. ms. 40032), having been removed from the Berlin Deutsche Staatsbibliothek during the war and lost to researchers until the 1980s. Continue reading

Bach: Cantatas and Arias for Bass

Bach: Cantatas and Arias for Bass
Dominik Wörner, Zefiro, Alfredo Bernardini
Arcana A466. 62’17


Cantata: Ich habe genung BWV 82
Aria: Gott ist gerecht from Cantata: Ewigkeit, du Donnerwort BWV 20
Cantata: Der Friede sei mit dir BWV 158
Aria: An irdische Schatze das Herze zu hangen from Cantata: Ach wie fluchtig, ach wie nichtig BWV 26
Cantata: Ich will den Kreuzstab gerne tragen BWV 56
Aria: Warum willst du so zornig sein from Cantata: Nimm von uns, Herr, du treuer Gott  BWV 101

One of the problems that Bach encountered on his arrival in Leipzig was the quality of the available musicians, in comparison to those employed by the Köthen court Kapelle. Bass singers seem to have been a particular problem, perhaps ineveitable in a boys choir, although, as Peter Wollny explains in is excellent notes, most of the musicians that Bach could draw on were only around for relatively short time. Six bass singers are specifically named, one becoming his own son-in-law. Continue reading

Scarlatti: Mandolin Sonatas

Domenico Scarlatti: Mandolin Sonatas
Pizzicar Galante
Arcana A115. 60’12

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Although Domenico Scarlatti didn’t actually write any mandolin sonatas, that hasn’t stopped Pizzicar Galante followed an earlier practice of transcribing his harpsichord sonatas for mandolin. Their inspiration was the discovery, in the 1980s, of a late 18th-century manuscript in the Arsenal Library in Paris of the first movement of Scarlatti’s Sonata in D, K89, with the indication Sonatina per mandolino e cimbalo. Continue reading

Alessandro Grandi: Celesti Fiori

Alessandro Grandi: Celesti Fiori – Motetti
Accademia d’Arcadia, UtFaSol Ensemble, Alessandra Rossi Lürig
Outhere: Arcana A 464. 62’39

Alessandro Grandi (1590-1630) was Monteverdi’s deputy in Saint Mark’s Basilica in Venice and was prominent in the development of Venetian style of the early seventeenth century. He was considered by his contemporaries to be supremely talented, an equal to Monteverdi, but he hasn’t survived the transfer to posterity very well and is little known today. This CD of motets published between 1610 and 1630 is the first complete recording dedicated to Grandi. The title Celesti fiori (Celestial Flowers), comes from his Libro Quinto de suoi Concerti, published in Venice in 1619. Continue reading

Stefano Bernardi: Lux Aeterna; Ein Salzburger Requiem

Stefano Bernardi
Lux Aeterna; Ein Salzburger Requiem
Voces Suaves; Concerto Scirocco
Outhere: Arcana ACAA470. 68’15

Stefano Bernardi (1577-1637) was born in Verona. He was an active member of the Accademia Filarmonica and became their Maestro della musica in 1606. He was appointed as Maestro di cappella at Verona Cathedral in 1611. In 1622 he became Court Kapellmeister to the Bishop of Breslau and Brixen, Archduke Carl Joseph. Following the Archduke’s death in 1624, Bernardi took up a similar post in Salzburg with the Prince-Bishop Paris von Lodron. Continue reading

Venetian Cello Sonatas

Venetian Cello Sonatas: Under the shade of Vivaldi
Gaetano Nasillo
Outhere/Arcana A465. 77’24

The subtitle of this recording “Under the shade of Vivaldi” explains its remit of exploring the lesser-known composers for the cello in Venice at a time when the music of Vivaldi held sway. The pieces chosen demonstrate two moments of musical transition. The first is the use of the cello as a solo instrument, rather than as a ‘mere’ bass continuo instrument, a development that started in the mid to late 17th-century. The second example of transition is in the structure of the Sonata from the traditional four movements to the more modern three. Perhaps tellingly, the two Sonatas in the later three-movement form (by Vandini and Stratico) are the most technically advanced of the eight Sonatas. Continue reading

Landini: L’Occhio del Cor

Francesco Landini: L’Occhio del Cor
Songs of Invisible Love
La Reverdie, Christophe Deslignes
Arcana A462. 64’56 

Although famed today as a musician, organ & organetto player and composer in his day, Francesco Landini (c1330-1397) was equally as well- known as a poet. In 1368 he was named Poet Laureate in Venice, an honour he shared with Petrarch. He was organist of San Lorenzo in Florence from 1365 until his death where his (previously lost) tombstone can be seen, albeit tucked away in a corner  His poetry only survives today by the fact that he set so much of it to music, as explored in this recording from La Reverdie with organetto player Christophe Deslignes. Landini’s name is open to question, the former assumption that he was the son of a painter is now disputed and, with it, the related link with the Landini family. That name will be hard to shake off, but nowadays prefered names are the contemporary Francesco da Firenze, Francesco degli Organi or Francesco il Cieco (Francesco the blind) Continue reading

Barlaam & Josaphat

Barlaam & Josaphat
Buddha – a Christian Saint?
Dialogos, Katarina Livljanić
Outhere Music: ARCANA A458. 65’41

This recording (released on 5 October) by Katarina Livljanic and Dialogos tells an astonishing story that was completely unknown to me and, I suspect, to many other people. It is a musical reflection on the story of the Christian saints Barlaam and Josaphat, a tale that replicates, in a Christian setting, the story of the life of the Buddha. The story was known in at least four religions and was passed down in most of the medieval languages. It tells of Prince Josaphat (from the Sanskrit word Bodhisattva), the son of the Indian King Abenner who was persecuting Christians. Astrologers predicted that Josaphat would become Christian, so the king imprisoned him. But he met the hermit Saint Barlaam and converted to Christianity. Eventually his father, the King, also became Christian, and became a hermit, passing his throne to Josaphat, who also later abdicated and retired into seclusion and contemplation with his teacher Barlaam. The story comes from a 2nd to 4th century Sanskrit Buddhist text, passing into Christian mythology via Baghdad and the 8th century Arabic Book of Bilawhar and Yudasaf) and Middle Eastern Christian sources. In medieval times, the two saints were honoured (although not actually sainted) by both the Slavic Eastern Orthodox and the Roman church. There is even an illusion to it in Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice.

Continue reading

Croce: Notetti & Sacrae Cantiones

Giovanni Croce: Motetti & Sacrae Cantiones
Voces Suaves & Concerto Scirocco
Outhere Music: Arcana A439. 52’19

Giovanni Croce (1557-1609) was a boy chorister in St Mark’s, Venice, becoming maestro di cappella there in 1603, a few years before his death. He was born in Chioggia on the Adriatic near Venice. He took holy orders in 1585, and appears to have been a priest, and possibly director of music, at Santa Maria Formosa while singing at St. Mark’s. His compositions provide a link between the Venetian Renaissance and the musical advances of Monteverdi. His music is constructionally and harmonically simpler than many other Venetian composers of his time, but includes examples of double chorus and echo effects within his rather conservative late Renaissance polyphony.

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Stradella: La Doriclea

Stradella: La Doriclea
Il Pomo d’Oro, Andrea De Carlo
Arcana A454. 3CDs. 3h7’21

You would be forgiven for not being all that familiar with the music of Alessandro Stradella (16431682) or, at least, not in its original form. Despite fame during his lifetime, Stradella’s reputation didn’t endure much beyond his murder in Genoa. This following an earlier assassination attempt in Turin, the result of a rather dangerous love life. Perhaps it is no surprise that there are as many operas written about him, as he wrote himself. He is perhaps best known today as the posthumous provider of music for Handel to pinch, notably in  Israel in Egypt. But he is also justifiably held to be responsible for many musical innovations in Baroque music, not least as the instigator of the Concerto Grosso and in the development of new forms, including what became the ubiquitous da capo Aria form of 18th-century opera. Continue reading

Le Cœur & l’Oreille: Manuscript Bauyn

Le Cœur & l’Oreille
Manuscript Bauyn
Giulia Nuti (harpsichord)
ARCANA A434. 74’24

Music by Louis Couperin, Jacques Champion de Chambonnières, Jacques Hardel, Jean Henry D’Angelbert, René Mesangeau, Germain Pinel, and Johann Jacob Froberger

Le Cœur & l’Oreille (The Heart & the Ear) ticks all the musical boxes in a wonderful combination of a historic instrument, fascinating repertoire, inspired playing, and intriguing performance practice and musicological insights. The music performed is found in the famous Bauyn Manuscript, dating from around 1690, but containing music probably composed several decades earlier. It looks as though the manuscript was intended as a wedding gift, although analysis of the coat of arms on the cover has yet to determine who the lucky recipient was. More important is the fact that such a collection was made in the first place. When ‘old music’ was usually considered to be anything written just a few years earlier, the idea of collecting together music from a couple of generations earlier was something of a revolution, not least at a time when very little harpsichord music had been published at all. Continue reading

Giovanni Battista Pergolesi

Giovanni Battista Pergolesi
Coro e Orchestra Ghislieri, Giulio Prandi
Marlis Petersen, Marta Fumagalli
Arcana A444, 71’18
Arcana_A444_PERGOLESI_Coro e Orchestra Ghislieri_Giulio Prandi

Messa in Re maggiore;  Mottetto: “Dignas laudes resonemus”

Whether you assume that Pergolesi only wrote one work or are an aficionado, this CD of two previously unrecorded pieces (the Messa in Re maggiore and the operatic “Dignas laudes resonemus”) is an important one. The editions used are the outcome of recent musicological research by the Centro Studi Pergolesi in Milan. The Messa in Re maggiore is performed in the second of two surviving versions, dating from 1733/4, incidentally, the same year as the first version of Bach’s B minor Mass. It is in the two-movement Neapolitan form of Kyrie and Gloria. It is a joyful work, with an almost skittish concluding Amen. Pergolesi’s use of vocal and orchestral colour and texture can range from the utmost delicacy to thundering drama, as exemplified in the dramatic opening of the Messa in Re maggiore. The dark opening to the Qui tollis is followed by a subdued section that seems to foreshadow the Sturm und drang of the later Hadyn generation. These two works explore Pergolesi’ theatrical style of writing, in the Neapolitan tradition.  Continue reading

Croce: Motetti & Sacrae Cantiones

Croce: Motetti & Sacrae Cantiones
Voces Suaves, Concerto Scirocco
Arcana A439. 52’19

 

Giovanni Croce (also known as Il Chiozzotto) was a choirboy in St Mark’s Venice under Zarlino, eventually becoming maestro di cappella around six years before his death in 1609, four years before Monteverdi took up the same post. He was also connected to Santa Maria Formosa, possible as a priest as well as a singer. Although renowned in his own day, he has been overshadowed by his most illustrious predecessors and successors. His music is not as grand as the Gabrielli’s, or a refined as Monteverdi, although the influence of the former is clear, notably in his polychoral writing.  Continue reading

`Li Due Orfei: Caccini & Peri

Li Due Orfei: Caccini & Peri
Marc Mauillon & Angélique Mauillon
Arcana A393. 57’12

Recordings Mauillon Cover 916Giulio Caccini and Jacopo Peri were musical assistants to Emilio de’ Cavalieri for the famed celebrations for the Florentine marriage of Ferdinand de’ Medici and Christine de Lorraine. In the resulting La Pellegrino, they helped to develop a new style of singing, based on earlier concepts of singing in what was thought to be the style of Orpheus. This emphasised the declamatory solo voice in what became known as the stile rappresentativo, accompanied by a simple basso continuo, based on Orfeo’s lyre, here realised by Angélique Mauillon on a triple harp by Somerset luthier Simon Capp, after early 17th century Italian models. This recording explores the later work of the two composers, with an emphasis on the music of Caccini, with 12 examples compared to the five from Peri, together with three instrumental harp interludes by Luzzaschi and Piccinini. Continue reading