The Italian Job

The Italian Job
Baroque Instrumental Music from the Italian States
La Serenissima, Adrian Chandler
Rachel Chaplin and Gail Hennessy, oboes, Peter Whelan, bassoon
Avie AV2371. 76’23

Music by Albinoni, Caldara, Corelli, Tartini, Torelli, and Vivaldi

The Italian Job: Baroque Instrumental Music from the Italian StatesFor the past year La Serenissima have been performing a series of concerts based on music from different cities in Italy. This CD, recorded in St John’s, Smith Square after one such concert, forms a summary of the extraordinary music from that concert series. the cities, and composers, represented are Venice (Albinoni, Caldara, Vivaldi), Bologna (Torelli), Padua (Tartini) and Rome (Corelli). Apart from some glorious music, one of the features of this recording is the instrumental colour, with prominent roles for oboes, bassoons, trumpets, trombone, timpani and strings.  Continue reading

Bach: St John Passion

Bach: St John Passion
Apollo’s Fire, Jeannette Sorrell
Avie AV2369. 2CDs 33’08+74’34.

This recording stems from a series of semi-staged performances in Cleveland and New York in March 2016. Videos of extracts of a live event can be viewed here. The project was referred to as ‘A Dramatic Presentation’, and involved the main protagonists singing from memory to each other and the audience, who were treated as part of the crowd in some of the turbo choruses, with half the choir moving from the stage to stand by the audience, notably during the scenes with Pilatus. A timely reminder, perhaps, of The immediacy and emotional intensity of the live performances can only be imagined from the recording, but the directness and strength of feeling remains. Continue reading

Western Wind: Music by John Taverner & Court Music for Henry VIII

Western Wind
Music by John Taverner & Court Music for Henry VIII
Taverner Choir & Players, Andrew Parrott
Avie AV2352. 79’20

When I first saw the cover of this CD and the names of the performers, I started looking to see if this was a re-release of an earlier recording. But it is a new recording, made in 2015, featuring the distinguished names of singers Emily Van Evera and Charles Daniels, alongside Andrew Parrott and his Taverner Choir and Players. Most recordings or concerts based on a Mass setting interweave vocal motets around the usual Mass movements in an attempted liturgical reconstruction but, very refreshingly, this CD incorporates a miscellany of instrumental and vocal music related to the Court of Henry VIII alongside The Western Wynde Mass by John Taverner, an almost exact contemporary of the King.

The CD opens with a solo recorder, playing the 16th century melody of Westron wynde before the chanted Kyrie. As was usual in English mass settings Continue reading

Handel: Trio Sonatas

Handel: Trio Sonatas
The Brook Street Band
Avie AV2357. 76’10

Sinfonia in B flat HWV 339; Trio Sonatas in F HWV 392, B flat HWV 50a ‘Esther’, G minor HWV 393; in E HWV 394; C minor HWV 386a; C HWV 403 ‘Saul’.

Trio Sonatas for Two Violins and Basso ContinuoThe Brook Street Band, named after the London street where Handel lived for the last 36 years of his life, celebrate their 20th anniversary this year. As well as his well known Opus 2 and 5 sets of Trio Sonatas, Handel left a number of isolated examples of the genre, three of them normally referred to as the ‘Dresden’ sonatas where the manuscript is housed. To these three (HWV 392-4), are added two other proper trio sonatas (386a and 403) and two other pieces arranged by the Brook Street Band in a trio sonata format, the early Sinfonia and an early version of the overture to Esther, both of which helpfully lack an viola part. Many of the movements are examples of Handel’s re-use of material, and there are a number of familiar melodies that crop up with an otherwise lesser known group of pieces. Notable amongst Continue reading