JS Bach: Sonatas & Partitas for solo violin
ECM New Series 2551/52. 2CDs, 59’21+67’12
After first recording the Bach solo violin works in 1982 on a modern violin, albeit with more than a nod to the then-current notions of early performance practice, Thomas Zehetmair now returns with a Baroque instrument and two period bows, one for the Partitas, and the other for the Sonatas. It is recorded in a very generous acoustic, far removed from the possible chamber acoustic that Bach may have had in mind. But the violin speaks clearly though the background bloom, aided by Zehetmair’s careful articulation. Continue reading
Franz Schubert: Die Nacht
Anja Lechner, cello, Pablo Márquez, guitar
ECM New Series, ECM 2555.
The guitar was a popular instrument in Vienna in Schubert’s time, with several contemporary guitar arrangements of Schubert songs. One such, from the collection of the poet Franz von Wschehrd, has been used as the basis for this recording, along with transcription by the performers of the Romanze from Rosamunde and Der Leiermann. They are contrasted with three guitar Nocturnes by Johann Burgmüller, a younger contemporary of Schubert. Continue reading
J S Bach: Six Suites for Viola Solo
ECM New Series ECM 2553/54. 2CDs 65’05+77’26
Yes, you read the title correctly – these are Bach’s six ‘Cello’ Suites, but are here played on a viola by the distinguished American violist Kim Kashkashian. With no original manuscript in Bach’s own hand, there have been many questions about these Suites, one being what type of instrument they were actually written for. Continue reading
Remember me my dear
Jan Garbarek and The Hilliard Ensemble
ECM New Series ECM 2625.
The 25-year collaboration between four a capella male voices of The Hilliard Ensemble and the Norwegian jazz saxophonist Jan Garbarek is one of the most extraordinary stories in the world of music. Although far from being the first example of cross-over partnerships, it was one of the most innovative. Engineered (in more ways than one) by ECM’s Manfred Eicher, the result was Officium, one of the most influential recordings of recent decades. Two others followed, plus extensive concert touring. After 40 years of performing and recording, The Hilliard Ensemble retired in 2014. Part of their final year of performances were appearances with Jan Garbarek, one of which is the focus of this live recording. Continue reading
CPE Bach: Clavierstucke
ECM New Series 2112. 67’30
Russian pianist Alexei Lubimov concentres his performances and recordings on new music and music from the Baroque era performed on period instruments. This CD presents CPE Bach’s fantasies, sonatas and rondos played on the little-known tangent piano, usually referred to in German-speaking countries as the Pantaleon, Spattisches Klavier or Tangentenflügel. It enjoyed a brief moment of glory in the 18th century as a gap between the harpsichord and clavichord and the forthcoming fortepiano. Rather like the clavichord, its strings are struck from underneath by wood or metal tangents. Unlike the clavichord, where the note continues to sound while the tangent is in contact with the string, the tangent piano has an escarpment action similar to that of a fortepiano which allows the string to freely vibrate. It has a similar extent and control of expressiveness to the clavichord but is capable of much greater volume and intensity. It makes a gloriously twangy sound. There are a few original instruments still in existence, but this recording uses a modern replica, by Chris Maene of Belgium, of a 1794 Späth and Schmahl tangent piano from Regensburg. Continue reading
John Potter: Secret History
ECM New Series ECM2119
It’s been a while since the names of John Potter and ECM have been linked in an ‘early music’ recording, the last being back in Potter’s Hilliard Ensemble days. This recording was made in 2011, and was the first time this group of musicians had got together. It pre-dates their later recording Amores Pasados published in 2015. The result is a radical re-think of Renaissance music performance, not least in reducing complex polyphony to just one or two vocal lines, sung by John Potter and Anna Maria Friman, the remaining voices being played on vihuelas (an early form of guitar, tuned like a lute) by Ariel Abramovich, Jacob Haringman, and Lee Santana. In the opening eight-part Mouton Nesciens mater for example, they sing the two paired superius lines, in the form of a canon at the fifth, very occasionally switching to one of the other six voices. The three vihuelas play the remaining pairs of voices, which are all also in the same strict canonic form. An extraordinary feat of contrapuntal writing, reduced to comparative simplicity. Continue reading
John Potter, Anna Maria Friman, Ariel Abramovich, Jacob Herringman
ECM New Series. 481 1555
What is a song? The music on this CD responds to that question by crossing the bridge between art song and pop song. It combines pieces from the English 16th century lute song repertoire with compositions influenced by those works by three present day musicians, more usually associated with rock music. We hear the Genesis keyboard-player, Tony Banks, reflect on Campion’s The cypress curtain of the night and Follow thy fair sun – as well as the Campion originals. Sting’s Bury me deep in the greenwood (written for the film, Robin Hood) is firmly in the lute-song tradition.
The CD opens with former Led Zeppelin bass-player, John Paul Jones’s 15 minute, three movement Amores Pasados, written in 1989 for Red Byrd. His No dormia, is a magically evocative, and almost medieval Continue reading