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: Johannes-Passion

J S Bach: Johannes-Passion
Collegium Vocale Gent, Philippe Herreweghe
Outhere/PHI LPH031. 2CDs 107’08

 

Cover of CD of Herreweghe Bach Johannes Passion

I can often predict the way in which a performance of the Johannes-Passion is going to develop by the manner in which the opening instrumental bars are performed. The texture appears simple. Swirling low strings underpinned by the repetitive pulse of continuo bass, with two oboes slowly intertwining dissonance-laden melodic lines above them. It is one of those passages of music that can be interpreted in many ways, resulting in differing moods ranging from sinister, threatening, mysterious, to gently calming. 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

Elizabeth Kenny: Ars longa

Ars longa
Old and new music for theorbo
Elizabeth Kenny
Outhere/Linn  CKD603. 75’34

Cover

This recording from Elizabeth Kenny focuses on the early development of the chitarrone/theorbo towards the end of the 16th century, its 18th-century peak of sophistication, and its reinvention for modern composers in the 21st-century.  The music contrasts the early pioneers of Piccinini and Kapsberger, the later stylistic development of Robert de Visée 21st-century pieces by Sir James MacMillan, Benjamin Oliver and Nico Muhly. The programme note includes one of the best descriptions of the chitarrone/theorbo that I have read. Continue reading

Von Westhoff: Suites for Solo Violin

Johann Paul von Westhoff: Suites for Solo Violin
Plamena Nikitassova
Outhere: Ricercar RIC 412. 56’59

Johann Paul von Westhoff (1656-1705) was one of the leading members of the flourishing school of Dresden-based violinists during the latter decades of the 17th-century. He was born in Dresden. His father was a lutenist and trombone player from Lübeck, who had briefly been a captain of horse in the Swedish army. Apart from influence from his father, the young Westhoff also learnt while serving in the Dresden Hofkapelle. He was one of the first to compose music for unaccompanied violin, a genre that culminated with Bach. This excellent recording by Plamena Nikitassova reveals the enormous talents of this adventurous composer. 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

Diego Ortiz: Trattado de Glosas

Diego Ortiz: Trattado de Glosas
Les Basses Réunies
Bruno Cocset, Guido Balestracci
Outhere: Alpha 563. 59’31

We know little about the life of Diego Ortiz (c1510-c1576). He is believed to have been born in Toledo, and worked in Naples for Ferdinand Álvarez de Toledo, Duke of Alba when he was the Spanish Viceroy there. He eventually became Maestro di Cappella of the Neapolitan Chapel Royal. He seems to have spent his final years in Rome. He published his influential Trattado de glossas sobre clausulas y otros generos de puntos en la musica de violones nuevamente puestos en luz in 1553, while in Naples. 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

La Morte della Ragione

La Morte della Ragione
Il Giardino Armonico, Giovanni Antonini
Outhere Music: Alpha ALPHA450. 73’07

La Morte della Ragione (The Death of Reason) is a concept album (CD and a 98-page illustrated book) based around Petrarch’s comment that The senses reign, and Reason now is dead’. It is also a clearly intended as a showcase for the virtuoso recorder playing of Giovanni Antonini, founder of Il Giardino Armonico. After an opening recorder flourish we hear the anonymous 16th-century pavane, La Morte della Ragione. This is seen as a reference to to Erasmus‘s In Praise of Folly, and his suggestion of two forms of madness – a sweet illusion of the spirit and the opposite, ‘one that the vengeful Furies conjure up from hell.

A wide-ranging set of scenarios are offered, ranging in date from John Dunstable (1390-c1453), via the likes of Alexander Agricola (1446-c1506), to Samuel Scheidt (1587-1654), whose Galliard Battaglia concludes the CD. a battle piece involving a great many diminutions or ‘divisions’, a common technique of improvisation in the Renaissance… This grand instrumental musical fresco of time and space is a kind of self-portrait of Giovanni Antonini and his longstanding musical colleagues. To accompany this disc, a richly-illustrated booklet presents a free-ranging iconographical tour combining pictures and contemporary photos.

Continue reading

Bach: Du treuer Gott

J S Bach: Du treuer Gott
Leipzig Cantatas BWV 101 – 103 – 115

Collegium Vocale Gent, Philippe Herreweghe
Outhere music LPH027.62’26
Nimm von uns, Herr, du treuer Gott BWV 101
Mache dich, mein Geist, bereit BWV 115
Ihr werdet weinen und heulen BWV 103

Following two earlier CDs (LPH006 and LPH012) that focussed on cantatas written during Bach’s first year in Leipzig, this recording looks at the second cycle of cantatas, composed in 1724/5. Nimm von uns, Herr, du treuer is based on the chorale melody better known as Vater unser im Himmelreich, the Lutheran version of the Lord’s Prayer. Apart from the first aria (with its delightfully jovial flute solo), this well-known melody is heard in all movements. The two recitatives are interesting, with both alternating the chorale melody with recitative passages, the first in a particularly dramatic mood, the second with some evocative harmonic sequences. The central bass aria also switches between chorale and aria. Bach uses a strong orchestration, with three trombones, three oboes, an oboe da caccia, and a cornett – an unusual use of an instrument that would have been seen as distinctly old-fashioned at the time. The final aria, a reflective duet for soprano and alto, combines flute and oboe da caccia.  Continue reading

Cifras Imaginarias

Cifras Imaginarias
Musica para Tañer a Dos Vihuelas
Ariel Abramovich, Jacob Heringman
outhere A428. 53’21

Cifras ImaginariasThis recording does exactly what it says on the cover, recreating an imaginary books of vihuela duets in the style and manner of the sole surviving example of such a collection. There are many examples of music for two lutes from the 16th century, but only one for two vihuelas. To make up for that omission, Ariel Abramovich and Jacob Heringman have joined forces to arrange a variety of pieces for two vihuelas in the style of the mid-16th century.

This is a fascinating recording on several levels. Firstly, it is a real delight to listen to. The sound of the two instruments combines and matches perfectly. Abramovich and Heringman play as one with an impressive sense of togetherness, and the recording also brings the two players aurally together. Even with headphones, it is not easy to pick out which instrument is which. The nature of the music is such that this is important. Continue reading