Bach: Solo Cantatas for Bass

JS Bach: Solo Cantatas for Bass
David Greco, Luthers Bach Ensemble, Tyman Jan Bronda
Brilliant Classics 95942. 49’36


Cantata BWV 82: Ich habe genug
Cantata BWV 158: Der Friede sei mit dir
Cantata BWV 56: Ich will den Kreuzstab gerne tragen

These three cantatas for bass voice explore the Lutheran concept of a longing for death, relief from the torments of life, and a reuniting of the soul with God with an inevitable focus is on lamentation and consolation. They all date from the first decade of Bach’s time as Kapellmeister in Leipzig and are some of the most beautiful of all Bach’s cantatas. This example comes from the Australian baritone David Greco and the Luthers Bach Ensemble, directed by Tyman Jan Bronda. Continue reading

The Excellency of Hand

The Excellency of Hand
English Viola Da Gamba Duos
Robert Smith, Paolo Pandolfo
Resonus Classics: RES10186. 73’52

 

This CD, released in 2017, features a range of 17th-century music for viola da gamba duos by Christopher Simpson and John Jenkins together with two pieces by their contemporary,  Simon Ives, and a tiny Prelude by one of the performers. Most of the pieces are in the form of ‘divisions’, an international improvisatory method dating back to the early 16th century which involves elaborating on a theme by joining up the notes with shorter ones in a variety of forms. Such elaboration and ornamentation of a melodic line forms the basis of subsequent keyboard and instrumental music. Continue reading

Guillemain: Flute Quartets Op.12

Louis-Gabriel Guillemain: Flute Quartets Op.12 (1743)
Fantasticus, Wilbert Hazelezet
Resonus Classics,  RES10222. 2CDs, 44’13+44’44

Louis-Gabriel Guillemain (1705-1770) was a French composer and violinist. He started his violin studies in Paris and later studied in Italy. By 1729, Guillemain was working in Lyons and was soon appointed the first violinist of the Acadèmie de Musique. His Premier livre de sonates was published in 1734. Guillemain moved back to Paris becoming a musicien ordinaire to Louis XV and before long became one of the court’s highest-paid musicians. The Six sonates en quatuors ou conversations galantes for flute, violin, bass viol and continuo recorded here was published in 1743, when he was at the height of his career. Continue reading

La Gracieuse: Pièces de Viole by Marin Marais

La Gracieuse
Pièces de Viole by Marin Marais

Robert Smith
Resonus Classics RES10244. 66’13

“Marais has taken the viol to its highest degree of perfection … he is the first to make known all its extent and beauty”. So wrote Évrard Titon du Tillet (in his 1732 Le parnasse françois) about Marin Marais (1636-1728). This recording explores the depth of that degree of perfection in a series of four Suites. Only one of them is an original Marais Suite, but instead, three of them have been assembled from the 600 or so pieces that make up the Suites contained in Marais’ five volumes of music for viola da gamba and continuo. This practice of selecting individual pieces from Suites was an acceptable practice at the time and has the advantage of allowing us to hear some of the lesser-known pieces.

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Telemann: Fantasias for Viola da Gamba

Telemann: Fantasias for Viola da Gamba
Robert Smith
Resonus RES10195. 79’15

Telemann is the gift that keeps on giving. His latest offering was the discovery in 2015 of the previously lost set of Gamba Fantasies. In accordance with his very successful business approach, they were published two at a time over six fortnights in 1735. Aimed at the upper performing end of the amateur market, they also present many challenges for the professional musician. As Robert Smith writes in his own programme notes, a performer can approach these pieces with no preconceived ideas of how they might be performed. Unlike, for example, the Bach Cello Suites with many decades of recording and teaching, these Telemann Fantasias have a clean performing slate. Continue reading

Conversed Monologue

Conversed Monologue
Fantasticus XI
Resonus RES10166. 70’08

Graun: Concerto for Viola da Gamba in C; Leclair: Concerto for Violin in G minor; WF Bach: Concerto for Harpsichord in F major.

I have been impressed with previous CDs by Fantasticus (see here) and am equally impressed by their latest project, now expanded from their usual trio into a small baroque orchestra with the name of Fantasticus XL. All three members of the original Fantasticus take solo roles in the featured concertos – and what fascinating pieces they are. One of the joys of this recording is that all three pieces are little-known, but well worth discovering.

When the CD starts, it is difficult to appreciate that this is the start of a viola da gamba Concerto, such is the bravado and élan of Graun’s opening phrase. Continue reading