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Biber: Fidicinium Sacro-Profanum
Title: Biber: Fidicinium Sacro-Profanum
Artist: Harmonie Universelle, Florian Deuter, Monica Waisman
Label: Accent
Format: CD

Slowly emerging from the shadows, Henrich Biber (1644-1704) is coming to be regarded as the outstanding composer of the early German Baroque. He is perhaps best known for his large-scale Masses, the remarkable solo violin/continuo Mystery Sonatas, and the extraordinary Battalia, with its depictions of cannon-fire, drunks, and the “Lament of the wounded musketeers”. The Fidicinium Sacro-Profanum is a series of twelve chamber sonatas for string ensemble, and all twelve are presented here, the two parts of the set separated by a dignified organ Toccata. Biber’s music is remarkably varied, sometimes contrapuntal, sometimes monumental, and the textures have a pleasing gravitas. The First Part is the more grandiose, while the Second part offers a lighter, dancelike quality. This is ornate and charming music that warms the heart.
Handel: Brockes Passion
Title: Handel: Brockes Passion
Artist: Johannette Zomer, Sebastian Kohlhepp, NDR Chor, FestspielOrchester Gottingen, Laurence Cummings
Label: Accent
Format: CD

Bach’s two great Passions are among the greatest music of all time, and it may come as a surprise that many other composers wrote in this sombre musical form, Lassus, Schütz, and Telemann among them. The greatness of the music has always overshadowed the texts of these works, but there is one such libretto, the German vernacular Passion poem by Barthold Brockes, that attracted the attention of a number of eminent early 18th century composers, including Handel. We have lost the original score of Handel’s Brockes Passion and it only survives due to a hand-written copy made by J S Bach himself; quite clearly Bach studied Handel’s version before embarking on his seminal works. The Handel is grand and large-scale—it occupies two CDs—and shows him in quite different mood to his English-language Messiah. The likelihood is that the Brockes Passion was written in England but it was certainly performed in Hamburg in 1719, perhaps as part of Handel’s charm offensive to reingratiate himself with George I. Whatever the case, this is a major German Baroque Passion setting that is bound to win admiration from any lover of the genre, and the new live recording from the NDR, featuring a stellar line-up of singers, presents the work in all its richness.
Leopold Mozart: Missa Solemnis
Title: Leopold Mozart: Missa Solemnis
Artist: Das Vokalprojekt, Arianna Vendittelli (soprano), Sophie Rennert (alto), Patrick Grahl (tenor), Ludwig Mittelhammer (bass), Bayerische Kammerphilharmonie, Alessandro De Marchi (conductor)
Label: Aparte
Format: CD

No, you read right: a Missa Solemnis by Leopold Mozart, Wolfgang’s father.  The relationship between Wolfgang and Leopold was impenetrably complicated but it is at least clear that father Mozart was a major musical influence on his son. Even today very little of Leopold Mozart’s music is widely known; there is, happily, a surge of interest in his work, and much of it can now be heard on CD. This latest recording is issued to coincide with the three hundredth anniversary of Leopold’s birth in 1719, and it seems fitting that this major Mass setting, previously thought to be by Wolfgang, should be confidently reattributed to him now. It is a glorious work, opening with a slightly archaic-sounding Kyrie, and continuing in marvellous early Classical style. The performers hail from Leopold’s native city of Augsburg, and they are clearly committed to rehabilitating his music. The last recording of the Mass was issued more than thirty-five years ago, and it is a treat to have this appealing piece returned to the catalogue, especially in such a committed performance.
Russian Masquerade
Title: Russian Masquerade
Artist: Ostrobothnian Chamber Orchestra, Sakari Oramo (conductor)
Label: BIS
Format: SACD

“Composed in Russia between 1884 and 1917, the four works appearing on this disc all do so in some kind of disguise”, says the copy for this CD. The disguise that the first two works wear is that of being orchestrated piano pieces, selected from Prokofiev’s Op. 22 Visions fugitives, and Scriabin’s Preludes, Op. 11. More different works would be hard to imagine, the expressively elusive Prokofiev contrasting with the hyper-romantic Scriabin; the juxtaposition is underlined by the effective string orchestra arrangements, and the excellent recording brings out all their colour. The other two works on the disc have more in common with the Scriabin than Prokofiev: Arensky’s Variations on a Theme of Tchaikovsky takes one of the loveliest tunes in all Tchaikovsky’s output, known in English as Legend: The Crown of Roses (or Christ had a garden), and unfolds seven beautiful and idiomatic re-imaginings of this exquisite theme, rearranged by the composer from string quartet to string orchestra. The disc ends with Tchaikovsky’s own Elegy for strings in its original version, a wistful piece that epitomises the flavour of the whole program. This is a truly delectable CD, not least for its fine playing and recording, but also for providing a different take on the Russian soul.
Weigl: Symphony No 1, Pictures and Tales
Title: Weigl: Symphony No 1, Pictures and Tales
Artist: Deutsche Staatsphilharmonie, Rheinland-Pfalz, Jurgen Bruns (conductor)
Label: Capriccio
Format: CD

It is always pleasing to come across an unfamiliar composer of real interest. Karl Weigl was an early 20th century Viennese composer who, unsurprisingly, emigrated to the USA in 1938. It was not the modernity of his music that made him unwelcome in Austria, however, his musical language has a traditional quality that was respected by the modernists but regarded as old-fashioned; only later did he begin to introduce innovative ideas into his work, notably in the Fifth Apocalyptic Symphony. In recent years his work has begun to be re-evaluated and this new Capriccio CD is a welcome part of that rehabilitation. Both the works included are early, his Opp. 2 and 5, and provide a good introduction to this excellent composer’s output. His First Symphony—of six—is an expansive and expressive four-movement work that has a certain Mendelssohnian lightness, while nudging towards the knowingness of Richard Strauss. To complete the CD Capriccio have included his Pictures and Tales Suite, charming and folk-like music.
Elgar: String Quartet, Piano Quintet
Title: Elgar: String Quartet, Piano Quintet
Artist: Martin Roscoe (piano), Brodsky Quartet
Label: Chandos
Format: CD

Elgar, the enthusiastic cryptogrammatist, was himself an enigma. For those who know him only by his genial Serenade, or the Enigma Variations, his range of compositional activities may come as a surprise. Not only did he write two of the finest British Symphonies, religiously unorthodox oratorios like the Dream of Gerontius and the Kingdom, two magnificent Concertos, cantatas on secular subjects, but also chamber music. It is a curious feature of Elgar’s oeuvre that, apart from the Symphonies, he wrote only one work in each genre, and this new CD from Chandos contains two of his three major ventures in chamber music, omitting only his Violin Sonata—all three were written between 1918 and 1919 during Elgar’s ‘mature period’, just before the Cello Concerto. As one might expect, the String Quartet and Piano Quintet are sizeable works, and they share with the Concerto a broad, melancholy expressivity that is capable both of sensitive nostalgic yearning, and an incisive agitation. Of the two the Piano Quintet is the grander, an ambitious and exploratory work that combines Brahmsian richness with a distinctly English sensibility. Both pieces are among Elgar’s crowning achievements and deserve to be better known.
Kuhlau, Malling: Piano Quartets
Title: Kuhlau, Malling: Piano Quartets
Artist: Copenhagen Piano Quartet
Label: Dacapo
Format: SACD

The Da Capo label exists primarily to promote the music of Danish composers, who tend to be considered marginal. Both the composers on this new CD are unfamiliar, Malling particularly, but their music is of a notably high quality. Kuhlau was an almost exact contemporary of Beethoven, and this serious and substantial Third Piano Quartet serves notice that he urgently deserves revival. If nothing else, his tunes are very memorable, but this music is unquestionably among the most assured and accomplished of its time, and the Piano Quartet has a strong sense of drama and vision. Otto Malling, by contrast, was writing in the late 19th century, and his Piano Quartet is more concise than Kuhlau, but nonetheless offers an almost Brahmsian expressivity and elegance. If you enjoy chamber music, and want to investigate a wider range of repertoire, this is a very good place to start, but in truth anyone who appreciates excellent music and musicmaking will enjoy this disc.
Granados: Goyescas (opera version)
Title: Granados: Goyescas (opera version)
Artist: Josep Pons, BBC Symphony Orchestra and BBC Singers
Label: Harmonia Mundi
Format: CD

Goyescas is an unusual opera. Granados first created his unforgettable cycle of piano pieces of the same name, in which form they have been recorded many times, notably by Garrick Ohlsson on Hyperion. In order to create an operatic version Granados had to elaborate the music and get a libretto written that would work around the existing score. Despite the utilitarian sound of all this, the resulting work is utterly charming, and has always been well-received; however, it remains rarely performed, and this lovely new recording on Harmonia Mundi is to be greatly welcomed. As the title suggests, the opera relates to paintings by Goya, but the dark and sinister qualities of some of his painterly work are not in evidence here; the predominant tone is exuberant and melodious, Spanish-flavoured and richly orchestrated, with occasional castanets. And, to everyone’s pleasure, the incomparable and melancholy la maja y el ruiseñor melody is present, as a soprano aria in Scene 3. If you already know the piano Suite you will find this operatic rewrite fascinating, not to mention delightful; if you are a newcomer to Granados’ romantic tunefulness this is a rare and exceptional introduction to his warmhearted soundworld. I’m going to call this an indispensable release.
Mahler: Symphony No 1 (original version Titan)
Title: Mahler: Symphony No 1 (original version Titan)
Artist: Francois-Xavier Roth, Les Siecles
Label: Harmonia Mundi
Format: CD

Some recordings are simply essential. Mahler worked on his First Symphony for virtually a decade, during which time it underwent substantial changes, from a five-movement so-called Symphonic Poem, entitled Titan, to the untitled four-movement First Symphony that we are familiar with today, with the Blumine movement dropped altogether and a proposed new title, Aus dem Leben eines Einsamen (From the Life of a Lonely-one), proposed and quietly abandoned. There have been several recordings of the original version of the piece, but François-Xavier Roth and his orchestra Les Siècles offer a radical rehearing of the Titan, with instruments and performance practice appropriate to the time of its première. This recording has already attracted excited reviews and anyone who loves Mahler (which is most of us, I suspect) should hear this revelatory new version of music we thought we knew.
Faure: Requiem; Franck: Symphony in D minor
Title: Faure: Requiem; Franck: Symphony in D minor
Artist: Johanette Zomer, Stephan Genz, La Chapelle Royale, Collegium Vocale Gent, Orchestre des Champs-Elysees, Philippe Herreweghe
Label: Harmonia Mundi
Format: CD

There has been a renewed interest in recent years in the first version of Fauré’s Requiem, notably a stand-out version by Les Siècles included in our March newsletter, but for this new release Philippe Herreweghe has returned to the 1901 version for full orchestra, in which the organ is less prominent and the orchestration more ample. Herreweghe is one of the great conductors of choral masterpieces—his Bach recordings are definitive—and this recording has already been described as “ravishingly beautiful” (the Observer). Coupled with it is a performance of César Franck’s only Symphony in D minor, one of the classics of late 19th century music, and a work of comparable sobriety to the Requiem.
Saint-Saëns: Symphony No 2, Danse macabre, Urbs Roma
Title: Saint-Saëns: Symphony No 2, Danse macabre, Urbs Roma
Artist: Madeline Adkins (violin), Utah Symphony, Thierry Fischer (conductor)
Label: Hyperion
Format: CD

We are somewhat overloaded with recordings of Saint-Saëns Third Symphony, and one has to wonder how many of the listeners to that work ask the question: why do we never hear the First and Second? In fact there are several recordings of these less familiar works, but they continue to sit on the edge of the repertoire, for no good reason. The Second Symphony, from 1859, is a dramatic early work of the long-lived Saint-Saëns, with more than a hint of Berlioz and Beethoven, but possessing already the characteristic Saint-Saëns ebullience and wit. Coupled with it on this excellent new Hyperion disc is an even rarer work, his Symphony in F, Urbs Roma, written three years earlier, and midway between the First and Second. It failed to find its way into the numbered symphonies for complicated reasons, and we suspect Saint-Saëns may have been unhappy with it, but as a youthful major work it holds much interest—not least musical. Separating these two formal, symphonic works is Saint-Saëns’ showpiece, the hilarious Dance Macabre—beloved of Liszt and Jonathan Creek fans. Covering the gamut from elegant to dramatic to funny, this CD offers a rounded portrait of the prodigious young Saint-Saëns.
Beethoven Piano Sonatas Opp 109, 110 and 111
Title: Beethoven Piano Sonatas Opp 109, 110 and 111
Artist: Steven Osborne (piano)
Label: Hyperion
Format: CD

It is scarcely worth applying superlatives to these last three Piano Sonatas of Beethoven; they are sufficiently great that the only comparable works are perhaps the last three Piano Sonatas of his almost-contemporary Schubert. It is also fairly certain that Beethoven regarded these works as his last statements in the form. Tackling these pinnacles of the repertoire takes a pianist of great vision and insight, and Stephen Osborne is one such. He has previously recorded several of the more famous Beethoven Sonatas, but also a range of other composers, from Britten and Ravel to Debussy and Feldman. Perhaps it requires this breadth of musicality and technique to adequately broach these culminatory works. Osborne’s readings are magisterial, from the genial rhetoric of the opening of Op. 109 to the sublime timelessness of the Arietta that concludes Op. 111 and offers, as the liner notes to the CD say, “a true foretaste of heaven”.
Nicodé: Ein Liebesleben and other piano works
Title: Nicodé: Ein Liebesleben and other piano works
Artist: Simon Callaghan (piano)
Label: Hyperion
Format: CD

Another virtually unknown composer, admittedly, but these works of the Jean Louis Nicodé, a German despite the name, are excellent, written in a mid-19th century idiom. The rather exotic cover image, (the Sphinx by Khnopff), gives a misleading impression of the music, which belongs firmly in the German tradition. Nicodé himself seems to have been an entrepreneurial and wide-ranging musician, organising performances of composers as different as Bruckner and Richard Strauss, and converting Chopin’s Allegro de concert into a work for piano and orchestra. The core of his musical language, as the CD liner notes observe, is a mélange of Schumann, Schubert, Mendelssohn, Chopin and Anton Rubinstein—conservative but wholesome. This is a delightful CD, replete with that slight flavour of nostalgia that is so often a feature of German romantic piano music. Simon Callaghan plays the works with commitment and an appropriate bon goût—highly recommended.
Havergal Brian: Symphonies Nos. 7 and 16
Title: Havergal Brian: Symphonies Nos. 7 and 16
Artist: New Russia State Symphony Orchestra, Alexander Walker
Label: Naxos
Format: CD

In case there is anyone out there who has not heard the story, Havergal Brian was a British composer, somewhat neglected by the mainstream, who wrote a Gothic Symphony that requires a thousand performers and lasts almost two hours. Surprisingly, there have been several notable performances of the work, and there is a recording of a Prom performance on the Hyperion label. Not content with this feat, he then proceeded to write a further 31 symphonies, the earlier ones also still large-scale but gradually becoming more concise—the last 25 were written in the final 20 years of his life. Symphony No. 7, the first one on this CD, is the last of his extended symphonic utterances, and although it is written in a glorious C major, it has a rhythmic and melodic complexity that is rivetingly interesting. Brian’s music is often somewhat on the strange side, which I suspect is one of his chief appeals. By comparison, the other Symphony on this important Naxos release, No. 16, is a compressed single-movement work that derives its ideas from the Persian Wars, and has a distinctly archaic and subtly martial flavour. Balancing these two dense and impressive works is a light-hearted overture, The Tinker's Wedding, which shows Brian in a completely other light.
Dvořák: Saint Ludmila
Title: Dvořák: Saint Ludmila
Artist: Adriana Kohutkova (soprano), Karla Bytnarova (alto), Tomas Cerny and Ondrej Saling (tenors), Peter Mikulas (bass), Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir, Leos Svarovsky
Label: Naxos
Format: CD2

Now this was a surprise: I’ve heard symphonies, concertos, string quartets, even an opera by Dvořák, but I was not aware that he had written a large-scale oratorio. Yet more remarkably, the work was commissioned for the Leeds Festival; however, the work was not well-received and Dvořák  rewrote it. This later version was premièred in Prague in 1901. Despite its apparent religious theme, the oratorio is a declaration of Czech nationalism, and uses a libretto by the Czech lyric poet Jaroslav Vrchlický. It has been popular in the Czech cultural world ever since. The work is characteristic Dvořák, expressive and tuneful, but with dramatic and unexpectedly Handelian turns. This new recording from Naxos is given by Slovak performers, and has an idiomatic flavour. It will undoubtedly please Dvořák fans to encounter an unfamiliar work of his, but Saint Ludmila  will likely also appeal to lovers of the oratorio genre.
Wolf, Reger: Orchestral Songs, performed by Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau
Title: Wolf, Reger: Orchestral Songs, performed by Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau
Artist: Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (baritone), Munchner Rundfunkorchester, Philharmonisches Staatsorchester Hamburg, St. Michaelis-Chor Hamburg, Monteverdi-Chor Hamburg, Stefan Soltesz (conductor), Gerd Albrecht (conductor)
Label: Orfeo
Format: CD2

It is rare to hear orchestral songs by Hugo Wolf, let alone Max Reger; to hear them sung by the greatest baritone of his generation is a treat indeed. This set from Orfeo devotes a disc to each composer, and Fischer-Dieskau is accompanied by the Munich Radio Orchestra under Stefan Soltesz for the Wolf, and the Staatsorchester Hamburg with Gerd Albrecht for the Reger. This music will not be to everybody’s taste, but its concentrated expressivity will doubtless find an audience.
Splendour Of Venice - Music For Cornetts, Violins, Sackbuts
Title: Splendour Of Venice - Music For Cornetts, Violins, Sackbuts
Artist: La Pifarescha
Label: Pan Classics
Format: CD

Music changed around 1600. The radical younger composers of the late-16th century were heading a trend that led away from Renaissance polyphony towards an innovative proto-Baroque that led to the evolution of opera and the instrumental sonata. One of the creative hubs of this change was Venice, and this new CD from ensemble la Pifaresca revels in the sound of the new Venetian music, with its emphasis on massive sonorities, antiphony, and instrumental colour, especially the brass timbres of cornetts and sackbuts. There is little quite as grand as this music, and along with lesser figures, la Pifaresca include works by the Gabrielis and Monteverdi, pioneers of the emergent Baroque. Beautifully recorded and consummately performed, this is the sort of recital that makes new friends for early music.
R Strauss: Concerto for Horn and Orchestra
Title: R Strauss: Concerto for Horn and Orchestra
Artist: Staatskapelle Dresden, Christian Thielemann (conductor)
Label: Profil Medien
Format: CD2

Thielemann conducting Richard Strauss sounds like a perfect match. On this intelligently programmed 2CD set, Strauss’ First Horn Concerto, written when he was 18 and still a student, is paired with the even earlier Serenade for Wind instruments, and together these two juvenile works give a picture of a precocious and confident young man. The remainder of the set is given over to two very late works: another piece for wind ensemble, Sonatina No. 1 From an Invalid's Workshop of 1943, and the consummate Metamorphosen for strings from 1945. The dual contrast between winds and strings, and youth and age, gives this release an unusual and telling expressive intensity. Recorded live with the Staatskapelle Dresden, the performances have a lovely warmth and immediacy that benefit this richly-scored music.
Telemann: Chameleon
Title: Telemann: Chameleon
Artist: New Collegium
Label: Ramee
Format: CD

A contender for the title of most prolific composer ever, Telemann was also stylistically varied and adventurous. Godfather to CPE Bach, and acquainted with Handel, he was one of the most highly regarded composers of his time; why his reputation has lapsed somewhat in the intervening centuries is hard to understand unless it is a consequence of his chameleonic stylistic versatility. On this delightful new CD from Ramée, the ensemble New Collegium have collected together examples of Telemann’s range and accomplishment, from the Italianate to the pastoral. For lovers of Baroque instrumental music this CD should be highly welcome; for those of us not yet Telemann fans it may well be revelatory.
Brahms: Sonatas for violin and piano
Title: Brahms: Sonatas for violin and piano
Artist: Pierre Fouchenneret (violin), Eric Le Sage (piano)
Label: B Records
Format: CD

This CD traverses Brahms’ entire output for violin and piano: the three Sonatas and the movement from the composite F-A-E Sonata for which he, Schumann, and Schumann’s pupil Albert Dietrich provided movements. The three canonical Sonatas are beautiful works, written between 1876 and 1888, during Brahms’ summer holidays in lakeside forests, and all possessed of a mellow optimism and almost Schubertian warmth. Fouchenneret and le Sage deliver performances that capture the largely untroubled character of the works; le Sage’s piano has a particularly beautiful tone that suggests a period instrument. The concluding Scherzo from the F-A-E Sonata provides a sudden burst of energy and ends the CD with a flourish.
Brahms The Five Sonatas for Violin and Piano, Vol 1
Title: Brahms The Five Sonatas for Violin and Piano, Vol 1
Artist: Ulf Wallin (violin), Roland Pontinen (piano)
Label: BIS
Format: SACD

By contrast, Ulf Wallin and Roland Pöntinen on BIS have decided to extend the Brahms Violin Sonata repertoire to include the two Clarinet or Viola Sonatas Op. 120 that Brahms transcribed for violin in 1895, some years after the Third Violin Sonata. This requires the works to be spread over two volumes, and on this CD, Volume I, they include the canonical First Violin Sonata, the F-A-E Scherzo, the first of the two transcribed Op. 120 works, plus a pair of song transcriptions. If one had to choose between this CD and the previous one, considerations might be that the two transcribed Sonatas offer a rather different compositional flavour to the canonical three; Pöntinen’s piano has a more modern sound; and the broader repertoire range may be more appealing to some listeners. Otherwise both discs offer exquisite music-making and heart-warming repertoire.
Sibelius: Lemminkainen Suite, etc.
Title: Sibelius: Lemminkainen Suite, etc.
Artist: BBC Symphony Orchestra, Sakari Oramo (conductor)
Label: Chandos
Format: CD

Once upon a time, as they say, Sibelius’ Swan of Tuonela was one of Classical Music’s great pop hits, heard regularly and familiar to all. Nowadays the Lemminkäinen Suite (also known as the Four Legends from the Kalevala) that includes the Swan is by no means as well-known, and it is pleasing to see Chandos release a new performance of these quintessentially Sibelian works. Also included in the program is the Suite from the incidental music to Belshazzar's Feast that Sibelius wrote for a play in 1906. This is an example of that strange phenomenon of Scandinavian exoticism, like Carl Nielsen’s Aladdin or Ludolf Nielsen’s Lakschmi, and presents Sibelius in an unexpected light. Belshazzar's Feast is musically both interesting and appealing, and deserves to be better known. Rounding out this very attractive CD is a performance of Spring Song, a more characteristically Nordic Sibelius score.
Tartini: The Devil's Trill Sonata
Title: Tartini: The Devil's Trill Sonata
Artist: Andrew Manze
Label: Harmonia Mundi
Format: CD

Tartini himself gave the Devil’s Sonata its sobriquet, after a dream that prompted the composing of the work—ironic, for a composer whose parents wanted him to be a monk. Tartini’s virtuosity was renowned in his lifetime, and his works highly regarded, although only the Devil’s Trill has remained in the broader repertoire. On this new CD, the first in Harmonia Mundi’s Camerata Obscura series that links photography and music, Andrew Manze performs four major works of Tartini without any continuo or accompaniment, as originally intended. The Devil’s Trill opens the program, followed by a set of Variations on a theme  of Corelli (who was himself a noted violinist), a Violin Sonata in A minor, and a Pastorale in Scordatura—a technique where the strings are retuned. Violin aficionados and Baroque collectors will find this disc indispensible—Manze is one of the great violinists of our time—but adventurous music-lovers may also be won over by the sheer intelligence and wit of Tartini’s music.
Lassen, Scharwenka, Langgaard: Violin Concertos
Title: Lassen, Scharwenka, Langgaard: Violin Concertos
Artist: Linus Roth (violin), BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Antony Hermus (conductor)
Label: Hyperion
Format: CD

Hyperion’s Romantic Violin Concertos series has reached Volume 22, a respectable number, even if it pales alongside the 78 of the Romantic Piano Concertos. This latest CD presents two large works, and one shorter piece, by two Danes and a Pole.  Eduard Lassen, from Copenhagen, was writing in the latter half of the 19th Century, and his musical language has something of the pastoral tone of Dvořák. His Concerto, from 1888, is a fairly expansive work of great charm, and an almost operatic melodiousness. Not wishing to disappoint, but the second composer, Scharwenka, is not the great pianist and composer Xaver, but his older brother Ludwig Philipp. Written in 1894, the Scharwenka Violin Concerto is a big, bold and distinctive work. Completing the program is an intrinsically more interesting piece, the tiny Violin Concerto of the notable Danish rebel Rued Langgaard, whose works include the bizarre opera Antikrist, and the Ligeti-foreseeing Music of the Spheres. Like some of his Symphonies, Langgaard crafts his Concerto as a condensed single-movement utterance that lasts under ten minutes; it is not one of his ‘adventurous’ works, and adopts a traditional romantic musical language (although he cannot resist the temptation to be add a prominent piano part). These three works admittedly do not add anything distinctively new to our musical understanding, but they engage us with their charm and musicality.
Kantaten—Bach relatives
Title: Kantaten—Bach relatives
Artist: Vox Luminis, Lionel Meunier
Label: Ricercar
Format: CD

The Ricercar label can always be relied upon to provide authentic and compelling recordings of early music, in this case the 17th Century German Baroque. On this latest release ensemble Vox Luminis apply themselves to the spiritual concerts and sacred cantatas of JS Bach’s ancestors, in this instance, Heinrich (1615-92), Johann Christoph (1642-1703), and Johann Michael Bach (1648-94). The music is of a uniform sobriety and dignity, and the performances are exemplary. Completing the CD is a performance of the first version of JS Bach’s cantata BWV4, Christ lag in Todesbanden.
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Written and compiled by Chris Dench

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