Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Bach, J.S & Bach, CPE. Concertos for Harpsichord.

New acquisition.
Bought in October 2015.
First listen: 30-8-2016.
Label: SEON.
CD 58 from 85.
Recording dates: November 1981.
Recording venue: Lutherse Kerk, Haarlem, The Netherlands.
Recording engineer: Stephan Schellmann.
Running time: 47:09.
Classical relevance: Only as a example of early authentic interpretations.

Works performed:
J.S. Bach.
Concerto No. 1 in D minor, BWV 1052, For Harpsichord, Violins, Viola, and BC.

CPE Bach.
Concerto in D minor, WO. 23, for Harpsichord, Violins, Viola, and BC.

Performed by:
A lot of famous instrumentalists without a ensemble name, led by Gustav Leonhardt.

I have to be honest about the performance of J.S. Bach's Harpsichord concerto. It's a dead duck, and bored the Dickens out of me. Too slow, to deliberate and academic, almost no expression to speak of, not inspiring, and frankly monotonous. In fact it sent me almost to sleep, had not a phone call woke me rather abruptly.  The Harpsichord playing is an example of the worst playing I encountered by Leonhardt. Even if one takes the date of recording 1981, the authentic world was out of the early stages of experimenting, it signifies for me as a ship without a steering wheel. The orchestra is not much of an inspiration either, it misses the punch and the detailing throughout the work.
At least the CPE Bach concerto gets a better performance, with inspired playing in the first and third movement from all participants and accents are faithfully reproduced. True enough the second movement Poco Andante comes almost to a standstill. It sounds to me like a long lamenting legato, that hits the pot to smithereens, and no tea is to be had after this. Even the harpsichord gets a grandma treatment, shivering and suffering from bouts of old age. There are 100 % better recordings to be had, this is one to count down and never to be played again. 47:00 minutes of boredom for me. Sound is a bit thin. 

Monday, August 29, 2016

Bach, J.S. (1685-1750) Musical offering BWV 1079.

New acquisition.
Bought in October 2015.
First listen: 29-8-2016.
Label: SEON.
CD 57 from 85.
Recording dates: March 1974.
Recording venue: Doopsgezinde Kerk, Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
Recording engineer: Dieter Thomsen.
Running time: 48:04.
Classical relevance: A very nice document of pasts time.

Works performed:
See heading.

Performed by:
Barthold Kuijken, Sigiswald Kuijken, Wieland Kuijken, Marie Leonhardt, Robert Kohnen, Gustav Leonhardt.

It goes at an easy pace, no hurry but very relaxed music making, with enough expression in all the solo parts to warrant interest. Not the most exciting interpretations around, but well enough considering the date of recording. There is enough of personality in the performers playing. Barthold Kuijken is really outstanding in his playing on the transverse flute. When the whole ensemble is playing they infect each other with enthusiasm, and so get a atmosphere of genial music making. Solo playing is less involving, especially the extreme soberness of Leonhardt Harpsichord playing. But by the by I am quite charmed by the music and playing.
The sound is surprisingly natural.

Saw this box for a very competitive price.

I have all the old recordings on EMI of the Hilliard ensemble, and when I saw this box released by Warner with newer interpretations, and liking the samples I jump to the pleasure. Six discs for only 13€ is almost too ridiculous for words. At JPC de gentlemen and gentlewomen of course. They have a Warner box sale going......

Finger, Gottfried. (c.1670, or much earlier-1730) Sonatae XII pro diversis instrumentis, opus 1. Second rerun. (First review)

From my collection.
Bought in July, 2016.
First listen: 1-8-2016.
Second listen: 29-8-2016.
Label: Accent.
Originally released: 2011.
Recording dates: March 2011.
Recording venue: Himmelfahrtskirche Munchen-Sendling, Germany.
Recording engineer: Uwe Walter.
Running time: 60:58.
Classical relevance: Well to my ears a CD to have and hold.

Works performed: 
See heading.

Works performed:
Echo du Danube, Christian Zincke. (On authentic instruments)

I fell with my nose in the butter when acquiring about 6 CD'S from the label Accent with little known Baroque composers. For all of them without exception are of a high quality in musical terms. And the recordings are also state of the art. 
Gottfried Finger you might ask? Who? Well exactly my sentiment also! I never even heard mention his name among the many composers I have from the Baroque era. So is he a catch? Yep I am sure of it. Finger was known for his excellence as a Gamba player, and so it is no surprise that the compositions on this disc shows you what can be done with this instrument, and this is much. Warm, rich of melodies, and a musical construction that works in every single note. >Tonal sensuousness you could call it, displaying experimental combinations in subtle shades never heard before, but also integrated elements of local folk music<He grew up in an environment of greats like, Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber, Heinrich Schmelzer, Antonio Bertali, so no wonder then, that the outcome would be nothing short of sheer delight. You should really give this music a chance, you will be like me overwhelmed with admiration for this master on the gamba.

Bach, J.S. (1685-1750) Brandenburg Concertos complete.

New acquisition.
Bought in October 2015.
First listen.
Label: SEON.
CD 55 & 56.
Recording dates: January/July/December 1976 & June/March 1977.
Recording venue: Lutherse Kerk, Haarlem, The Netherlands.
Recording engineer: Dieter Thomsen.
Running time: CD 55=44:58. CD 56=54:51.
Classical relevance: In the light of being pioneer recordings valuable, though not essential.

Works performed:
See heading.

Performed by:
A host of famous and not so famous performers, led by Gustav Leonhardt.

Lately I played a lot of Bach from the SEON box, and have been happy with them to a certain extent, but at closer hearing I notice that I have grown out of the early and pioneering recordings on authentic instruments. Do not get me wrong, I highly praise what people like the Kuijken brothers, Frans van Bruggen, Leonhardt, Bijlsma and many others did for the furtherance of authentic performances, but I find them to be rather bloodless, me getting older and maybe not wiser. I acknowledge the expert playing, the phrasing, the attention to dynamics, and the internal balance, but the emotional commitment is rather short in this music. After all Bach was a human with volatile emotions and passions! Here and there I enjoy what I hear, but listening to it in the context they fail me in totally and intrinsically savouring what is on offer. It jogs on in an even trot, but it does not challenge you in any way. I also miss the musical coherence in the proceedings, the geniality of Bach's music, the specialness so you will. I know there to be much more, by listening to other recordings, authentic and on modern instruments. The tempi are more or less in a minuet tempo which can bore me easily. Sure you get more time to hear all the details in the solo parts, but that will simply not do for me in the long run. I need more life in this music! I appreciate the gentleness in the playing though. So all in all excellent for its time, but for another hearing of these concertos I turn to more livelier performances. After all time is short, and I must make choices, however painful they are.
The recording is as good as can be expected. May I bring in one final point of criticism towards Sony music. The designer that had this idea about the cardboard sleeves should be boiled in his own pudding and eat it too. To get the cd's out of these sleeves is a tour de force which irritates me beyond believe.

>As an addendum let me add, that I loved the tempo of the third movement of Concerto No 3 in G major, as fast and lively as it should be, wish the whole first CD was like this.
Concerto No. 4 in G major in its entirety was exhilarating, especially the Allegro first movement, and the Presto, third movement. All in all the tempi of Concerto No. 4,5 and 6 were better as the first three concertos. Maybe the difference in recording dates? Anyways I really enjoyed the second disc, all was as it should be.<

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Atterberg, Kurt. (1887-1974) & Rangström Ture. (1884-1947) String Quartets.

New acquisition.
Bought in August 2016.
First listen.
Label: CPO.
Recording dates: November 2009.
Recording venue: Petruskirche, Stockholm.
Recording engineer: Stephan Reh.
Running time: 61:56.
Classical relevance: Essential to have, especially when you like Atterberg's Symphonies.

Works performed:
Kurt Atterberg.
String Quartet opus 11.
String Quartet, opus 2/opus 39.

Ture Rangström.
String Quartet, Un notturno nella Maniera di E. TH. A Hoffmann

Performed by:
Stenhammar Quartet.

Well after many years of contemplating this part of Atterberg's oeuvre I finally bought this interpretation, for the sound samples made me more than curious after the whole result of the Stenhammar Quartet. And I must say I am pretty impressed, more so as I expected. I say from my standpoint these are reference recordings and near perfectly recorded. Tempi are well chosen, and every phrase has deep meaning to it. The way this Quartet colours the music is astonishing to say the least. Also the precision with which they execute every melody without fault is a feat of technical brilliance and leaves nothing to be desired whatsoever.  Atterberg at it's finest, a worthy addition to his orchestral works. Rangström is a man to to reckoned with also, his music is as mesmerizing as Atterberg's and has a deepness of thought that keeps lingering in your ears. Another kind of brilliance but as effective in portraying the musical argument.  A short work, but devastatingly beautiful.  Tonal music, a bit stretched but not too much so. Brilliantly conceived.
Recommended. No need to hold back, budget price and a no brainer really.

Bach, J.S. (1685-1750. The complete Sonatas and Partita for Flute.

New acquisition.
Bought in October 2015.
First listen: 27-8-2016.
Label: Seon.
CD 53 & 54 from 85.
Recording dates: February/December 1975.
Recording venue: Doopsgezinde Kerk, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Recording engineer: Dieter Thomsen.
Running time CD 53: 46:11- CD 54: 50:55.
Classical relevance: Good and well recorded interpretations.

Works performed:
See heading.

Works performed:
Sigiswald Kuijken & Lucy van Dael, Violins.
Wieland Kuijken, Adelheid Glatt, Bass viols.
Anner Bijlsma, Cello.
Anthony Woodrow, Violone.
Gustav Leonhardt, Harpsichord.
Frans Bruggen, Transverse Flute.

The authentic world in the seventies had a very pronounced idea how music should be performed on original instruments. It should be undone from all excessive emotions, vibrato, embellishments which were alien to what the experts thought was not done. That has resulted in sometimes bloodless results with a very academic outcome. So the other side of the scale as it were. Throwing the baby away with the bathwater maybe? In this case yes but in the majority of recordings I heard all is good. Luckily enough the more they understood of authentic performance style the better the interpretations became, but in the seventies that was not clear enough. A few CD'S in the SEON box suffer badly in that respect. Lately I heard the French Suites performed by Gustav Leonhardt, and the Bach Cello sonatas performed by Anner Bijlsma. There was no joy, no emotional commitment in their interpretations, not even minor embellishments, so it sounded like the sermon of a very strict Lutheranian vicar, no deviation from the straight path of so called truth.
So where does that leave these interpretations on CD 53 & 54. Somewhere between almost there and better. The tone is more relaxed, certainly there were Bruggen comes in. There are nice embellishments, even allowing for some emotional input, and a view that is changing from rigid to slightly opening a broader view on the performance style. My opinion is that Leonhardt and Bijlsma play better and freer when part of a ensemble, which is the case here. I have no qualms about their input, its good and playful. Bach wrote quite some fun in the music with fine contrapunt and overall you can hear that. So all in all I got more out of this interpretations as I expected. Whether you like this or not is a question of sampling some soundbites.
It's is well recorded, but when Bruggen blows quite loudly it results in a nasty tone. That is the only downpoint as far as I am concerned.
Recommended with caution.