Monday, January 16, 2017

Castillon, Alexis de. (1838-1873) Piano Trios, opus 4 & 17.

From my collection.
Bought in November 2016.
First listen: 23-11-2016.
Second listen: 16-1-2017.
Label: Ligia.
Recording dates: Not mentioned.
Recording venue: Palazzetto Bru Zane, Venice, Italy.
Recording engineer: Eric Baratin.
Running time: 62:40.
Classical relevance: Well worth buying.

Works performed:
See heading.

Works performed by:
Trio Nuori.

This composer is a great unknown to many of us classical music lovers, and I am not surprised anymore of discovering such fine composers that have been ignored in the large amount of good offers in that area. Now he is compared or it is said of him that he is the French Robert Schumann. Such a epitaph is not fitting and does no justice to the extraordinary talent of Castillon.  He is an altogether different beast in musical matters, and this you will quickly hear. A gentle and easy going man, that is out to impress, not by pomp and circumstance but by finely chiseled compositions that will charm anyone out of his  mood, and make it better. It all fits together in these melodious piano trios. It's meandering through your senses in such an easy going way, that you do not notice the passing of time, but feel encapsulated as in a dream. And the awakening is crude when the music stops, the warmth gone, and the protective layer undone. 
In that respect he is unique and original and deserves a permanent place in the collections of anyone that cares about music.
The recording is very good, with a fine intimate sense around the instruments. Even in this there is a harmony hard to escape. The performance could not be better.



Thursday, January 12, 2017

Cantem Nadal. Noël Baroque Occitan. Folkloristic Christmas Music.

From my collection.
Bought in November 2106.
First listen: 23-11-2016.
Second listen: 12-1-2017.
Label: Ligia.
Recording dates: March 2009.
Recording venue: Chapelle Saint Baptiste, Toulouse, France.
Recording engineer: Eric Baratin.
Running time: 63:16.
Classical relevance: Great fun this music.

Works performed:
See heading.

Works performed by:
La Mounède. (Instrumentalists and Traditional singers.)
Les Passions. (Singers and instrumentalists)
Les Sacqueboutiers.

This disc is about discovering a musical heritage, simple and beautiful melodies to please your ears and heart alike. In that sense this CD has everything going for it. It is a mix of all kind of traditional instruments, and manners of singing. Folkloristic music of a very decent level, that needs to be heard and will put a smile on everyone's face. Good natured performances, and a lot of fun instruments, and folksy voices. There is no reason for letting this pass for the festive season. The sound is good, not as detailed as I would wish but that's me, nitpicking. The only drawback for me, is this French chauvinism of keeping everything worth while to know in the french language, and no need to translate texts or info into another language, God forbid. Many small French labels have no pretension at being sold outside their borders.
This said and warned, I still recommend it for the music . 




Desprez, Josquin. (1450-55-1521) Masses.

From my collection.
Bought in November 2016.
First listen: 20-11-2016.
Second listen: 12-1-2017.
Label: Ligia.
Recording dates: August 2011.
Recording venue: L'Église de Javols (Lozère, France)
Recording engineer: Jean Marc Laisne.
Running time: 65:00
Classical relevance: Nice performance, but it will no add more as you already might know.

Works performed:
Mass:
La sol fa re mi.
Gaudeamus.

Performed by:
Metamorphoses Biscantor, Maurice Bourbon. 

Well this performance is a mixed blessing actually. The voices are good, but not exceptional. Very earthbound I have to say, and missing the spiritual depth this music needs. Of course moments of beauty are spattered around but not in a coherent manner. There is not much nuance or fine detailing in the singing, and the dynamics are sometimes badly chosen, but the choir balance is okay. Intimacy is missing, and the choir sounds bigger as it is due to the recording, that gives too much ambient info, and causing the sound to be fuzzy at times. Furtheron in the recording the sound is modified in a good sense, but that took them quite some time to hear this, which is a pity, and does not contribute to the success of the compositions. So overall this is a pleasant interpretation, but it will not replace or come near to existing recordings already on the market, it simply has not enough class, and is a bit matter of fact. And another example of not thinking outside the box, the French editors of the booklet did not find it necessary to give the text of the masses, but filled the booklet with silly and useless info. A so called interview with Josquin and the director of this ensemble, dear o dear, what a puberal exercise....The layout of the booklet is very tasteful, that's the other side of  my criticism.


Mouton, Jean. (c.1459-1522) Anna requiescat in pace. Déploration sur la mort d'Anne de Bretagne-Motets.

From my collection. 
Bought in November 2016.
First listen: 17-11-2016.
Second listen: 12-1-2017.
Label: Ligia.
Recording dates: September/October 2002.
Recording venue: Eglise Notre Dame de Sancerre, France.
Recording engineer: Eric Baratin.
Running time: 54:15.
Classical relevance: Well worth having.

Works performed:
See heading.

Work performed by:
Ensemble Jacques Moderne, Joel Suhubiette.

It is always a treat to find music by Jean Mouton. He wrote much, but is recorded in tiny quantities. So doubly welcome is this disc, which gives us some very fine Motets, plus some instrumental  compositions. The motets are divided in equal parts for Soprano and viols or Choir and viols. The CD starts with"Quis dabit oculis nostris" in which the engineer Baratin has to find his recording balance, so he fiddles around the buttons for a full 7 minutes, before he has found this balance. Why can they not try before recording I wonder? The choir is too forward, and the voices melt together in a fuzzy warm blob of sound, with no detailing at all. He has it right, from the second track on, and delivers then a lucid well detailed and warm soundstage. So he is able, but thinks it okay to mess around before he gets there.
Just listen to this wonderful soprano in "Maria Virgo prescripte Angeli" she really sounds like a angel, so well is her voice captured. No vibrato anywhere, and a full yet detailed sound from the choir, They sing at times very earthbound. Ideally I would prefer a smaller choir for the motets, especially in the "Magnificat" but apart from that I find this a very successful performance. A very good start into the Ligia recordings I bought a week ago.
Safely recommended.



Machaut, de Guillaume. (c.1300-1370) Messe de Nostre Dame.

From my collection.
New release 2016.
Bought in April 2016.
First listen: 27-4-2016.
Second listen: 19-7-2016
Third listen: 20-9-2016.
Fourth listen: 12-1-2017.
Label: Glossa.
Recording dates: March 2015.
Recording venue: Augustine's Church, Antwerp, Belgium.
Recording engineer: Alexandre Fostier.
Running time: 72:50.
Classical relevance: Reference recording.

Works performed:
See heading.

Performed by:
Graindelavoix, Bjorn Schmelzer.

Well well, if you want to be challenged by this familiar work by Machaut, this would be the recording to do so.
In this interpretation Schmelzer is putting all his creativity into the moulding of all the individual voices, every singer is an entity in itself, and has a distinct soloistic imprint.  Artistically this is very impressive, and for me this recording is immediately promoted to a first place among my other interpretations. The focus on individual voices gives a swing to the music, and that works just fine, with many Byzantine influences, it's almost as I hear parts of the Greek Orthodox liturgy. All the singers are at the top of their trade. This is not a easy way of singing, for Schmelzer is searching for individuality in the voices which for him is above homogene ensemble singing. That they all pull it off in such a perfect way is a small miracle indeed. It brings you much closer to the heart of Machaut's music. Thus a reference recording and very much recommended.
The sound is excellent.



Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Ockeghem, Johannes. (c. 1410-1497) Missa Caput. Parisian Machicotage for the Mandatum Ritual. (Top recommendation)

From my collection.
Bought in October 2016.
First listen: 25-10-2016.
Second listen: 11-11-2016.
Third listen: 11-1-2017.
Label: Glossa,
Recording dates: August 2004.
Recording venue: Sint Pauluskerk, Antwerp, Belgium.
Recording engineer: Jo Cops.
Running time: 58:52.
Classical relevance: Essential.

Works performed:
See heading.

Performed by:
Graindelavoix, Björn Schmelzer.

Unusual is the first thing that comes to mind. Fascinating is the second predominant feeling. Sung by professional and semi professional singers, and creating a very authentic sound, probably a very common performing practice in Ockeghem's time. However that may have been, to hear this music brought to the foreground by Graindelavoix is a revelation to me, and the truth of this very organic interpretation rings in my ears with every note. The Byzantine background is very audible.
It has a raw tinge to it all, musicality is more important as the technical perfection of every note, and that suits me fine. The meaning and intent of the Missa Caput has never been more clear to me, thus with eyes closed one steps into a world long forgotten but becomes so real when listening to Graindelavoix. In all respects Schmelzer is a valuable musician, driven and highly motivated to get every ounce of discovery out of the music for centuries hidden. For me this one counts as a reference interpretation. As for the recording that is nearly State of the Art. All wishes fulfilled. It's hard to understand the technical essay by Schmelzer in the booklet, added the fact that all the French is not translated, and the Dutch text is a classic textbook disaster, one quickly gets lost in a labyrinth of intellectual humbug. Better read some excellent essays on the internet, which will lead to a better understanding.

Top recommendation.






Gesualdo. Carlo Gesualdo da Venosa. (1566-1613. Sesto libro di Madrigali, 1611.

From my collection.
Bought in October 2016.
First listen: 20-10-2016.
Second listen: 1-11-2016.
Third listen: 8-11-2016.
Fourth listen: 11-1-2017.
Label: Glossa.
Recording dates: June/July 2012.
Recording venue: Chiesa della BV al Colletto, Roletto, Italy.
Recording engineer: Giuseppe Maletto.
Running time: 77:55.
Classical relevance: As far as Gesualdo goes this is pretty essential. A perfectly blended ensemble, and to my ears this can not be sung better as it comes here.

Works performed:
See heading.

Performed by: 
La Compagnia del Madrigale.

A new ensemble, founded recently the booklet says, but gives no date as to the beginning. But whatever, the voices on this disc are experienced and well suited to the music of Gesualdo. He did not write easy music, far from it. As a renaissance composer his polyphonic writing is complicated, and a tour de force for singers. But also your ears might suffer if it is badly performed. And I must say that I heard more bad as good recordings of his music.  A Sei voci is an ensemble I appreciate much. It is by no means easy music to approach, but some think it is, judging by bad interpretations that came my way.
I bought two volumes of this group, the present one and  Terza libro, the second instalment as far as I know in this series. As far as the singing is going I have nothing but praise to add. The voices are well blended, the female singers do not scream your ears of, and the male voices are admirable in their expression. You can hear that in every item on this disc. The recording is clear as a bell, and the ambiance in which they sing is perfectly suited for their voices. The air around them will produce a very natural recording, so in that sense all is as it should be!
A near State of the Art recording no less. A very welcome addition to my collection.