Presto News - 29th July 2013
Tudor Church Music from Stile Antico
A new disc by Stile Antico is always a delight; this is a bold, relatively new vocal ensemble whose collaborative approach to music-making – eschewing a conductor, and rehearsing and performing as a collective – brings great freshness and originality to their performances of the early repertoire they specialise in. Their latest release presents just a tiny selection of the huge range of pieces restored to musical life by the Tudor Church Music project, carried out in the 1920s under the auspices of the Carnegie Trust (which celebrates its centenary this year). This initiative produced ten volumes of easy-to-use, modern editions of Tudor and Renaissance choral music, and its impact on the repertoire of church choirs in Britain would be hard to overstate – music of this period had had a very low profile before the project was undertaken, and its current popularity is in many ways due to the TCM series’s success among musicians.
Stile are known for providing a warmer, fuller choral sound than some other early music ensembles, and this disc is certainly no exception. There’s a fine line to be trodden with pieces such as Gibbons’s O clap your hands – often taken at a brisk tempo in view of its upbeat subject matter, with that first line an open invitation to a punchy, even boisterous performance. Stile’s interpretation caught me by surprise not so much for its speed, though this is indeed slower than I am used to hearing, but for its sustained legato tone. The result: a piece that can sound choppy and staccato here has an almost regal broadness to it.
As well as some time-honoured staples of the Tudor repertoire (Byrd’s Ave verum Corpus makes an appearance too, alongside his five-part Mass), there are other pieces on this album that fully justify its title – the phoenix image is a good metaphor for works such as Robert White’s Portio mea, salvaged from relative obscurity by diligent scholarship and championed by those with an eye for lost gems. Portio mea is a setting of words that don’t often appear in music, a supplicatory passage from the middle of Psalm 119 which draws from White a delightfully fluid work – the effortless, ethereal but still full sound of the Stile Antico soprano section is a joy to hear, particularly in the higher passages.
For me the still, poised opening of Tallis’s In ieiunio et fletu is one of the most haunting moments in the Tudor repertoire, and Stile Antico judge perfectly the buildup from this hushed beginning towards the more agitated expressions of grief that form the meat of the work. The original version of this piece is extremely low in pitch, with the basses sent down to bottom Ds on a regular basis, so it’s common to transpose it up in modern performance, sometimes by up to a sixth. Stile have chosen to lift the pitch by just a third, which results in quite a deep and male-dominated sound. The basses and particularly baritones lend a welcome richness to certain passages – and the effect of some of the low, tightly-spaced chords towards the end of the piece is wonderful.
Stile Antico’s choice of repertoire here is well balanced between established favourites and lesser-known “phoenix” works that are rarely if ever recorded. The performances are of the exceptionally polished standard that has earned the group such a high reputation around the world; it’s a real box of treasures!
To celebrate this new release, until mid-September we’re offering 25% off not only this disc but all Stile’s other albums as well – full details available here.
The Phoenix Rising: Tudor Church Music
David Smith - email@example.com
29th July 2013
Judith Bingham: Choral Music
Jonathan Vaughn (organ), Wells Cathedral Choir, Matthew Owens
This disc, from Wells Cathedral Choir under the direction of Matthew Owens, features first recordings of a number of Bingham’s sacred choral works. The living relationship between the composer and the musicians is clear from the vivid, committed performances given by the children and gentlemen of the choir. Also included is an extensive work for solo organ, Christmas Past.
Vivaldi: Concerti per fagotto
Alberto Grazzi (bassoon), Ensemble Zefiro
Antonio Vivaldi was the most prolific composer of concertos for bassoon, with thirty-nine surviving. He shows perfect understanding of the mercurial temperament of the instrument, which is able in an instant to move from the comic to the tragic, from the melancholy to the joyful. Alberto Grazzi presents his personal choice of seven concertos showing the expressive qualities of the bassoon, magnificently supported by Ensemble Zefiro.
Philip Glass: Cello Concerto No. 2 "Naqoyqatsi"
Matt Haimovitz (cello), Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Dennis Russell Davies
In 2001, Glass composed the music for a film called Naqoyqatsi: Life as War. The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra commissioned Cello Concerto No.2 Naqoyqatsi, giving the composer the opportunity to have his film music reborn as a concerto. The resulting recording is drawn from live performances and is a dynamic seven-movement work, conducted by long-time Glass champion Dennis Russell Davies with soloist Matt Haimovitz.
Wagner: Die Walküre (Act One)
Nina Stemme (Sieglinde), Johan Botha (Siegmund), Ain Anger (Hunding), Orchester der Wiener Staatsoper, Franz Welser-Möst
In Wagner’s Ring of the Nibelung, the first act of Die Walküre takes up a special place. The love-triangle of the twins Siegmund and Sieglinde and the ominous Hunding possesses its own dramatic tension and self-enclosed trajectory. At this most recent production at the Vienna State Opera, the twins were sung by Nina Stemme and Johan Botha. Their antagonist Hunding was sung by Ain Anger, whose mighty bass voice was paired with a subtle art of characterisation.
Cipriano de Rore: Missa Doulce mémoire & Missa a note negre
The Brabant Ensemble, Stephen Rice
The Brabant Ensemble continue their investigation into unknown jewels of the Low Countries Renaissance. This recording presents some of the least well-known aspects of the output of a composer who is justly famous in other fields. The disc contains two Mass settings based on French chansons, Missa a note negre on a composition by Rore himself, and Missa Doulce mémoire, which takes one of the sixteenth century’s greatest hits by Pierre Regnault dit Sandrin as its inspiration.
Wagner: Das Liebesverbot
Anna Gabler (Mariana), Michael Nagy (Friedrich), Peter Bronder (Luzio), Charles Reid (Claudio), Simon Bode (Antonio), Franz Mayer (Angelo), Frankfurt Opera and Museum Orchestra, Sebastien Weigle
After the success of Die Feen, Oehms Classics is proud to present one of Wagner's early operas, Das Liebesverbot. The mini-series will be completed with Rienzi as part of the Frankfurt Opera edition.
Karajan 1970s (82 CDs)
Herbert von Karajan (conductor)
Between 1970 and 1979, Herbert von Karajan recorded an incredible 82 CDs for Deutsche Grammophon. This box contains the core of his repertoire, including: symphonies by Beethoven, Brahms, Bruckner, Mahler, Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky and others; Mozart and Beethoven recordings with violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter; major choral works by Bach, Brahms, Mozart, and Verdi. All CDs feature their original LP cover art, most of them in their original couplings.
Sommernachtskonzert 2013 / Summer Night Concert 2013 (DVD)
Vienna Philharmonic, Lorin Maazel
The Summer Night Concert of the Vienna Philharmonic is an annual open-air event that takes place in the park of Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna with the palace as a magnificent backdrop. In 2013 Lorin Maazel conducted the concert for the first time; Swiss tenor Michael Schade joins the orchestra as guest-soloist. With this year’s programme the orchestra celebrates Wagner and Verdi in honour of their anniversaries.
Blu-ray version also available here.
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