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An Idiot Listens to Western Music: Corelli (1714)

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sethmadsen
Thesis, Antithesis, Synthesis


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#166 | Posted: 11/14/2018 03:32 | Post subject: Reply with quote
Baroque Music Period


J. S. Bach: Die Kunst Der Fuge In Der F...Della Fuga

Era: Baroque
Year: 1750
Form: Fugue
Score: 84

Thoughts: This felt like my brain was getting cleaned and my ears messaged. Or maybe it was the other way around. I'm starting the Baroque backwards - starting with the last thing J. S. Bach wrote: Die Kunst der Fuge or the Art of the Fugue. This piece had no instrumentation assigned, and this interpretation/arrangement I chose because I felt the different voices I felt shared the frequencies better, allowing you to really experience the Fugue to the max. I gone dun liked it... a lot and stuff.

Info from wikipedia about Fugue:
Most fugues open with a short main theme, the subject,[5] which then sounds successively in each voice (after the first voice is finished stating the subject, a second voice repeats the subject at a different pitch, and other voices repeat in the same way); when each voice has entered, the exposition is complete. This is often followed by a connecting passage, or episode, developed from previously heard material; further "entries" of the subject then are heard in related keys. Episodes (if applicable) and entries are usually alternated until the "final entry" of the subject, by which point the music has returned to the opening key, or tonic, which is often followed by closing material, the coda.[6][7] In this sense, a fugue is a style of composition, rather than a fixed structure.

Info about this piece from wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Art_of_Fugue
The Art of Fugue (or The Art of the Fugue; German: Die Kunst der Fuge), BWV 1080, is an incomplete musical work of unspecified instrumentation by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750). Written in the last decade of his life, The Art of Fugue is the culmination of Bach's experimentation with monothematic instrumental works.

This work consists of 14 fugues and 4 canons in D minor, each using some variation of a single principal subject, and generally ordered to increase in complexity. "The governing idea of the work", as put by Bach specialist Christoph Wolff, "was an exploration in depth of the contrapuntal possibilities inherent in a single musical subject."[1] The word "contrapunctus" is often used for each fugue.


Info from the publisher, Naxos:
Hans-Eberhard Dentler, a graduate medical physician but also an outstanding cellist and pupil of the renowned Pierre Fournier and founder of a Bach Society in Italy, has occupied himself with this opus over the course of many years. Because he finally wanted to realize Bach's score in a manner true to its spirit and sound, he found a concept for his ensemble ''L'Arte della Fuga'' that unifies its more profound scholarly background with practical musical and artistic aspects. The puzzle of this work can only be solved when one grasps its rootedness in the sphere of Pythagorean musical thinking. Dentler's edition, scored for violin, viola, violoncello, double bass and bassoon in an utterly well thought-out arrangement of movements will soon be published by Schott Verlag in Mainz.
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AfterHours



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Location: Oregon, USA

#167 | Posted: 11/15/2018 00:14 | Post subject: Reply with quote
I know I've alluded to this once before but this is probably the most impressive log/diary in all of BEA. Quite an undertaking, not to mention the research hours, time, commitment, knowledge and experience required - WOW.

It seems likely Art of Fugue was intended for organ. I don't remember who made the best case for this but I think it might have been Helmut Walcha. Whoever it was left virtually no doubt and I will post it if I find it.
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sethmadsen
Thesis, Antithesis, Synthesis


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#168 | Posted: 11/15/2018 03:24 | Post subject: Reply with quote
AfterHours wrote:
I know I've alluded to this once before but this is probably the most impressive log/diary in all of BEA. Quite an undertaking, not to mention the research hours, time, commitment, knowledge and experience required - WOW.

It seems likely Art of Fugue was intended for organ. I don't remember who made the best case for this but I think it might have been Helmut Walcha. Whoever it was left virtually no doubt and I will post it if I find it.


Well thank you. It has been quite a bit of work to not only catalog here on BEA all these albums, but then also to see if I could find a good recording for each work, mostly by sampling the most famous parts across 4 or so different recordings. I probably got it 50% correct and need to work on fixing about 25% of it... might be as high as 75%... with the caveat of it's on Spotify, which a lot of great recordings aren't.

And really I'm just using online resources, I'm not an expert at all. "An Idiot's" experience... kind of based off that Ricky Gervais show idiot abroad because I'll likely be making a lot of first experiences. I do have years of unconscious competence due to my families ties - my brother studied with Harold Farberman and overall my family has just loved classical music. Having already easily 5,000 hours of listening to classical music from a less deliberate fashion random chances to appreciate it live and having shared a room with my brother growing up... let's just say falling asleep to anything from Mozart to Mahler was a nightly occurrence. I also played an upright in high school for both the orchestra and jazz band... but to be honest I enjoyed playing jazz more.

You are likely correct in regards to Die Kunst der Fuge, as it was an unfinished work and that is very fitting considering. I also read that he initially was writing this piece using a harpsichord, but that doesn't mean it wasn't intended to be on an organ. I really did like the arrangement/interpretation this gave though, as like I said it gave the frequencies/registers of the instruments room to breathe, it also allowed a bit of synergy between the players.
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sethmadsen
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#169 | Posted: 11/15/2018 04:35 | Post subject: Reply with quote

Handel: Water Music; Music For The Roya...es Nations

Era: Baroque
Year: 1749 for Music For The Royal Fireworks and 1717 for Water Music
Form: Dance music in forms of Minuets, Bourrées and Hornpipes with Sicilian movement
Score: 86

Thoughts: The second Suite of Water Music is easily top 10 material of the Baroque. This performance is fantastic because the instrumentation seems to ring true to the time period, giving proper mix to the harpsichord and lute which many modern recordings ignore. Jordi Savall I've come to learn is quite the expert in early music and his interpretation is fantastic. I also learned (see below) that the second suite actually is the 2nd and 3rd suite combined, something I didn't know before but I guess when it got published it got a bit of a "remix" if you will. I later listened to Music for the Royal Fireworks- up until this point I never listened to both back to back and realized they actually were a lot alike except decades apart.

Info on Water Music from Wikipedia (excerpts):
The Water Music is a collection of orchestral movements, often published as three suites, composed by George Frideric Handel. It premiered on 17 July 1717, in response to King George I's request for a concert on the River Thames.

The Water Music is scored for a relatively large orchestra, making it suitable for outdoor performance.

The first performance of the Water Music suites is recorded in The Daily Courant, the first British daily newspaper. At about 8 p.m. on Wednesday, 17 July 1717, King George I and several aristocrats boarded a royal barge at Whitehall Palace, for an excursion up the Thames toward Chelsea. The rising tide propelled the barge upstream without rowing. Another barge, provided by the City of London, contained about 50 musicians who performed Handel's music. Many other Londoners also took to the river to hear the concert. According to The Courant, "the whole River in a manner was covered" with boats and barges. On arriving at Chelsea, the king left his barge, then returned to it at about 11 p.m. for the return trip. The king was so pleased with the Water Music that he ordered it to be repeated at least three times, both on the trip upstream to Chelsea and on the return, until he landed again at Whitehall.

There is evidence for the different arrangement found in Chrysander's Gesellschaft edition of Handel's works (in volume 47, published in 1886), where the movements from the "suites" in D and G were mingled and published as one work with HWV 348.



Info from Wikipedia on Fireworks (excerpts):
The Music for the Royal Fireworks (HWV 351) is a suite for wind instruments composed by George Frideric Handel in 1749 under contract of George II of Great Britain for the fireworks in London's Green Park on 27 April 1749. It was to celebrate the end of the War of the Austrian Succession and the signing of the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle (Aachen) in 1748.

On 21 April 1749 an audience, claimed to be over twelve thousand people, each paying two shillings and six pence (half a crown) rushed to get there, causing a three-hour traffic jam of carriages on London Bridge, the only vehicular route to the area south of the river.
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#170 | Posted: 11/21/2018 05:52 | Post subject: Reply with quote

Handel: Solomon by Nicholas McGegan / F... Gottingen

Era: Baroque
Year: 1748
Form: Oratorio
Score: 82
Thoughts:
Unbelievable amount of work put into this (2 hours and 36 minutes). However it feels at times as a litany of recitatives (nothing terribly musical, rather vocals with simple accompaniment). I realize that's more or less what you get with an Oratorio, but I'm less interested in lyrical works like this. Solomon is a massive part of the old testament text, so the subject matter isn't without depth. Cut the baby in half! Overall I was impressed, but I feel the Messiah is a greater work. Although the review below disagrees, I actually like this recording. Not only is it a solid performance, but I actually felt the live aspect of and the venue chosen lent to a better experience. The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba did kind of stick out like a sore thumb... I'm curious as to the purpose of that to break from the feel of the rest of the oratorio. Music, spread thy voice around is another highlight musically.

Info from Wikipedia:
Solomon, HWV 67, is an English oratorio by George Frideric Handel. The anonymous libretto - currently thought to have been penned by the English Jewish poet/playwright Moses Mendes (d.1758)[1] - is based on the biblical stories of wise king Solomon from the First Book of Kings and the Second Book of Chronicles with additional material from Antiquities of the Jews by ancient historian Flavius Josephus. The music was composed between 5 May and 13 June, 1748 and the first performance took place on 17 March, 1749 with Caterina Galli in the title role at the Covent Garden Theatre in London where it had two further performances. Handel revived the work in 1759.[2]

The oratorio contains a short and lively instrumental passage for two oboes and strings in Act Three, known as "The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba", which has become famous outside the context of the complete work and was featured at the 2012 London Olympics opening ceremony as James Bond (Daniel Craig) goes to meet the Queen at Buckingham Palace.

AllMusic Review by Stephen Eddins:
Solomon, one of Handel's most compelling oratorios, has been well served on disc, and Nicholas McGegan's version on Carus makes a strong addition. The recording was made at a live performance at the Frauenkirche, Dresden, and that circumstance is one of the few drawbacks of the release. The sound is fine for a live performance, but there is some sense of distance between the listener and the performers, much like there would be in, well, a live performance. The sound of the singers and instrumentalists doesn't have quite the fullness and presence and depth that some recordings create. Again, it's not a major distraction, but it makes it hard to put more effectively engineered versions out of mind, particularly conductor Daniel Reuss' outstanding version on Harmonia Mundi.


McGegan's interpretation is solid, if somewhat conventional, without quite igniting the spark that can make the oratorio radiate joy and warmth and sensuality. As an example, the chorus that closes the first section, describing Solomon's marriage, "May no rash intruder disturb their soft hours," can seethe with an erotic charge, but here sounds somewhat polite and perfunctory. All the performers are first rate; the Winchester Cathedral Choir and FestspielOrchester sing and play with vigor and a high level of energy. The soloists are in strong voice. Countertenor Tim Mead is a convincing Solomon, singing with warmth and full, commanding tone. Sopranos Dominique Labelle as Solomon's Queen and the First Harlot, and Claron McFadden as the Queen of Sheba and the Second Harlot bring voices of shining purity to their roles. Labelle is particularly moving as the First Harlot, and her passionate entreaty to Solomon and her ecstatic response to his judgment are among the highlights of the album. The men, tenor Michael Slattery and bass Roderick Williams as the Levite, also deliver strong supporting performances. McGegan's Solomon may not rise to the head of the pack in its intensity and heat, but it's a solid and elegant performance.

http://www.musicweb-international.com/c..._83242.htm
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#171 | Posted: 11/25/2018 20:37 | Post subject: Reply with quote

J. S. Bach: Mass In B Minor by Otto Kle... Orchestra

Era: Baroque
Year: 1749
Form: Mass
Score: 90
Thoughts: Wow. Just wow. This is easily the greatest mass ever written. I didn't know this, but this really is basically a culmination of Bach's life works (figuratively and literally in a piecemeal fashion). Bach took bit he had written as early as 1724 and through the 30s and 40s added even more to culminate in the extremely powerful and dense work. Some of the work here you can hear influence music for centuries to come. Easily the best written piece of music I've visited along this journey. I love how the different mass sections take on significant emotions of joy or sadness or conviction. The instrumentation is superb and the vocals ring into centuries of influence. Mentally and emotionally inspiring.

EDIT: after 8 listens, I have yet to find any extremely memorable melodies. Amazing musicality, just no "tunes" - for me rhythm and melody are super key to my musical analysis, so I dropped this to a 90 (still best thing I've listened in this log). I'm also comparing this to the Messiah, which is full of tunes... but if taken the wrong way could also feel like a hallmark card... more on that soon.

Info from Archivmusic.com:
Quote:
In 1962, Walter Legge invited Klemperer to make a recording of Bach's Mass in B minor for EMI. Although the Mass was a work that Klemperer was strongly drawn to, he nonetheless declined the offer. He was reluctant to conduct the work using the vast forces that were typically employed for performances as he believed it should be performed with numbers similar to those that Bach would have envisaged. Several years later he proposed a recording of the piece using "authentic" forces of a choir of 48 and under 50 instrumentalists - hence this recording.

The Mass is an extremely important work. Bach originally composed a short version in 1733 as an offering to the new Elector of Saxony. The great composer then spent a decade studying Mass settings by composers both living and dead and only in 1748-9 did he complete the full version of the B minor Mass, recycling some of his best music thus far. To this day it remains a mystery why he composed the work, given the fact that it wasn't commissioned. It is suggested that he saw it as the highest musical form, setting the greatest of Christian rites and therefore both a personal statement of belief and the pinnacle of his life's work.

The Mass clearly meant a great deal to Klemperer, also, who stated that "for me Bach's B minor Mass is the greatest and most unique music ever written". On top of his "authentic forces" condition, Klemperer was very picky about way it was recorded and the choice of soloists. He worked hard to ensure that he captured the musical and dramatic effects he wanted - for example, making the choir sit down for Et Incarnatus Est to create a disembodied, ethereal sound - which works brilliantly.

The outcome is a wonderful recording. The Mass opens with the Kyrie, taken at a steady pace, which unfolds nicely and is appropriately full of pathos. The soloists are all excellent - Baker with her rich, mature voice outstanding in Laudamus Te, the tenor Nicolai Gedda quite - but not too - dramatic with just the right amount of vibrato, and baritone Hermann Prey and bass Franz Crass both lyrical and dexterous. Baker, meanwhile sings the stunningly beautiful Agnus Dei with an incredibly deeply-felt searing intensity. The singers work well together in the duets - particularly Baker and Giebel in a gorgeous rendition of Et In Unum Dominum.

The BBC Chorus are excellent, producing a gloriously full sound in Gratias Agimus Tibi, in an incredibly passionate Cum Sancto Spiritu, and in the exultant Sanctus, full of joy and glory - they are also wonderfully otherworldly and eerie in Et exspecto resurrectionem Mortuorum. Nor does the New Philharmonia Orchestra let the side down - listen, for example, to the beautifully gossamer instrumental introduction to Domine Deus or the tender, melting strings in Agnus Dei.

Klemperer has the balance just right in this performance - it is neither soupy and sentimental nor cold and clinical, but retains a wonderful dramatic quality without ever going overboard. The individual lines are allowed to sing out with clarity, and Klemperer's respectful approach does justice to the spirit of the piece as well as to the written music itself. Overall, this performance is full of a sense of radiance, beauty and nobility and is one I can heartily recommend.

-- Em Marshall, MusicWeb International


Info from Author: Nicholas Anderson

Quote:
Neither of these versions of Bach's Mass in B minor will make much, if any appeal to readers who appreciate developments which have taken place in the performance of baroque music over the past 25 years or so. Yet there are qualities, above all in the Klemperer version, which command our attention and sometimes deeply impress our sensibilities. I would, for example, always prefer Klemperer's monumental, grave and to my ears over-ponderous Kyrie—all 24 minutes of it—to some of the hurried, scrappy and superficial readings on period instruments which I have heard in the concert hall and occasionally on disc.

Klemperer's concept of the Mass is awe-inspiring not because it is slow (that to my mind is one of its serious drawbacks), but because it is thought out in meticulous detail with careful and consistent phrasing, has the clear articulation of an orator and comes over as both lovingly and deeply felt. Furthermore, instrumental playing is disciplined and crisp in ensemble and the line-up of soloists fascinating to anyone with a lively interest in the evolution of vocal techniques: Dame Janet Baker never sang more persuasively than at this stage in her career and Agnes Giebel, though past her best form, gives a fair account of the ''Domine Deus'' with Nicolai Gedda. Sadly, it is the BBC Chorus which I find least acceptable here. It sounds vast and has all the shortcomings of very large choirs—spongy entries, blurred focus, raucous tenors and stentorian, growling basses. The New Philharmonia Orchestra is on the excellent form which typified its playing in the 1960s; the brass and timpani are thunderous in the Gloria but there are many instances of delicately shaded passages from the obbligato players, above all Gareth Morris playing a wooden Rudall-Carte flute, although he is inclined to hurry, and Sidney Sutcliffe and Michael Winfield on oboes d'amore. The continuo group is much too stern and unyielding for my taste but it never could be accused of failing to do its job.

Robert Shaw recorded his version of the B minor Mass last year, although there is little here to suggest that it belongs to any other era than that of Klemperer. Shaw's tempos are in almost every instance faster than Klemperer's, though as often as not insignificantly so; the Atlanta Chamber Chorus sounds pretty sizeable to me, and pretty lacklustre, too—indeed, the Kyrie, though almost five minutes shorter than Klemperer's seems interminable with long drawn out legato phrases which are lamely articulated. The ''Christe eleison'' section comes over more convincingly though the upper strings sound scrawny and the rhythm is not steady.
The soloists provided my chief source of enjoyment. The two sopranos are well matched, John Aler has a fine voice and William Stone is impressively resonant. The Agnus Dei is well sung by Marietta Simpson though she is no match for Dame Janet Baker in the Klemperer. The instrumental- ists also comprise a strong and unified team with an engaging, lightly articulated violin solo in the ''Laudamus te'' and a jaunty inegale reading of the ''Domine Deus''. But the good intentions of the soloists are not enough to rescue the performance as a whole from seeming bland and comparatively aimless. That could never be said of Klemperer whose concept of the music and his evident familiarity with every architectural detail impose themselves on the listener right from the start. Klemperer, too, is better served by EMI's recording which is closer than the Telarc balance though in no way constricted.

In conclusion, I must say that neither of these versions is for me; I shall happily return to Andrew Parrott (EMI) or Gustav Leonhardt (Deutsche Harmonia Mundi/BMG) for period-instrument performances with scaled-down forces; and should I want to hear one with modern instruments and a larger choir then it would probably be the mid-price Karl Richter version (Archiv Produktion (CD) 427 155-2AGA2), though it, too, is patchy.'

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sethmadsen
Thesis, Antithesis, Synthesis


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#172 | Posted: 11/30/2018 04:42 | Post subject: Reply with quote

Handel: Messiah by Sir Neville Marriner...the-Fields

Era: Baroque
Year: 1742
Form: Oratorio
Score: 95
Thoughts: Funny enough I started listening to this the day after thanksgiving like many people's traditions are to start the whole Christmas thing (which I personally don't subscribe to, but found that serendipitous). Anyway, this work made me rethink the melodies of Bach's Mass in B Minor and found this album chalk full of fantastic melodies. I also really like this recording. The vocal and instrumental performances are spot on and provides a full performance (beware of the 45 minute Messiah performances... they are cutting it waaay down). At times this could feel like a hallmark/aunt betty greatest hits... but really when you listen to it in it's entirety you get this full picture of Christianity... the hope and despair... the mysticism revealed, etc. What I love most about it though is it's knack for creating invigorating music for nearly 2.5 hours. I never really feel likes this drags on. And for this time period, that really is something to accomplish... but really for any. I later learned that many, including Mozart, have spruced up this work and it makes me wonder what version was recorded here. According to the following, this recording is the original work. The recording really is probably the best there is due to it's authenticity of arrangements/etc., as well as superb performance/mix.

Info from asmf.org:
Quote:
This edition of Handel’s Messiah is a landmark recording both for the Academy and in the history of the work, being both the first recording made with the Academy’s own chorus, and the first (and as far as we are aware, only) recording of the version used by Handel for the work’s 1743 London premiere. Sir Neville Marriner’s deliberate choice to break with the massed-choir treatments of the past was greeted enthusiastically by the public, selling over a quarter of a million copies in the first three years, and leading Fanfare’s Michael Carter to remark in 2010:

“There have been many recordings of Messiah since this 1976 release and there will no doubt be many more to come, but few, if any, will match, let alone surpass, this of Marriner.”

The featured soloists are Elly Ameling (soprano), Anna Reynolds (alto), Philip Langridge (tenor), and Gwynne Howell (bass).


Info from arkivmusic.com:
Quote:
In the years after Handel’s death in 1759, Messiah was seen as the epitome of the oratorio genre. The monumental Westminster Abbey Handel commemoration in 1784 employed some 500 performers and went a long way to firmly implanting Messiah at the center of English musical life. In the 19th century its fame grew as did the number of performers. The Crystal Palace performance in the 1870s boasted 3,500 participants, 3,000 of them in the choir! And there was a time when many of us—primarily us baby boomers and our parents—were spiritually enriched by what I term this “traditional” version of Handel’s Messiah . Whenever we went to a live performance or heard it broadcast, we were—more often than not—seated in or listening to a performance from a venue with a large symphony orchestra, a chorus of a hundred or more voices, and a conductor using an edition prepared by an Englishman with the Dickensian-sounding moniker of Ebeneezer Prout, an edition far removed from Handel’s original.


In the middle of the last century, and predicated on the assumption that less is more, smaller orchestras were assembled and they began making use of Handel’s original orchestration. The choirs were also pared down, some to the point that they could fit comfortably into your garage. But contrary to what many of us might think, this approach was far from new. It was first taken up in the last years of the 19th century and therefore predates the small-ensemble approach by almost two generations! In June of 1894, Arthur Henry Mann, organist and choirmaster at King’s College, Cambridge, conducted a performance that swept aside generations of accretions. Mann reverted to Handel’s original instrumentation, restored the original texts, and used forces that matched those pressed into service by the composer. The performances took place at Cambridge Town Hall and received high marks in the Musical Times , but it took more than half a century for Mann’s carefully researched efforts to take root and to flower.


At some point after the end of World War II things began to change. Spurred by musicological research and a quest for Handel the way Handel may have heard and performed it forever altered the musical landscape, not just for Messiah but for Baroque music in general. Musicians began to resurrect instruments from the Baroque and to reinstate the performance practices of the day in what has become a never-ending quest for what is an unattainable authenticity. The bottom line is this: The best we can achieve is what I prefer to term an enlightened approximation.


As the end of the first decade of the 21st century draws nigh, and as a result of the musical archaeology of recent decades, most of us are aware that there is no definitive version of Handel’s Messiah , but there are probably others who need to be enlightened. A respectable number of selections, particularly the arias, can be found in different versions. These date from Handel’s time and were tailored for the abilities of specific soloists, a process that was a given in the 18th century. During the last 17 years of Handel’s life, Messiah was performed again and again, so for a variety of reasons a change in soloists was inescapable.


One characteristic that makes this easier and also makes Messiah unique among Handel’s oratorios is that there is no cast of characters. The story of the birth, suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth is told in narrative form, so transferring an aria from soprano to tenor or alto to bass could be accomplished without worrying about disturbing a dramatic structure. Messiah would undergo further changes by other hands as time passed. The two most notable were Mozart’s 1789 re-orchestration for a performance in Vienna and the aforementioned Prout edition, which dated from Victorian times and is still in print today.


While there have been many recordings of various versions of Messiah in the last quarter-century, Neville Marriner gave us the first—and to my knowledge the only—recording of the version used by Handel for the 1743 London premiere, on vinyl in 1976; this was rereleased on compact disc as part of London’s specially priced Double Decker series in 1995. Marriner’s choice of music used by Handel for the London premiere contains several items that differ drastically from the versions on which many of us cut our musical teeth. I have broken them down according to the parts of the oratorio.


In part I, the opening and closing ritornelli of No. 3, “Ev’ry Valley,” contain two measures that Handel cut after the Dublin premiere and restored later. “But Who May Abide” (No. 6) is totally different and furthermore it is missing the prestissimo section of the later version for alto. It should be noted here that part of the aria was written for the great castrato Gaetano Guadagni; there is absolutely no evidence that the longer version of the aria was ever assigned by Handel to a bass. The soprano version of this aria (found on Guild GMDD 7112/13) is almost never heard, even to this day. It had been transposed by Handel to a key that disturbs the flow from the A Major of “And the Glory of the Lord” to the D Minor of “Thus Saith the Lord” and “But Who May Abide.” The gigue -like quality of No. 18, “Rejoice Greatly,” is totally different from the common-time setting most of us know. “He Shall Feed His Flock” (No. 20) is here set for alto alone as opposed to the better-known version for soprano and alto.


In part II, the sequence of Nos. 29–32, later assigned to a tenor, are—in the original London version—sung by two soloists to enhance what Christopher Hogwood calls the contrast of desolation and optimism. “Thou Art Gone Up” (No. 36) was swapped about among bass, alto, and soprano in Handel’s time. Next comes No. 38,“How Beautiful Are the Feet,” which Handel set for soprano and alto, and concluded with a choral passage, “Break Forth.” No. 39 (“Their Sound Is Gone Out”) is a simple recitative. The well-known bass aria that follows (“Why Do the Nations”) is shorter and more dramatic than the later version and runs into the following chorus, “Let Us Break Their Bonds.”


As for part III, No. 50, “O Death, Where Is Thy Sting,” was cut roughly in half by Handel after the Dublin premiere, but the majority of manuscript sources retain the longer version recorded here. Finally, No. 52, “If God Be for Us,” is for soprano in some of the early versions, but it was sung by alto Susanna Cibber in both Dublin and London.


All of the variants used by Marriner and others prepared by Handel, save one, are contained in the appendices of the recording by Nicholas McGegan on Harmonia Mundi (HMU 907050/52). The missing item is a duet version of “How Beautiful Are the Feet” for two altos and chorus, which is not included in the Watkins Shaw edition of the score that holds the rest of the different versions.


This has been my personal favorite for many years, followed closely by the scaled-down and tastefully ornamented 1966 release on Philips conducted by Colin Davis. Marriner’s soloists were the best available, and all were Messiah veterans who took the music and the message to heart, drawing the listener in and holding them without exceeding taste or tradition. Elly Ameling’s “Rejoice Greatly” is a model of its kind, the gigue rhythm dancing its way along, and Gwynne Howell’s “The Trumpet Shall Sound” makes one think the Last Judgment is at hand! Anna Reynolds, too, is stunning and her reading of “He Was Despised” may be the most soulful ever recorded, save that of Kathleen Ferrier. Finally, the late Phillip Langridge perfectly captured the contrasting moods in “Ev’ry Valley” and “Thou Shalt Break Them.” Marriner’s choir (prepared by László Heltay) is adept and alert, performing with enviable agility, impeccable enunciation, and the required emotional gravitas when necessary. One need not comment on the contributions provided by Marriner’s Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, for the name says it all.


I have used a lot of space for this piece, and certainly appreciate the editor allowing me to indulge, but in my opinion, it was necessary to delineate the artistic strengths found and esthetic choices made. There have been many recordings of Messiah since this 1976 release and there will no doubt be many more to come, but few, if any, will match, let alone surpass, this of Marriner. It is truly a masterpiece!


FANFARE: Michael Carter

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sethmadsen
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#173 | Posted: 11/30/2018 04:53 | Post subject: Reply with quote

J.S. Bach: Goldberg Variations; Italian...or Pinnock

Era: Baroque
Year: 1741
Form: Aria and variations thereof
Score: 85
Thoughts: I really like this version (even though everyone loves the Glenn Gould version. Not only is it on the originally intended instrumentation (harpsichord), but I found the performance more lively. At first listen I'll admit the first track or two was an acquired taste for the harpsichord, but as the variations ensued, it clearly is the better rendition. It reminded me of that scene in the movie Amadeus where he meets Salieri and takes his tune and multiplies it's complexity without having to learn it. The "simple" aria then takes on 30 or so renditions of the same concept in amazing variations of complexity. Pretty cool musical idea. Having said that I will say I liked the Italian Concerto a bit more because it felt like it had purpose instead of different ways to do a math problem, if that makes any sense. Amazing playing and totally tickled my ears and brain.

Info from Arkivmusic.com:
Quote:
Trevor Pinnock's playing will have any perceptive listener eagerly sitting on the edge of his chair and demanding more: its bubbling vitality gives the set a cheerful, light-hearted character that is altogether unusual.

Johann Gottlieb Goldberg must indeed have been a remarkably precocious keyboard virtuoso if these superb variations were written for him to play to his master, Count Kayserling, for they were already published by the time that, at the age of 15, he became a pupil of Bach's. (There is an unsolved mystery here, since although Bach received for them a golden goblet filled with 100 louis d'or, no dedication or mention of Kayserling appears on the printed edition.) Forkel said that they were put to practical use to combat the Count's insomnia. One recording, by an artist whom gallantry prevents me from naming, would have sent the Count to sleep from sheer boredom; he might well have taken refuge in sleep as a means of escape from another, by a player living further north.

But to come to the present case, Trevor Pinnock's playing would not only do nothing to induce slumber, but on the contrary would have any perceptive listener (as the Count was) eagerly sitting on the edge of his chair and demanding more: its bubbling vitality and spring-heeled rhythm are immensely engaging, and the generally very fast speeds adopted give the set a cheerful, light-hearted character that is altogether unusual. (They also enable repeats of just over half the variations to be included on a single disc.) These lively tempi—Variations 3 (the unison canon) and 14 are perhaps the most extreme—are nevertheless mostly convincing (though the French Overture surely needs greater breadth?), and No. 7, which recent research has discovered to be marked Al tempo di Giga, trips along on the lightest of toes; which makes it all the odder that Pinnock plays the theme so slowly and with so much rubato. I feel, too, that in its context the No. 21 minor variation is too suddenly slow, and I'm personally convinced that the 'black pearl' No. 25 can exercise its full emotional effect without making the rhythm too elastic. But, taken as a whole, this set, recorded with lifelike fidelity, is a feather in Pinnock's (and Archiv's) caps.

– Gramophone [12/1980]
reviewing the original LP release of the Goldberg Variations

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#174 | Posted: 11/30/2018 05:03 | Post subject: Reply with quote

Vivaldi: Musica Per Mandolino E Liuto b... Lislevand

Era: Baroque
Year: 1741 (for 532 and 425 in 1725)
Form: Aria and variations thereof
Score: 90
Thoughts: This also seemed to be quite the authentic recording. I was pleasantly surprised with the Andante of 532 as it's one of my favorite tracks on a Yo Yo Ma and Bobby McFerrin album I've listened to since I was a kid. Vivaldi is potentially a forgotten composer who did much more than write the 4 seasons (in comparison to Bach and Handel). This is easily on par in regards to the humanity it portrays, the amazing melodies and textures and layers of beautiful music built here. At times it reminded me of some flamenco or similar. Easily the best lute music I've heard so far, but more important than the instrumentation chosen, the melodies and vibrant textured sounds developed here are simply amazing.

AllMusic Review by James Manheim
Quote:
The Vivaldi Concerto for mandolin and orchestra, RV 425, was an essential component of the 1970s classical LP collection -- with the mandolin amped up so loud in order to compete with a large orchestral string section that it sounded like an electric guitar blazing through an arena rock concert. Things have improved a bit since then, but balance between soloists and ensemble has always been a problem with the works featured on this release. The problem has rarely been solved so nicely as it is here. The group of string players used, a fine pan-European set of historical-performance specialists, is not especially small, and lutenist/guitarist/mandolinist Rolf Lislevand is elegant and clean but not arresting on his own. The key is how the whole ensemble works together to bring out the solos, sensitively shaping lines while keeping dynamic levels low enough to set off the soloists -- and, in trio-sonata works, defining the relationships among the soloists themselves. Especially attractive here are the two comparatively rare concertos and two trio sonatas that involve both lute and violin or viola d'amore (the final concerto, RV 93, is for two violins, lute, and continuo). Setting a sharp boundary between the realms of the plucked instruments and the bowed strings here is a real challenge. In a way, it's harder for the mandolin or lute to stand up to a single violin than to a whole group of them. But Lislevand and his cohorts bring it off in very carefully controlled environments in which the lute or mandolin is a full participant in the dialogue, a graceful dancer to the singing violin. Superb sound engineering from a Swiss studio also counts as part of the success of the performance; the temptation to use the resonance of a church to amplify the plucked instruments has wisely been resisted. This is a good addition to any Vivaldi concerto library and a very pleasant set of pieces for anyone who likes the mandolin or lute.


From Arkivmusic.com
Quote:
As part of their Vivaldi Edition, Naïve enables the collector to explore the extensive variety of the composer’s output from the collections housed at the National University Library in Turin. Described by Naïve as “The greatest recording venture of the 21st century” they are in the process of recording by category (sacred music, opera, concerti for winds, concerti for violin, cantata, etc.) the 450 manuscripts from the Turin collection. These manuscripts are from Vivaldi's personal collection of his own, hand-written music scores; his own private library at the time of his death.

One cannot help noticing Naïve’s strategy of using glamorous young photographic models on the front covers of their Vivaldi Edition. Although totally irrelevant to the music this imaginative approach is proving to be an inspired and successful, if controversial and highly recognisable, marketing exercise. I can vouch that Naïve are using the finest possible period-instrument ensembles, eminent baroque vocal specialists and the best choral ensembles in the field of historically informed performance. On this release, Rolf Lislevand is the soloist who presides over cutting-edge interpretations, employing a talented group of specialist period-instrument performers.

Lislevand first came to my attention a few years ago with a revelatory recital of unaccompanied seventeenth century French lute music titled ‘La Belle Homicide’ on Astrée Naïve E 8880. This superb release, recorded in 2003 at Maguelone Abbey in France, won my vote as a ‘2003 Record of the Year’.

The six attractive scores on the disc follow Vivaldi’s usual three movement fast-slow-fast design. The first work is the outstanding Concerto for 2 mandolins, strings and basso continuo, RV 532 with its buoyant and vivacious opening Allegro. The central Andante contains an intimate dialogue between the mandolin soloists and the final Allegro is quite stunning being packed with incident. The Trio for violin, lute and basso continuo, RV 85 is a generally introverted score and barely decorative. The Larghetto is tender and meditative with a closing Allegro that just bursts with energy.

The Concerto for mandolin, strings and basso continuo, RV 425 is an excellent score with vigorous and rhythmic outer Allegros and an enchanting central Largo of contemplative and nocturnal quality. Throughout the Mandolin Concerto one cannot help but notice the richly written parts for the string section. In the Concerto for viola d’amore, lute, strings and basso continuo, RV 540, the unusual blend of the two solo instruments is entrancing. The tender central movement Largo is evocative of a musical interchange between two lovers. I loved the playful Allegro that closes the Double Concerto.

I found the Trio for violin, lute and basso continuo, RV 82 an impressive score. It contains two good-humoured examples of the Allegro movement placed either side of a relaxing and affectionate Larghetto lento. The final score is the Concerto for 2 violins, lute and basso continuo in D major, RV 93. The melodic and memorable outer movements consist of an exciting and spirited opening Allegro giusto with a closing Allegro high on joie de vivre. The finest of all is the central movement Largo with one of the most beautiful melodies ever played on the lute. This is a score that could certainly be regarded as one of Vivaldi’s greatest hits.

Lislevand is an outstanding baroque guitarist who commands respect from the first note to the last with stunning interpretations that are awash with colour. He is at one with the emotional and technical demands of the music and I loved the way he imparts a spiritual, almost ethereal quality to the slow movements. The accompaniment is of the highest quality and I especially enjoyed the rich and varied basso continuo.

The Naïve engineers have provided especially warm and detailed sonics. The very close sound-picture at times even captures the breathing of the soloists and the operation of the instruments but the ear soon becomes accustomed.

Lislevand displays his impeccable credentials on this superbly performed and recorded release of Vivaldi mandolin and lute works from Naïve.

-- Michael Cookson, MusicWeb International

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#175 | Posted: 12/01/2018 06:29 | Post subject: Reply with quote

Rameau: Pièces De Clavecin En Concerts...ko Perkola

Era: Baroque
Year: 1741
Form: Chamber Music
Score: 80
Thoughts: hmm... hard to say if this is a bad performance, I just got done listening to some of the best music of the period, or if this really is as mediocre as it sounds. It's not bad by any measure, but really lacks something to make it anything worth listening to again. It's "nice" arrangements of a harpsichord violin and the viola da gamba. Seems like perfectly harmless music nobility might have playing in the background.

Quote:
Every so often a recording comes out of left field to take me completely by surprise. Such is the case here, a stunning new version of Rameau’s most popular (and only) set of chamber music from a trio of virtually unknown Finnish artists. Harpsichordist Aapo Häkkinen has been mentioned a few times in the pages of Fanfare , mostly as an accompanist, although he does have one solo album, a recording of the Goldberg Variations that Jerry Dubins raved about in Fanfare 33:3. These performers certainly don’t come out of a vacuum; like any modern-day European nation, Finland has been very active for many years in the period instrument/early music arena. The most conspicuous sign of this, perhaps, is the 14-year-old Helsinki Baroque Orchestra; Häkkinen serves as its artistic director.


The five suites of the Pièces de clavecin en concert are Rameau’s own arrangements of some of his most famous harpsichord music, and as such, the performances must center on and be driven by the harpsichordist. Häkkinen clearly is in charge: He adopts tempos that are often faster than the norm, imparting a wonderful freshness and verve to the music, yet amazingly, nothing ever sounds rushed. The string playing is the perfect complement to the keyboard work. Considering that the gambist must play a dual role in this music—as continuo bass to the harpsichord but also as a duet partner in the upper register with the violinist—Mikko Perkola’s contribution is memorable; seldom have both aspects of the part been so well realized or so clearly audible. Violinist Petri Tapio Mattson plays with grace and lovely tone, darting in and out of the musical fabric as needed. About all that’s missing is the optional flûte traversière part that Rameau indicated in about a half-dozen of the slower pieces; had the producers seen fit to include the flute, this recording would have gone straight to the top of my preferred list.


The recorded sound is amazingly clear and realistic, another compelling reason to buy this disc. I’m not quite ready to give up my previous favorite, a Channel Classics SACD with Trevor Pinnock and Rachel Podger. Nor would I want to be without the wonderful Das Alte Werk LP (was it ever released on CD?) that brought together Gustav Leonhardt, the Kuijkens, and Frans Brüggen, a classic if there ever was one.


FANFARE: Christopher Brodersen


Quote:
I’ve become increasingly fond of Aapo Häkkinen’s recording of the Goldberg Variations since reviewing it in 2009, and I was therefore more than happy to see his name appearing against some further favourite repertoire. Rameau’s Pièces de clavecin en concerts were written and published when his reputation as a composer of opera was already well established, and the nature of the music follows patterns which might relate to Couperin’s Concerts royaux and composers such as Mondonville. The character titles given to each movement also follow a tradition seen in Couperin and continued with composers such as Balbastre. Without such titles we might not ‘get’ each musical remark from the music alone, but given the association it’s not hard to hear the pecking provocations of L’Agaçante or the circular repetitions of La Timide. Rameau might not have given this music titles himself, “Several persons of taste and skill have done me the honour of naming some of these pieces”, but they do reflect the kinds of taste and subject of gossip with which he would have been only too happy to be linked. The basic content of the movements are the usual dance forms, but given the substance and contrasting variety of each Concert – a title which refers to ‘ensemble’ rather than performance context – there is a huge amount of lively and affecting entertainment to amuse even the most jaded of listeners.

The players on this recording have a fine synergy, and the blend and adaptation of the string instruments to the harpsichord – the composer’s stated intention – is expressed well both in the performance and the recording. Häkkinen and Perkola have worked together before, making their mark with a Bach release on the Naxos label. The Konsertihovi acoustic is not hugely resonant, so there is certainly no issue with clarity, though a margin of extra atmosphere might have been desirable. This is very much a question of individual taste; the recording is by no means dry or unattractive. The SACD layer opens out the spatial effect and definition of the instruments in the recording a good deal, though plain stereo is perfectly acceptable as well.

There are numerous recordings of this set of works around, and the lukewarm reception given by Kirk McElhearn to the London Baroque recording of this music on the BIS label (see review) is contrasted with plaudits given to alternatives such as that with Christophe Rousset on Harmonia Mundi’s bargain Musique d’abord label. The SACD recording is also not a unique selling point for this release from Alba, there already being a nice version on the Challenge Classics label with Trevor Pinnock and Rachel Podger.

I have very much enjoyed the Häkkinen/Mattson/Perkola trio’s performances, but would also encourage interested collectors to investigate versions which include transverse flute as part of the ensemble. Rameau himself doesn’t specify exact instrumentation in his published score, but the flute adds an extra element of colour to the sound, and can heighten the ‘doloroso’ effect of the more lyrical pieces. Of these, the Accent label has a nice recording with flautist Barthold Kuijken with other Kuijken family members and harpsichord player Robert Kohnen.

Dominy Clements

Read more: http://www.musicweb-international.com/c...z5YPYhWeFT

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