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Classical - Released June 3, 2016 | Chandos

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Chamber Music - Released June 3, 2016 | Chandos

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For its 2016 release on Chaconne, Chandos' early music line, Ensemble Meridiana has chosen the theme of love, and selected several Baroque pieces that flirt with the subject by Joseph Bodin de Boismortier, Jean-Fery Rebel, and Michel Corrette. The ensemble plays period instruments and brings considerable knowledge of authentic Baroque practices and styles to its performances, but Les Voyages de l'Amour is far from a dry, scholarly presentation, because the players infuse the performances with great enthusiasm and deliver the music with vivid colors and delightful virtuosity. The Simphonie pour l'arivée des Génies Elémentaires is the only excerpt from Boismortier's opera-ballet, Les Voyages de l'Amour, but it opens the program with high energy and prepares the way for other vibrant chamber pieces. Rebel's Les caractères de la danse is a comparable tour de force of Baroque dance forms and sonorities, though the Sonate Sixième for violin, viola da gamba, and harpsichord is a somewhat sober piece in a formal and abstract vein. But the playfulness and bright instrumentation of Boismortier's Premier ballet de Village en trio, Op. 52 restores the program's buoyant mood, and the subsequent Sonate III, Op. 14, the Concerto à cinq parties, Op. 37, and the Sonate IV, Op. 37 offer a variety of instrumental combinations that refresh the ear. The Concerto comique VI, Op. 8, "Le Plaisir des Dames" by Corrette is a vigorous romp that allows the ensemble to show off its skills, and brings the album to a rousing finish. © TiVo
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Classical - Released March 25, 2016 | Chandos

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Classical - Released February 26, 2016 | Chandos

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Classical - Released July 31, 2015 | Chandos

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Classical - Released May 26, 2015 | Chandos

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Trying to find gems among the largely uninspiring material written by English composers in the generation after Handel has been a favorite pastime of English musicians for years. The latest entry is John Christopher Smith, who, like his father before him, served as Handel's copyist. The father had known Handel in Germany, and both men were named Schmidt at birth. The younger Smith wrote several oratorios, including one based on Paradise Lost, that are occasionally performed and recorded, but this recording of these Six Lessons for harpsichord, Op. 3, by keyboardist Julian Perkins is a world premiere. They hold the listener's interest, for they're more than "lessons": they actually qualify as virtuoso works, although Smith isn't known for having been a touring player. The nearest comparison from southern Europe would be Domenico Scarlatti, with the frequent hand-crossings and register effects coming straight out of the music of that composer. Smith's thematic material is not as instantly memorable (he didn't have flamenco musicians to inspire him), but there's plenty of energy and excitement. Each Lesson is in three or four movements, making a good fusion of Italianate and French structures with the Scarlattian style. Perkins adds heavy ornamentation to repeats, seeming a bit defensive about this in his booklet notes, but there's plenty of evidence both in English music and beyond for this procedure, and it fits Smith's overall style. The program opens with a Handel arrangement of one of his opera overtures for keyboard, another intriguing rarity. Perkins alternates two harpsichords (one described as "fruity") for additional variety, and the result is an album that can be recommended to fans of English music. © TiVo
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Classical - Released April 28, 2015 | Chandos

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Classical - Released February 24, 2015 | Chandos

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Classical - Released September 2, 2014 | Chandos

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Classical - Released June 3, 2014 | Chandos

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Classical - Released May 6, 2014 | Chandos

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Classical - Released April 1, 2014 | Chandos

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Classical - Released January 7, 2014 | Chandos

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Classical - Released May 7, 2013 | Chandos

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Concertos - Released March 5, 2013 | Chandos

Booklet Distinctions 4 étoiles Classica
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Classical - Released January 1, 2013 | Chandos

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Ballets - Released November 6, 2012 | Chandos

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Sacred Vocal Music - Released November 6, 2012 | Chandos

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The Anglican anthem is an elaborate, often festive polyphonic form roughly comparable to the motet from Continental countries. With strong liturgical connections, the anthem of the late 17th century tends to contain conservative elements, and so it is with this collection of anthems by Henry Purcell and his slightly older contemporary, Pelham Humfrey (1647-1674, meaning that he died at an even younger age than Purcell did). In Purcell there are such elements as the striking half-step dissonances in Remember not, Lord, our offences, Z. 50 (track 1). The two works by Humfrey include up-to-date dramatic solo writing combined with choral polyphony that harks back to the 16th century. It's an appealing and unusual combination from a rarely heard composer, and the presence of the two Humfrey works is the main attraction of this release. The booklet seems to concede as much with its heading of "Humfrey/Purcell: Anthems," even though the vast majority of the music is by Purcell. When it comes to Purcell, you can do better. The sound, usually a Chandos strong point, is unaccountably muddy, and good luck even to native English speakers in understanding the texts of these works, where text is important. The soloists, especially bass Neal Davies in the beautifully dark O Lord my God of Humfrey, are engaging, but the boys' Choir of St. John's College, Cambridge, is a bit uncertain in higher registers and seems somehow overmatched by the music. Worthwhile for those with an interest in English music of the 17th century, for the performances of the unusual Humfrey pieces are also the strongest on the album. © TiVo
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Classical - Released September 4, 2012 | Chandos

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Classical - Released June 5, 2012 | Chandos

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This is an unusual recording of William Byrd's choral music for several reasons. First, it involves the Great Service, an Anglican work (nobody's first choice with the Catholic Byrd), and an amorphous and not terribly often recorded one at that. Second, the singers of Musica Contexta perform with a hypothesized period English pronunciation that may well be authentic but takes a bit of getting used to. The Service is filled out with organ versions of Byrd motets in an attempt to give it not its original form, but at least something of the flow it would have had in performance. And most unusual of all is the intrusion of instruments, in the form of the English Cornett and Sackbut Ensemble, into the pristine world of Renaissance. This rests, as annotator Simon Ravens admits, on largely circumstantial musicology: the three cathedrals where manuscripts of the Great Service exist had cornetts and sackbuts in their collections, and the Chapel Royal would certainly have had them at its disposal. The work has been performed with organ accompaniment, but probably never with the Renaissance wind group heard here, which divides itself effectively into loud and soft subgroups. The recording in no way definitively solves the problem of how this work is to be performed, but it's defensible and well worth hearing for Byrd's admirers. The musical effect will largely depend on how you hear the music itself: did Byrd sign on emotionally to the Anglican service, or was he going through the motions? If the former, the instruments will underscore a grand manner in his music that was unique for his era. The engineering at London's St. John's Church is attractive, but it tends to overwhelm the texts, which are going to be hard enough in this reading for even native English speakers to understand. © TiVo