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Secular Vocal Music - Released June 4, 2021 | Ricercar

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It's always a wonderful thing when a dream-team of artists resurrects and ravishingly records lesser-known repertoire, and that's precisely what we have here from Leonardo García Alarćon's Capella Mediterranea, joined by sopranos Mariana Flores and Julie Roset. Alive roughly between 1582 and 1629, musician-courtesan Sigismondo d'India was writing just as the late Renaissance style gave way to the early Baroque, and in parallel with Monteverdi he was a key figure in developing that new musical language – one which broke free of the fixed rules of polyphony, and moved instead towards monodies in a more mannered style whose raison d'être was to express heightened emotion; D'India then consolidated that new, intensely expressive way of writing in the five books of accompanied monodies he produced between 1609 and 1623. And if all that sounds a bit textbook, the bottom line is that the selection of madrigal-esque accompanied pieces for one or two sopranos Alarcon has presented over this generous two-disc programme plunge the listener into such a world of silence-imbued, soulful melancholic beauty and contemplation that, once you've dived in, re-surfacing feels thoroughly painful. Of course it's Flores and Roset who play the starring roles in all this magic. In tonal quality alone they've been brilliantly cast, their respective ethereally pure voices a perfect match both for each other and for the music, Flores's tones just a shade softer and darker than those of Roset. Then there's their warmly expressive readings of the texts, and the technical control and colouristic nuance of their embellishments as they gently float their lines. Essentially, you're mere seconds into their curtain-raising duet, Ardo, lassa, o non ardo?, when you've clocked that this is album is a gold-plated keeper. Meanwhile the sensitive support from Cappella Mediterranea – appearing here in a chamber subset of lute, theorbo, harp and viola da gamba, led by Alarćon at the harpsichord and organ – is exquisitely delicate, lucid-textured and seductively shaped; tone-setting and responsive in equal measure, they've given Flores and Roset everything they need to bounce off. Listen to any one of these tracks in isolation and you'll give yourself a precious few minutes of contemplative bliss, but I'd be surprised if one proves to be enough. Essentially, this is an album to lose yourself in. © Charlotte Gardner/Qobuz
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Chamber Music - Released April 9, 2021 | Pierre Verany

Sebastián de Albero is less well known than his contemporaries José de Nebra, Antonio Soler, the great Farinelli, and, of course, Domenico Scarlatti. Nonetheless, his sonatas are appreciated by many harpsichordists who readily include them in their repertoire alongside those of Scarlatti, Soler, or Seixas. However, his oeuvre, limited owing to his premature death at the age of 34, gives us a glimpse of a musician brimming with originality and creativity. Sebastián de Albero died in 1756, leaving a collection of 30 sonatas, made up of 14 pairs of sonatas in the same key, and two fugues, one in position 15 to mark the end of the first part, which figures precisely in this recording, and the other at the very end to definitively close the cycle. Like Scarlatti’s sonata collections, Sebastián de Albero’s was found in Italy, specifically in Venice’s Marciana Library, surely brought by Farinelli, to whom Queen Maria Barbara had bequeathed her musical library as well as some of her keyboard instruments. It is interesting to pause for a moment on the case of the first two sonatas on this programme, which in fact seem to be related to two sources: first, with Sebastián de Albero at the beginning of his collection (Sonatas 1 and 2), and also in the copy of a collection of sonatas attributed to Scarlatti (Sonatas 11 and 12). This latter collection belonged to Ignacia Ayerbe (or Eyerbe), a young harpsichordist and very probably a student of Albero’s. It was seemingly Albero himself who introduced his own sonatas among those of the Neapolitan master, in homage to his colleague. This would prove to us that the two musicians knew each other and that they might have collaborated. Certain sources advance the hypothesis that Albero was one of the copyists of the collections of Scarlatti sonatas intended for Queen Maria Barbara. Yet a notable difference between the two emerges from the theme used by Albero, which is already closer to the aesthetic of musicians of Northern Europe, in particular Carl Philipp Emmanuel Bach, who opened the way to the new tastes that were dominant throughout Europe in the late 18th century. (© Maria Raskin translated by John Tyler Tuttle / Pierre Vérany - Arion)
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Chamber Music - Released March 26, 2021 | Passacaille

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Vivaldi’s Concerti ripieni are probably the most unusual works written by the Venetian composer. Some of these pieces, however, are particularly exceptional for various reasons, especially considering the artistic environment in early 18th century Venice. This recording presents Vivaldi’s most brilliant and at the same time bizarre works from this genre. These compositional experiments are sometimes quite extreme and far ahead of their time, such as the enigmatic Concerto conca, the solemn Sinfonia Al Santo Sepolcro, the avant-garde and at the same time archaic Concerto alla Rustica. This recording is the first collaboration of the Academia Montis Regalis with Enrico Onofri as principal conductor. © Passacaille
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Masses, Passions, Requiems - Released March 26, 2021 | Claves Records

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The Mass in B minor holds a very special place in J.S. Bach’s output: a work of grandeur, an opus ultimum, it was not composed as such but is the result of an assembly of pieces written at different times and for different circumstances. Bach worked on it during the years 1748-1749, until his eyesight, which had gradually deteriorated, was completely lost. The idea of bringing together pieces drawn essentially from the vast corpus of cantatas was not unusual; a similar approach was taken by several of his contemporaries, such as Handel, and Bach himself had done so for the short masses he composed in the late 1730s. These were called parodies. Moving from the German text of the cantatas to the Latin text of the masses meant adapting the vocal lines, with additions and deletions, polyphonic and harmonic enrichments, and changes in instrumentation. Throughout his life, Bach never ceased to revisit his works with a view to improving them.
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Sacred Vocal Music - Released March 19, 2021 | harmonia mundi

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Here is the work of a genius who died at the age of twenty-six: Pergolesi's Stabat Mater is one of the miracles of eighteenth-century sacred music. Nourished by their experience of ‘setting in resonance’ early and contemporary repertories, Riccardo Minasi and the Hamburg musicians shed an astonishingly modern light on these moving pieces, in which the voices of Giulia Semenzato and Lucile Richardot intertwine in the most sublime of communions. The Stabat is echoed by Joan Rossell’s poignant Salve Regina, long attributed to Pergolesi himself. © harmonia mundi
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Sacred Vocal Music - Released March 19, 2021 | harmonia mundi

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Formed in 2008, Sebastien Daucé's Ensemble Correspondances is now firmly established as a byword for quality and creativity in the performance of early music, with their acclaimed revivals of both the known and the long-neglected sacred and secular music of seventeenth century France, and with a rich discography to match. This latest recorded offering now sees them step out beyond France's borders for a foray into the Germanic repertoire, the headline pieces being a major work each from Dietrich Buxtehude and Heinrich Schütz. Buxtehude's Membra Jesu Nostri (“The limbs of our Jesus”) opens the programme. An ambitious seven-part cycle of Passion cantatas over which an unnamed observer slowly raises their gaze from the feet of the scourged “Man of Sorrows” to his face, this was composed in 1680 for Buxtehude's friend Gustav Düben. Düben was music director to the Swedish court, and the work was probably commissioned for a court occasion, most likely premiered in the galleries of the German Church in Stockholm, which the court church at the time. Buxtahude's own official role was as organist at Lübeck's Marienkirche – a title which, in contrast to the kantor role which would have obliged him to be churning out new liturgical music every week, allowed him to compose when and how he wished, thus cutting no corners on quality. That's very apparent in this cycle, which book-ends poetic texts set as strophic arias with biblical words set for full instrumental and vocal forces, all couched within an imaginative tonal progression which opens with the feet in the darkest tonalities using flats, before gradually moving through to the brighter, sharp tonalities as the eyes move up towards the face (although it's eventually a C minor close, for architecture's sake). Daucé's personal contribution to the mix has then been to prepare a new edition from the original performing parts which has further enrichened the colouristic and textural palette: adding a viola part for three of the cantatas; changing the allocation of stringed bass instruments so that the viol and violone aren't systematically playing with the continuo or violins; having two voices to a part for the chorus numbers, thus clearly distinguishing between soli and ripieni. Add Ensemble Correspondances's expressive, crisply articulated and suavely blended vocal performances, and the lucid delicacy of the instrumental support, and the results are very fine. Schütz's major offering meanwhile is his late-career masterpiece, Die sieben Worte (“The Seven Words”), which inventively combines motet-like settings with expressive recitative. However the programme's joys aren't limited to its headline events. For instance there's also Schütz's Erbarm dich mein, o Herre Gott, a vocal concerto with densely contrapuntal instrumental textures which here grabs from the off with the beautiful puritan sobriety of the ensemble string tone, and the gently impassioned soprano entry. Then, for a real rarity, complementing mourning music from Buxtehude is the state music-redolent Lamentum by Swedish organist Ludert Dijkman (c1645-1717), written at the passing of two Swedish princes. It'll be fascinating to see where Daucé turns next. © Charlotte Gardner/Qobuz
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Classical - Released February 26, 2021 | Flora

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or
Buxtehude’s Opus 1 and Opus 2 Sonatas for violin, viola da gamba and harpsichord belie the composer’s common image as austere and sober. They instead delight the listener with what Johann Mattheson, writing in 1739, called their « unfamilar progressions, hidden ornamentation, and ingenious colourations ». It comes as no surprise to learn that the Sonatas were a great success when they were first published in Germany in the 1690s, in the midst of the fashion for the "stylus fantasticus" (described by Athanasius Kircher in 1650 as “…especially suited to instruments. It is the most free and unrestrained method of composing, it is bound to nothing, neither to any words nor to a melodic subject. It was instituted to display genius, and to teach the hidden design of harmony and the ingenious composition of harmonic phrases and fugues"). These Sonatas are undoubtedly challenging, which is no doubt why there have been so few complete recordings. For their fourth album, the founding trio of Les Timbres – Yoko Kawakubo, Myriam Rignol, and Julien Wolfs – take up the challenge with brio, joyously returning to their roots in Baroque chamber music to uncover all the intricacies of these very special works. © Flora
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Sacred Vocal Music - Released February 12, 2021 | Arcana

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
Johann Hermann Schein, Sebastian Knüpfer, Johann Schelle, Andreas Gleich, Johann Georg Ebeling, Johannes Kessel, Johann Rosenmüller – all names that are unlikely to be familiar to you, unless you happen to be especially knowledgeable on the subject of early German Baroque composers. Yet all enjoyed esteemed reputations in their day, and three of them – Schein, Knüpfer and Schelle – were actually predecessors of Johann Sebastian Bach in the lofty role of Leipzig ThomasKantor. Then even less familiar to most listeners will be the music these men composed for funeral services, because when each service's music was created specifically for that one event, and reflected the tastes and choices of the deceased person it honoured, it didn't make sense to publish it for wider performance. Consequently, the first thing to point about about this programme of seventeenth century German funeral music from Basel-based vocal ensemble Voces Suaves under Johannes Strobl, is the feast of unknown repertoire presented around its central performance of Schütz's Musikalische Exequien; because while Schütz was so proud of this structurally and texturally ambitious 1636 work for the funeral of Henry II, Count of Reuss-Gera, that he published it at his own expense that very year, the surrounding motets from his above-mentioned contemporaries have been transcribed specifically for this recording, direct from the original sources, with much of it recorded for the very first time. The performances themselves have more than done this rare repertoire justice, too: beautifully lucid textures both in the choral singing and the sensitive accompanying from violone, theorbo and organ; bright, clear-toned vocal tones, with a particularly exquisitely light and pure upper-register soprano sound on show in motets such as Gleich's Selig sind die Toten; crisp articulation and sombre, heartfelt expression of the texts overall. Add the fact that the back catalogue isn't bursting with previous recordings even of the Schütz, and this album is very welcome indeed. © Charlotte Gardner/Qobuz
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Chamber Music - Released January 8, 2021 | CPO

Booklet
It is difficult to understand why the twelve sonatas by Johann Philipp Krieger recorded here are almost completely forgotten today. Those who listen more closely to them will discover a rich cosmos of melodic, harmonic, and stylistic ideas that could hardly be rendered more vividly in musical tones. These Baroque sonatas seemingly randomly join together the most sparkling strands of pearls – short and very short little movements, spontaneous ideas, witty episodes, and oscillating emotional states in what are rapid and above all fascinating sequences. They are to be understood as little scenes of a musical drama “en miniature”. Krieger’s sonatas structured in small units recall characters on the stage in their careful design and perfect compositional-technical elaboration. They engage in cooperative action, oppose each other, and react to each other, enter into musical dialogue or competition, fall in love with each other and rise up in mutual embrace, and laugh or cry together – just as in real life. © CPO
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Chamber Music - Released December 9, 2020 | Alborada

Distinctions Diapason d'or
« These transcriptions take full advantage of the characteristics of the theorbo, the fourteen-string baroque guitar with its deep and full sound which becomes absolutely fascinating and rich with Zapico. While his playing is highly sensitive, he also dares to make the music edgier, sharper and more expressive. So, Zapico delivers 50 minutes of music of gripping intensity and inner power. The always songful pieces, for all their inviting friendliness, are also complex, and are presented in a light that one neither can nor wants to escape. The sound of the recording is equally splendid.» (Pizzicato, January 2021 / Remy Franck)
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Duets - Released November 6, 2020 | L'Encelade

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 4F de Télérama
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) composed the six sonatas for keyboard and violin while he was in the service of Prince Leopold of Koethen (1717-1723), a period during which he focussed on composing secular instrumental music. These works were not written as sonatas for a melodic instrument and a basso continuo part performed on the keyboard, as was usually the case at that time - on the contrary, Bach composed these six sonatas as works for three voices, so they are true trio sonatas. One voice is allocated to the violin and two to the two hands on the keyboard, thus giving greater contrapuntal depth to the way that they are composed. This fresh take on these sonatas for keyboard and violin comes with an invitation to embark upon an organ-driven journey. The six sonatas have been broken down into three duos, each of which has been recorded using a different organ and violin combination, whilst at the same time remaining stylistically consistent with the types of instrument with which was Bach was familiar and which he himself played. The three organs are all in the East German style and the violin-makers who inspired the instruments used for the recordings were contemporaries of Bach. The programme also offers a seventh sonata for keyboard and violin (BWV 1028) which is far better known in its version for the viola de gamba. It also includes two less well-known violin and basso continuo sonatas by Bach, inspired by the Italian style, which allows the listener to get a better grasp of the difference between the two compositional models. Freddy Eichelberger has also chosen to introduce the works for keyboard and violin with solo organ pieces which act rather like preludes, thus highlighting the sonority of each of the instruments. In this boxset, which celebrates a thirty-year musical bond between Odile Edouard and Freddy Eichelberger, it is used a different organ and violin pairing, so three sites were selected, mainly because they had the right kinds of organ for the project and were easily accessible. These were the church of Saint-Louis de Saint Étienne (Haute-Loire), the Temple de Boudry (Switzerland) and the Temple du Foyer de l’Âme (Paris). © L'Encelade
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Classical - Released October 9, 2020 | deutsche harmonia mundi

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Concertos - Released September 4, 2020 | Alpha

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Giovanni Antonini and his ensemble Il Giardino Armonico celebrate the composer who made them famous: Antonio Vivaldi. Their recordings of the Four Seasons and Cecilia Bartoli’s famous first Vivaldi recital left an indelible mark on the discography of the Red-haired Priest! Their musical fireworks display continues with a programme of concertos that is bound to provoke strong reactions, since it is the result of a meeting with a musician who is equally adept at shifting boundaries, the violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja. Together they have devised a programme which interweaves ultra-virtuosic concertos by Vivaldi ("Il Grosso Mogul" RV 208, "La Tempesta di Mare" RV 253, and RV 157, 191, 550 among others) with, between each concerto, short pieces written by much more recent composers, Luca Francesconi, Simone Movio, Giacinto Scelsi, Aureliano Cattaneo and Giovanni Sollima, and mostly commissioned by Patricia Kopatchinskaja especially for this programme. © Alpha Classics
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Sacred Oratorios - Released September 4, 2020 | CPO

Booklet
Leopold I., Holy Roman emperor during whose lengthy reign (1658–1705) — King of Hungary, Croatia and Bohemia, Archduchy of Austria —, assigned music a central place in the cultural life of Baroque era. He encouraged the production of music at his Vienna court and composed over 150 arias in Italian, some German-language oratorios and musical comedies, and many sacred works. His oratorio Il Sagrificio d'Abramo occupies a special place among Viennese Passion compositions because the figure of Isaac is described as a prefiguration of Christ. Since the librettist, Conte Caldana, places the sacrifice scene in the foreground in the first part of his text, an entirely new level of meaning is created. As a result, Ubidienza (Obedience) and Humanità (Humanity) become Abraham's partners in dialogue from the very beginning. Although Leopold was only twenty years old at the time, he was already a composer of true mastery who was also able in his music to capture in tones the hopelessness of the situation and in part to venture beyond the actual limits of tonality as observed and understood by his contemporaries. Leopold's Miserere is appealing above all because of its unusual instrumentation consisting exclusively of stringed instruments. (CPO)
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Classical - Released July 17, 2020 | Christophorus

Recording: Musikzentrum St. Norbert, Schlägl, Oberösterreich (Austria), 1985 (Coproduktion mit dem ORF - Landesstudio Oberösterreich). First release in 1986. Reissued March 1st, 2010 and July 7, 2020
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Full Operas - Released June 5, 2020 | Parnassus Arts Productions

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The composer Leonardo Vinci, no relation to the artist and polymath, was born in 1690 and died in 1730, apparently after being poisoned by a jealous husband. He was thus 20 years older than Pergolesi, but his music was nearly as progressive as that of the better-known younger composer. At the turn of the century, he was known mostly to musicologists, but his scores, often fresh and action-packed, are percolating out to the general operatic public. This is the world premiere of Vinci's 1727 opera Gismondo, Rè di Polonia. The presentation is a bit musicological, with a massive booklet delving into, among other things, why Italians should have wanted to take up a Polish subject, but the music itself is lots of fun. The opera, with its tale of power at the medieval Polish court, could be classified as an opera seria, but the story is told through a series of romantic entanglements that, although not exactly comic, keep the action moving along through intrigue rather than through splendid arias, aided by fast-moving dialogue. On top of this, the recording, based on a 2018 production at the Theater an der Wien, serves as a star vehicle for countertenor Max Emanuel Cencic, who brings no fewer than three other countertenors on board, as well as three sopranos. The result is a sort of festival of the soprano voice, male and female, in shades running from creamy to slashing to billowing to powerful, and more. The singers, led by Cencic as Gismondo, and the {oh!} Orkiestra Historyczna, have a sense of fun that is attractive even for the listener who knows little of this repertory, and the album is likely to attract further performances of the opera, of different kinds. © TiVo
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Sacred Oratorios - Released May 29, 2020 | Aparté

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or - Le Choix de France Musique - 5 étoiles de Classica
Alessandro Scarlatti’s oratorio is an exciting drama of life, love and death, set in the fourth-century Roman Empire. Preferring to devote her life to God, Teodosia rejects the love of Arsenio, the son of the Roman governor, and welcomes death. St Theodosia of Tyre died at the age of eighteen, in the year 308. One cannot help but be struck by the dramatic strength and the vocal beauty of this work, performed here by a very talented casting, gathering Emmanuelle de Negri, Emiliano Gonzalez Toro, Anthea Pichanick, Renato Dolcini and the fiery orchestra Les Accents led by Thibault Noally. © Aparté
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Classical - Released April 10, 2020 | harmonia mundi

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 étoiles de Classica
Having already attracted attention for his exceptional gifts, Bach entered the service of the Weimar court at the age of twenty-three. This was the start of the period known as his ‘early maturity’, in which his formal and expressive experiments reflect a significant interest in French music and ‘la belle danse’. The close intertwining of French and German styles is the dominant feature of this third volume in Benjamin Alard’s recording of the complete organ and harpsichord works. ‘A remarkable complete set of Bach’s keyboard music is gradually being built up.’ – ResMusica. © harmonia mundi
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Classical - Released March 27, 2020 | Alpha

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or
Giovanni Antonini, virtuoso flautist and orchestral conductor, is the founder of the Italian ensemble Il Giardino Armonico, which burst on the baroque musical scene in 1985; together they have amassed an impressive discography. Partnered by Alpha Classics, they have launched a complete recording of the 107 symphonies by Joseph Haydn, in anticipation of the 300th anniversary of his birth in 2032. Il Giardino Armonico is celebrating a composer with whose music he made his name: Antonio Vivaldi. With Antonini as soloist in a programme of his own devising recorded between 2011 and 2017, a generous bouquet of concertos "per flauto" : RV 433 (‘La Tempesta di Mare’), plus the Concertos RV 441, 442, 443, 444, and 445, and an amazing version of Cum dederit, a solo from Nisi Dominus RV 608, for the chalumeau, the predecessor to the modern-day clarinet. © Alpha Classics
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Classical - Released March 27, 2020 | Claves Records

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 étoiles de Classica
This recording was made in April 2019 at the Ernest-Ansermet Studio in Geneva, after five concerts in Switzerland during the preceding days. The desire to be as faithful as possible to the rhythm of the drama of the Passion and to the evidence of the musical sequences, which is easier to feel during a live performance than in front of the relative abstraction of the microphones, as well as a non-negligible time constraint (three and a half days in the studio for a work of 160 minutes), pushed the members of Gli Angeli Genève to record long takes, sometimes including up to 10 or 12 minutes of music, thus getting as close as possible to the feeling of a concert. In concert, with small vocal groups, Gli Angeli Genève systematically places the singers in front of the instruments regardless of repertoire, so as to give speech in music the most prominent place possible. When recording, since the audience’s crucial role cannot be replaced by the microphones, the musicians place ourselves in a large circle, all facing each other. They can see each other playing, singing, vibrating, breathing and reacting. The idea of reaction is central to this work where, when the action of the story is suspended, it is immediately replaced by emotion and poetic as well as musical beauty that Matthew’s story inspired in Bach and Picander. Airs as well as chorales. And within this circle they can react together, engage in dialogue, and see themselves feel the drama and powerful affects that mark the work relentlessly. And then they can share the pleasure and sometimes the awe - so beautiful is the music – of being able to live all this together. Forming a circle to make this music and observing the extraordinary musicians of Gli Angeli Genève at work led Stephan MacLeod (the conductor) to realise the extent to which The Saint Matthew Passion has structured the career and relationship to music of many of his colleagues. © Claves Records