Categories :

Albums

HI-RES$7.99
CD$5.49

Classical - Released August 23, 2019 | Alpha

Hi-Res Booklet
CD$5.49

Classical - Released August 23, 2019 | Alpha

Booklet
Just a generation ago, Heinrich von Biber's Rosary (or "Mystery") Sonatas were looked upon as ultra-rare repertoire, the sort of thing a Classical record collector would have to go out of his/her way to obtain on recordings. It appears that by now anyone who plays Baroque violin music to any degree of seriousness has had contact with Biber's sonatas, and there are no less than 20 complete or near complete recordings of Rosary Sonatas available. Make that 21 with Zig Zag Territories' Biber: Les Sonates du Rosaires, featuring violinist Patrick Bismuth with continuo provided by the ensemble La Tempesta. The eight-member La Tempesta provides a thicker continuo texture than is usually reserved for these works, which can be performed as solo violin music. Patrick Bismuth does not favor the thin tone commonly employed by period instrumentalists, nor does he fuss over ornamentation. He plays with a rich, full-bodied, almost Romantic tone, which makes his interpretation closer to that of the first players to record the Rosary Sonatas, like Susanne Lautenbacher. This approach may be a plus or a minus depending on how one likes the Rosary Sonatas served up. However, it should be noted that Bismuth concentrates on the beauty and linearity of Biber's masterwork as opposed to its eccentricity, and this performance never quite catches fire. Likewise, despite the name of the ensemble, La Tempesta is under Bismuth's leadership and never become "tempestuous," preferring to provide a soft-focus backdrop for Bismuth to sail over. The recording, made in the Church of the School of St. Geneviève in Versailles, is good, although at times the organ seems too heavy and one wants it to back off the violin a bit. Zig Zag Territories' Biber: Les Sonates du Rosaires is fully functional as a recording of Biber's Rosary Sonatas and is very nicely packaged. Nevertheless, if one already has a favorite version of this work, say from John Holloway, Romanesca, Gabriela Demeterová, or another artist, the Bismuth is unlikely to unseat it. © TiVo
CD$5.49

Sacred Vocal Music - Released June 9, 2017 | Alpha

Booklet Distinctions 4 étoiles Classica
CD$5.49

Classical - Released September 16, 2016 | Alpha

Booklet
CD$5.49

Sacred Vocal Music - Released September 8, 2015 | Alpha

Booklet Distinctions 4 étoiles Classica
The notes to this release by the innovative French ensemble Le Poème Harmonique and its director Vincent Dumestre explain a good deal about its philosophy and genesis. But what they don't explain is why the recording, made in 2000, took until late 2015 to be released. Possibly it was just the sheer novelty of the thing: the title Pergolesi: Stabat Mater; Marian Music from Naples fails to communicate what's going on here and how unusual it is. Briefly, Dumestre and his musicians investigate the links between Pergolesi's style and the popular music that surrounded it in Naples. This is not in itself a completely new idea, but the situation in Naples was especially interesting in at least two respects. The traditions investigated here continue to the present day, for one thing, in the performance of the Stabat Mater melody in improvised polyphony heard in village processions in some parts of modern Italy. For another, these traditions were sometimes notated, and you get a sample of what they sounded like in the anonymous Stabat Mater à 3 (track 3). As prelude to the main attraction the Stabat Mater is here inflected through chant, a tarantella, and the rudimentary polyphony of the Monopoli Manuscript piece mentioned above; there is also a concerto by Durante that is less directly related to the Pergolesi work. All of these leave their mark on the Pergolesi Stabat Mater itself. It has a quiet organ-and-theorbo continuo (no harpsichord) that allows intense contrasts to emerge in the voices and main instruments. Thankfully, and contrary to current fashion, there is a choir of children, which was manifestly the way the work was sung at Versailles in its own time. Most striking are the solo voices, vibrato free and almost raw. Beautifully recorded by Alpha, this is a unique perspective on one of the most famous Baroque works. © TiVo
CD$5.49

Concertos - Released September 4, 2015 | Alpha

Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or - 4 étoiles Classica
CD$5.49

Classical - Released September 4, 2015 | Alpha

Booklet Distinctions Choc de Classica - Exceptional Sound Recording
HI-RES$7.99
CD$5.49

Classical - Released March 31, 2015 | Alpha

Hi-Res Booklet
HI-RES$7.99
CD$5.49

Classical - Released May 19, 2014 | Alpha

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or
CD$5.49

Classical - Released January 1, 2014 | Alpha

Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or
HI-RES$7.99
CD$5.49

Classical - Released January 1, 2013 | Alpha

Hi-Res Booklet
For this 2013 Alpha Productions release, lutenist Thomas Dunford presents a balanced program of solo pieces and lute songs by Elizabethan composer John Dowland. Joined by a quartet consisting of soprano Ruby Hughes, tenors Reinoud Van Mechelen and Paul Agnew, and bass Alain Buet, Dunford plays accompaniment on the famous songs Come again, I saw my Lady weepe, Flow my teares, Sorrow stay, Can she excuse, Go crystal teares, and Now, O now I needs must depart, a representative selection of Dowland's finest work. Dunford also performs a number of instrumental character pieces, which include Semper Dowland, semper Dolens (titled after the composer's punning motto), the Mellancoly Galliard, and Lachrimae, the latter a fantasy on Flow my teares and the inspiration for other compositions on that theme. Melancholia was cultivated as a fashion by Elizabethan poets and composers, but no one identified more personally with it than Dowland, for whom the emotion was much more than an affectation. Yet this album is far from gloomy, because the performers are transparent in tone and pleasantly expressive in delivery, and they give the songs a clarity that somewhat alleviates their darker moods. Throughout the album, Dunford maintains a consistently high quality of musicianship, and while he modestly shares the spotlight with the singers, this is clearly his labor of love. © TiVo
HI-RES$7.99
CD$5.49

Classical - Released April 17, 2012 | Alpha

Hi-Res Booklet
It would be hard to conceive of more annoying graphic design that proffered on this release from the Zig Zag Territoires label, identified with a big "ZZT" (no, that's not an electric shock warning). There, however, the list of complaints pretty much ends. This little program of solo cantatas and organ works by countertenor Damien Guillon and his historical instrument group Le Banquet Céleste was beautifully recorded in a small Strasbourg church and it's an intimate gem. Front and center is Guillon's singing, which is sweet, nicely rounded in the high tones, and couched in an attitude of relaxed calm. Organist Maude Gratton offers a trio sonata and a sparkling rendition of the Fantasy and Fugue in G minor, BWV 542, which ends the program on a unique rousing note. The instrumentalists have a sensuous sound and are so well coordinated with Guillon that they seem like extensions of his singing. With the emphasis in recordings of Bach cantatas having long been on the grand conceptions of the charismatic figures who have undertaken complete Bach cycles, a small, unified, and beautifully executed recording like this one comes as a breath of fresh air, and it represents the French way with Bach at its best. © TiVo
CD$5.49

Classical - Released April 2, 2012 | Alpha

Booklet
This is a highly subjective interpretation of Bach's often-performed set of six sonatas for violin and harpsichord, played on historical instruments. Swiss-based violinist Florence Malgoire renders Bach's violin lines almost without vibrato. Unlike other Baroque violinists who favor this sound, however, she keeps to a delicate attack in place of the usual muscular, meaty bowstrokes. Her phrasing has a sweeping quality that's oddly graceful, but sometimes she begins a phrase so subtly that Blandine Rannou's harpsichord seems to be the lead instrument, with the violin providing an accompaniment like that of an early Classical piano-and-violin sonata. Soon enough the balance shifts, but the effect is hardly idiomatic to Bach. The music always feels alive, however, and Malgoire and Rannou bring out plenty of unexpected details. Whether or not this unusual approach works may depend on the individual listener, but it also requires the acceptance of a certain way of looking at these sonatas, one laid out in the liner notes by Gilles Cantagrel. He stresses the probable chronological closeness of these sonatas with Bach's six unaccompanied partitas and sonatas for violin, works that fell into a long German virtuoso tradition in which a subjective performance style was entirely appropriate; Bach wrote all these works during the Cöthen portion of his career, the source of most of his instrumental ensemble music. This vision of the violin-and-keyboard sonatas conflicts with the one most listeners instinctively hold; the unaccompanied sonatas are usually thought of as music standing aside from the rest of Bach's output in an exalted realm of their own. In any event, there's a general trend toward sharp, tough performances of Bach's music for strings these days, sculpted as if out of a block of ice, and there's room for an interpretation that brings a light, almost fantastic touch while drawing on the same general ideas. Malgoire and Rannou are not for everybody, and sampling will help you determine whether you might be among those who would find them intriguing. © TiVo
CD$5.49

Classical - Released October 31, 2011 | Alpha

Booklet
Harpsichordist Blandine Rannou has taken on Bach's 7 Toccatas for keyboard, BWV 911-916. These are early works that are among the most infrequently performed of all of his compositions. In many ways, each one seems to be just a cobbling together of smaller pieces, most quite improvisatory sounding, some virtuosic sounding. Even though the toccatas are not as profound as Bach's later, more mature works, their freeform nature implies a certain depth of feeling. Rannou is a skilled performer who has an easy way with the music, but seems to skim over its more expressive possibilities. It is not that the sound of the recording is dulling her performance; it is clear and not overly resonant. The famous first Allegro of the Toccata in D major, BWV 912, is usually imagined as grand and noble, brisk and dashing. Rannou is more relaxed with it, making it more of a cheerful, almost skipping outing. She is most animated in the fantasia-like portions of the toccatas, where she can let go with sweeping flourishes. The slow sections are tinged with feeling that could be more contemplative or ardent, while the fugues could be more majestic and resolute. Despite the relative under-ripe nature of the compositions, a more vivid spark of emotion in Rannou's performance would make these more like what is expected of Bach's keyboard music. © TiVo
CD$5.49

Classical - Released March 31, 2011 | Alpha

Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or
CD$5.49

Mélodies (England) - Released February 17, 2011 | Alpha

Booklet
CD$5.49

Classical - Released November 4, 2010 | Alpha

Booklet
Recordings of Vivaldi's flute concertos have tended to concentrate on a few vivid, crowd-pleasing works from the composer's Op. 10 collection, like the Flute Concerto in F major, RV 433 ("La tempesta di mare"). The flutist who wants to venture beyond these is faced with a collection of works that exist only in manuscripts and come with a variety of editorial challenges. Some of those are laid out in the unusually extensive booklet that accompanies the CD version of this release on the Alpha label, which also comes with one of the label's trademark art reproductions and its own accompanying essay (this one covering a scene of Venice by Antonio Visentini, from close to the time Vivaldi would have known it). The payoff is that, as with Vivaldi's concertos for other genres, there are plenty of unknown gems to discover. This release by flutist-conductor Alexis Kossenko and the small Polish early music group Arte dei Suonatori combines some of the lesser-known Op. 10 concertos with manuscript works, and any Vivaldi lover will find some fresh delights here. The group obtains some of its best results with some of the thorniest interpretive challenges. Hear the slow movement of the Flute Concerto in E minor, RV 430 (track 11), a work with a complex manuscript history; here the slow movement gets a heavily ornamented and quite haunting treatment from Kossenko, accompanied only by a continuo theorbo. The ensemble tones down some of the slashing attacks favored by the leading Italian groups, but is plenty innovative stylistically; check out the unusual string crescendos in the last movement of the Flute Concerto in G major, RV 438 (track 16). All the music is freshly and sensitively done, and the collection of Baroque flutes played by Kossenko is another attraction. Highly recommended. © TiVo
CD$5.49

Classical - Released September 23, 2010 | Alpha

Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or
CD$5.49

Classical - Released August 27, 2009 | Alpha

Booklet
The Sablé festival, held annually in Sablé-sur-Sarthe in France, has its own recording concern that it uses primarily to expose young early music artists and to support the most interesting of their projects; the Zig-Zag Territoires label provides an outlet for this endeavor. Here is a wholly worthy enterprise: the group Gli Incogniti -- led by the fabulous young violinist Amandine Beyer -- in a program drawn from various works of mysterious late seventeenth-century violinist Nicola Matteis, its title, False Consonances of Melancholy, fashioned after one of his publications, but not limited to its contents. As Matteis is not a household name, some summary of his place in the scheme of things is not out of order here: born in Naples, possibly contemporary to Heinrich von Biber, Matteis was an itinerant musician in Germany before making his way to London about 1670. He rose over time to become one of the principal violinists in England, noted for his facility as an improviser, the excellence of his compositions, and his rather coarse and uncivilized manner. While he had many private students, Matteis never gained any privilege at court and may not have cared to hold one down; his son, also named Nicola Matteis, would do so in Vienna starting in 1700 and enjoyed a far more stable and conventional career pattern. The elder Matteis seems to have died around the time his son left for Vienna and is known to posterity from seven published volumes appearing from between 1676 through 1703, two consisting of songs and one republished in a radically changed version, presumably after Matteis' death, and a scattering of music in manuscript sources. Stylistically, Matteis falls somewhere in between Biber and Locke; while the music bears numerous harmonic eccentricities and a representational slant reminiscent of Biber, it also betrays the influence of English style and texture, particularly in regard to the handling of melody. Like Biber, Italian style is a key component in Matteis' music, but it is of an altogether older manner than the Corellian attitude practiced by Matteis' son, at times hearkening back even to the "bizzarries" of Biagio Marini. Needless to say, to an early music violinist all of these elements are strongly attractive combination, and Beyer makes the most of it, delivering a crisp and confident rendering of Matteis with an attentive and richly sonorous continuo provided by gambist Baldomero Barciela, guitarist/theorbists Ronaldo Lopes and Francesco Romano, and harpsichordist Anna Fontana. It's a long program, consisting of no less than 40 movements' altogether, and this relates to this release's only drawback. Many to most of Matteis' often very short pieces come bundled up into suites, and Gli Incogniti has elected to pick from Matteis' whole instrumental repertoire and add movements from elsewhere into sets that have already established contents. But it's hard to tell what's what, as the Zig Zag Territoires release is only partly forthcoming as to the provenance of the works included. It is not through idle curiosity that the listener would desire to really know what he/she is listening to; while there's nothing wrong with mixing and matching movements, to do so without indicating what comes from where seems a tad irresponsible, or at least short-sighted. Apart from that, Zig Zag Territoires' Nicola Matteis: False Consonances of Melancholy is a wholly enjoyable, well-played excursion through Matteis' music; from the standpoint of sheer playing, its aim is true and it hits the bull's-eye. © TiVo
CD$5.49

Chamber Music - Released June 4, 2009 | Alpha

Booklet Distinctions 4 étoiles Classica

The collection

Alpha in the magazine