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Classical - Released January 3, 2012 | Glossa

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Classical - Released May 3, 2011 | Glossa

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Classical - Released February 1, 2011 | Glossa

Booklet
Johann Sebastian Bach's supposed swan song, The Art of the Fugue, BWV 1080, has always been a troublesome work to realize; it was printed in open score, with no indication of what instrument or instruments should be used, and it was apparently left unfinished, with a mighty quadruple fugue breaking off just as it approaches its climax. The complications only deepened with the examination of the work's autograph manuscript, housed in the Berlin State Library and here referred to by harpsichordist Fabio Bonizzoni as "P200" after its catalog number there. This manuscript seems to demolish the legend surrounding The Art of the Fugue. It dates from the early 1740s, indicating that Bach did not in any way intend the work as his life's finale. And the ordering of pieces is different from the familiar one, which dates back to the printed version. Bach apparently intended to revise his manuscript for publication, but how much of the revision was his own work and how much that of his sons is under debate. Bonizzoni is one of a number of performers to have based his reading of the work on the autograph, but he adds several novel twists. First, while he relies on the ordering the fugues in P200, he plays the individual fugues (with one exception) as published, arguing that Bach's second guess was better than his first. Second, and most startlingly, he adds another harpsichordist, Mariko Uchimura, in the two mirror fugues which in this version essentially end the work. His justification is the presence, in both P200 and the printed version, of an arrangement of one of the fugues for two keyboards. This arrangement has been used as an argument against playing the work on a harpsichord or other keyboard instrument, but Bonizzoni makes a different and larger leap: he reasons that the mirror fugues, which are extremely difficult to play for a single keyboardist (and thus have also been cited in opposition to the idea of The Art of the Fugue as a keyboard work), must also have been intended for two players. This enters the realm of speculation, obviously, but Bonizzoni convincingly ties it to his overall musical vision of P200, which, in the words of annotator Anselm Hartinger, "follows the principle of increasing complexity and melodic segmentation." Briefly, Bonizzoni sees the work as a dramatically intensifying whole of a sort that the published version, with its sorting by type, was not. He carries this off effectively, making the addition of a second player seem a fairly natural development. This falls into the category of experimental realizations of The Art of the Fugue, and it may not be the best choice for someone starting out with the work, but those already addicted will want to investigate it. © TiVo
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Classical - Released January 4, 2011 | Glossa

Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
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Jazz - Released October 1, 2010 | Glossa

Booklet
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Classical - Released October 1, 2010 | Glossa

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Sacred Vocal Music - Released November 9, 2009 | Glossa

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Classical - Released October 5, 2009 | Glossa

Booklet
For their recital of organ solos and religious monody accompanied by organ, tenor Dominique Vellard and organist Jean-Pierre Leguay have limited themselves to works of the seventeenth and twenty first centuries. As the title suggests, the works are interlaced throughout the recording, with the intent that the juxtapositions and musical cross references will allow the listener to hear the pieces with fresh insight. The early works, by Monteverdi, Frescobaldi, and Schütz, are varied in style, highlighting the diversity of musical voices in the early Baroque, from the florid and virtuosic vocal writing of some of the Monteverdi to the plain and repetitive but hauntingly evocative Messa della Madonna of Frescobaldi. The pieces by organist Leguay are comparably diverse, from the austere simplicity of the Pater Noster to his quirkily jaunty Alleluia to the expansiveness of his 20-minute motet, Secundum Matthaeum, and are clearly the work of a fine musical imagination. Vellard, who has made a career specializing in early music as a singer, conductor, and instrumentalist, has a wonderfully pure and natural tenor, and his delivery is clean and unmannered. His voice is also exceptionally supple, so the eccentricities of early Baroque ornamentation hold no terrors for him, and his astonishing breath control allows him to sustain notes for what seems like an inhuman length. Leguay's choices of registration are wonderfully inventive, but never merely showy, and he is especially dazzling in his own improvisation on Alleluia. The motet is remarkable for the way it allows the listener to hear this music as pure sound; the extended melismatic unaccompanied vocal solo toward the conclusion is unlike quite anything else in the literature. Glossa's sound is deeply resonant and rich, but never at the expense of clarity. © TiVo
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Sacred Vocal Music - Released January 1, 2009 | Glossa

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Classical - Released January 1, 2008 | Glossa

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Classical - Released January 1, 2008 | Glossa

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Classical - Released January 1, 2008 | Glossa

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Classical - Released January 1, 2008 | Glossa

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Classical - Released January 1, 2007 | Glossa

This is one of those European releases with a booklet that sounds as though it could have come straight out of the pages of Artforum International. Be prepared for sentences like "In other words, ornamentation has a vectorial, dynamic function and outweighs organic balance." Given the name of this Belgian group, Graindelavoix (which refers to the "grain of the voice" idea propounded by literary theorist Roland Barthes), that's to be expected. The album's basic aim, however, is simpler: group leader Björn Schmelzer tries to bring to the performance of early Renaissance music some of the passion and freedom associated with the historical-instrument movement in Baroque repertory. The effort has two aspects. First, Schmelzer asserts that the most important question in regard to instruments in the case of Binchois and fifteenth century secular song generally is not whether instruments should be used but rather how they should be used if they are used. His answer is startling: the small group of accompanying fiddles, harp, and lute does not simply double the vocal lines (or play the notated lines other than the cantus) but accompanies the vocalist heterophonically and gently, creating a kind of tonal cloud. The effect is medieval, for the performance comes off as an elaboration of a group of monophonic lines, and in general Schmelzer's conception of Busnois' music stresses its connections with its medieval antecedents rather than looking forward to the humanistic discoveries about music and text that were already in the pipeline. Schmelzer's second innovation has to do with ornamentation: noting that Busnois' music seems to rely structurally on contrasts between plain and ornamented phrases, he sets the (mixed-gender) singers free to ornament emotionally intense phrases in ways that go beyond what the composer indicates. The effect here is a bit frilly -- the models used for the ornaments seem to come from instrumental treatises -- but the performers do succeed in creating a Busnois sound that diverges completely from the circumspect performances of the past. In a way, this is less an authentic performance than an imaginative effort to extend Busnois' intentions and make them relevant to the present day. Those just getting to know the music of the early Renaissance should know that this is an unorthodox recording, but enthusiasts will find plenty to chew on and savor. © TiVo
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Chamber Music - Released January 1, 2006 | Glossa

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Classical - Released January 1, 2006 | Glossa

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Classical - Released January 1, 2005 | Glossa

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Classical - Released January 1, 2005 | Glossa

Harpsichordist, organist, and conductor of the ensemble La Risonanza, Fabio Bonizzoni, tries his hand at Bach's Goldberg Variations. It tends to be a dry and uneven reading of the monumental work. Most of the variations are played steadily, with very few of those little modifications of tempo that are used to create more expressive phrasing on the harpsichord. He does play with tempo a lot in the Aria and Variation 15, but in these he uses almost too much. A pause in one line of music seems to interrupt other lines, making it sound like either pretended profundity or the inability to separate fully the actions of the two hands. His way of creating expressive phrasing comes off best in the Adagio, Variation 25. Otherwise, the variations tend to be motoric. Even the Gigue, Variation 7, isn't bouncy enough to really be a dance. The distinctive short notes are not short enough. And the difference between the two halves of the Overture, Variation 16, is only just noticeable. The tempo changes between variations also are not that great, as Bonizzoni tries to group together each set of three variations. The harpsichord itself has a nice tone that isn't too harsh and is picked up quite well in the recording. Bonizzoni's is an OK effort, but there are much better choices available for the Goldbergs on harpsichord. © TiVo

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