Albums

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Vocal Music (Secular and Sacred) - Released November 2, 2018 | Ramée

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or
Here's something fascinating: music from the 14th and early 15th centuries, lost for hundreds of years, has now been rediscovered thanks to some space-age technology. Because, in fact, the original manuscripts were never lost. In reality, the paper had been scrubbed and recycled or covered over with palimpsests because of the prohibitive price of parchment at the time. And so a whole body of Florentine works from the era of Petrarch, Boccacio, Dante and Machiavelli was erased to make room for 16th century poems. A careful examination of the San Lorenzo Palimpsest revealed that multi-spectral photography (anyone who knows what that is, raise your hand…) of the pages can render the underlying layer perfectly legible, and so now 111 pages of music from the 14th century can see the light of day. After six hundred years of multi-spectral silence, these pieces are interpreted here by the La Morra ensemble, which specialises in late medieval and Renaissance music with voice and instruments like the lute, vielle, clavicymbalum and recorder. There is an intensity of emotion in hearing these pieces which until now we never knew existed, written by composers of whom we know almost nothing such as Giovanni Mazzuoli and his son Piero, Paolo da Firenze or Jacopo da Bologna. Here they take centre stage. © SM/Qobuz
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Vocal Music (Secular and Sacred) - Released August 17, 2018 | Ricercar

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or
Brought up in the French-Flamish tradition but fed with the milk of Renaissance Italian madrigalism since he was about eighteen years old, Jacques Arcadelt (1507-1568) left behind him many gems whose importance has been realized only recently. Let’s acclaim this magnificent album gathering the Chœur de Chambre de Namur, the ensemble Doulce Mémoire and the Cappella Mediterranea, to give us not the complete marigals, songs and motets by Arcadelt, of course, but a large selection of his most stupefying pieces. These are thus madrigals from his First and Fourth Books released during his Italian years around 1540, songs from the various Livres de Chansons (Books of Songs) released between 1550 and 1565 when he was living in Paris, and motets from various eras in his career—mostly Italian, a bit French too since he moved from court to court depending on the jobs, the political assassinations, the change in alliances and, generally, the implausible chaos between the various power players at the time. As a nod, we also hear an Ave Maria “according to Arcadelt”, in truth an imitation by Louis Dietsch, a composer from the 19th Century, and the comical Ave Maria d’Arcadelt … by Liszt, inspired by the Dietsch imitation, for solo organ, an exercise in returning to your ancient roots like people loved to imagine them during the Romantic era. We could even wonder if Saint-Saëns didn’t use the head of the main theme to recycle it into his ”Organ” Symphony, incidentally. © SM/Qobuz

Vocal Music (Secular and Sacred) - Released February 16, 2018 | Accent

Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or
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What a shame Graupner’s name is mostly remembered in conjunction with his contemporary, Johann Sebastian Bach: indeed the Leipzig authorities wanted to hire Graupner – whose employer at the time, the court of Hesse-Darmstadt, raised his salary, getting him to stay in this position for his entire life – as Thomaskantor after Telemann and three other musicians declined the offer. Then came a moment of immense administrative stupidity, as the city council decided to hire Bach, declaring: ”For important reasons, the situation is delicate and since the best men are not available, mediocre ones must be considered”. But this is not the point here: Graupner is far from mediocre himself, and his talent quickly comes through upon listening to these three cantatas (out of some 1,400 cantatas that have survived to this day!) and two orchestral works (out of over 200 ensemble pieces). His melodic and harmonic language is extremely rich, and he doesn’t hesitate to borrow from “old-school” resources to write his music, while often exploring the lyrical idiom of his time, particularly from Italy. Here, the delightful soprano Dorothee Mields is supported by the ensemble Harmonie universelle, led alternately on the violin by Florian Deuter and Mónica Waisman. © SM/Qobuz

Vocal Music (Secular and Sacred) - Released January 12, 2018 | SWR Classic

Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or
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When we think of tenor Fritz Wunderlich (1930-1966) as an interpreter of “Early Music”, it is the parts he sang in Bach’s passions and oratorios that immediately come to mind. In this respect, Germany’s great tenor had already gone down in the annals of record history during his short lifetime – he died falling from a stairway due to carelessly tied shoes... His international fame in later years was due to his outstanding performances as a Mozart tenor but also to his artistic versatility which included the Romantic opera, the German Lied, the operetta as well as contemporary and even Schlager music, i.e. easy-listening semi-crossover semi-pop semi-music mostly beloved in the Germanic realm. However, Wunderlich’s first recordings of early music and of music composed in the centuries before Bach are less well-known. Their excellent sound quality, from the original mono master tapes deftly transposed into stereo impression, were remastered in the best possible way. Apart from the Bach contemporary Christoph Graupner, the repertoire presented on this double album covers a time span that ranges from two centuries to some decades before Johann Sebastian Bach’s birth, i.e. from Heinrich Isaac and Adam von Fulda – who both lived at the very end of the Middle Ages – to Buxtehude. Far from sounding operatic, Wunderlich’s then young voice (recordings were done between 1954 and 57) perfectly matches the purest style that still nowadays would not pale compared to what is done in Baroque and ancien music circles. © SM/Qobuz

Choral Music (Choirs) - Released January 5, 2018 | BIS

Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or - Gramophone Award - Exceptional sound
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Alfred Schnittke and Arvo Pärt have both lived through the intense decades of upheavals that preceded the fall of the Soviet Union. From the 1970s, religion returned to public life as restrictions around it were relaxed. Schnittke turned towards Christianity, while remaining open towards Eastern religions. Arvo Pärt, from a family of Lutheran Estonians, embraced the Orthodox faith in the 1970s. The two composers both began to incorporate religious themes into their work, moving decisively away from the modernist abstraction of their early work. Schnittke wrote three religious works of great power: a Requiem in 1975 which could only be played in secret, disguised (what ignominy...) as stage music in a Muscovite production of Schiller's Don Carlos. His Choir Concerto, also with a religious theme, was performed in Moscow in 1986 after overcoming a daunting series of bureaucratic obstacles. On the other hand, the Penitential Psalms were performed out in the open in 1988 in as part of celebrations to mark a thousand years of Christianity in Russia. The style of this immense masterpiece is in line with Orthodox liturgical tradition, but Schnittke extends traditional principles to create modern sounds - in particular, rhythmical and harmonic modifications, which lend the work an intense richness.   Like Schnittke's Penitential Psalms, the Magnificat and Nunc dimittis by Pärt are composed in a semi-liturgical style. The Magnificat dates back to one year after Schnittke's score was composed, in 1989. Pärt had been living in Berlin since 1981, where he refined his "tintinnabuli" technique. The Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir which plays here is one of Estonia's foremost chamber music ensembles. Founded in 1981, it has been directed by Kaspars Putniņš since 2014. Its choral repertoire stretches from Gregorian chant and baroque to more contemporary music, with a particular focus on the work of Estonian composers, which the Choir works hard to spread beyond the country's borders. © SM/Qobuz

Vocal Music (Secular and Sacred) - Released September 8, 2017 | SWR Classic

Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or
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Vocal Music (Secular and Sacred) - Released October 6, 2015 | Musique en Wallonie

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or

Vocal Music (Secular and Sacred) - Released February 24, 2015 | Glossa

Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or - Gramophone Editor's Choice - 4 étoiles de Classica
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Choral Music (Choirs) - Released December 3, 2013 | SDG

Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or - Gramophone Editor's Choice
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Vocal Music (Secular and Sacred) - Released October 25, 2013 | Les Indispensables de Diapason

Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or
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Vocal Music (Secular and Sacred) - Released July 1, 2013 | Les Indispensables de Diapason

Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or
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Vocal Music (Secular and Sacred) - Released July 1, 2013 | Les Indispensables de Diapason

Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or
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Vocal Music (Secular and Sacred) - Released July 1, 2013 | Les Indispensables de Diapason

Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or
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Vocal Music (Secular and Sacred) - Released July 1, 2013 | Les Indispensables de Diapason

Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or

Choral Music (Choirs) - Released June 4, 2013 | Ondine

Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or - Diapason d'or / Arte
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Vocal Music (Secular and Sacred) - Released January 1, 2013 | Glossa

Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or - Choc de Classica - Hi-Res Audio
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Vocal Music (Secular and Sacred) - Released November 16, 2012 | Sony Classical

Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or - 4 étoiles de Classica - Exceptional sound
German baritone Christian Gerhaher has recorded lieder, and his fundamentally gentle, intimate, moderate-sized voice is suited to that genre. Here, however, he steps it up successfully to early Romantic opera, from Schubert up to Wagner's Tannhäuser and Otto Nicolai. If you're wondering about the two separate Schubert operas, that gives you an idea of the value of this vocal-orchestral recital: it touches on some very unfamiliar music and generally does a good job bringing it to life. Schubert's 1823 opera Alfonso und Estrella, not performed until it was revived by Liszt in 1854, has been recorded, but the excerpt from Der Graf von Gleichen, sketched out at the end of Schubert's life and left unfinished (the realization here is by Richard Dünser, made in the 1990s) is a much rarer animal. This is the highlight of the album; in Gerhaher's hands, the aria "O Himmel ... Mein Weib, O Gott, mein süßer Knabe" emerges as a real piece of Schubert's broad and harmonically pathbreaking late style. Another comparative rarity is the excerpt from Schumann's opera Genoveva, usually accounted the great failure of Schumann's later years; Gerhaher gives the excerpt "Ja wart' du bis zum jüngsten Tag" a spiky quality that is quite Wagnerian in its free speech cadences. The more melodic music from Otto Nicolai's Die Heimkehr des Verbannten, also not common on recordings, provides an effective foil. Gerhaher's voice has many surface pleasures, but his accomplishment here is to make the listener want to undertake a fresh hearing of the operas involved. A fine outing from the on-a-roll Sony Classical label, nicely recorded.

Vocal Music (Secular and Sacred) - Released August 14, 2012 | Brilliant Classics

Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or
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Vocal Music (Secular and Sacred) - Released May 15, 2012 | harmonia mundi

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or - Hi-Res Audio
Tenor Mark Padmore has an ideal voice for these two Britten song cycles written for Peter Pears. He has the kind of musical sensitivity and attentiveness to textual subtleties that characterized Pears' singing. His voice is essentially light in the way that Pears' was, but his is infinitely more attractive. Its tone is clear and pure, with none of Pears' nasal quality, and can be sweet without sounding precious. Padmore's technique seems absolutely secure and while his instrument is not large, he can produce an impressive range of dynamics. He and horn player Stephen Bell deliver a terrific performance of the Serenade for tenor, horn, and strings, and Jacqueline Shave's leadership of the Britten Sinfonietta is energetic and nuanced. Padmore's phrasing is shapely and expressive and he can spin out the seamless legato most of these songs require. In "Hymn," he and Bell sing and play with nimble fleetness that seems thrillingly close to the edge of spinning out of control but that ultimately lands safely. The performance of "Dirge" is charged with darker-than-usual sinister energy; the running string figures that follow the canon seem here more like a demonic dance than a dirge, to wonderful, scary effect. There is no lack of topnotch recordings of the Serenade, but this is a version that anyone who loves the piece will want to hear. In Nocturne, Padmore again excels in bringing intelligent and sensitive, sometimes soaring musicality to the songs. Finzi's cycle Dies Natalis is something of a novelty, but it fits well with the Britten. His harmonic language is eloquently post-Romantic, solidly in the English pastoral tradition, and his text setting relatively conventional, but the cycle is a lovely, lyrical, entirely successful exemplar of that tradition. Serenade, written about five years after Dies Natalis, demonstrates by contrast the daring individuality of Britten's handling of texts and the rich originality of his melodic gift. The sound of Harmonia Mundi's SACD is immaculate and detailed, with a gripping sense of presence.
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Vocal Music (Secular and Sacred) - Released January 24, 2012 | harmonia mundi

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or - Choc de Classica - Hi-Res Audio