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Sacred Vocal Music - Released October 26, 2018 | Warner Classics

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - Choc de Classica - 5 Sterne Fono Forum Klassik
For his first album as a soloist, the Polish countertenor Jakub Józef Orliński chose to explore some of the rarest repertoires, to the point that several of the pieces presented here are world premieres. As a result, we are introduced to composers who are almost unknown today: Gaetano Schiassi (1698-1754), Domènec Terradellas (1711-1751) and Nicola Fago (1677-1745), alongside other composers who are famous today such as Hasse, Zelenka or Durante. Helped by the bass-baritone Yannis François, Orliński covers a large amount of time, from the end of the 17th century to the last third of the 18th century, though solely in the spiritual domain, with Masses, Dixit Dominus or sacred oratorios. That said, the vocal and instrumental writing borrows from baroque, with its vocalisations, its embellishments and its brightness. On top of this, the ensemble il pomo d'oro performs the work with great confidence. © SM/Qobuz
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Sacred Vocal Music - Released September 28, 2018 | harmonia mundi

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
It's thanks to a complete stroke of luck that several of Pierre Bouteiller's rare works have been preserved for posterity, including this Messe à cinq voix. During a long journey from Paris to Strasbourg, Sébastien de Brossard – who was relying on the collegial hospitality of chapel masters at various churches along the route – found himself lodging with Bouteiller, who was working at Châlons-sur-Marne. The two musicians exchanged manuscripts, including thirteen motets and the Messe pour les défunts by Bouteiller, which have been found in Brossard's private library. In order to bring these works by Brossard and Bouteiller to life, and to perform them in the manner that they were sung in their day, during funerals, Paul Agnew, leader of the Arts Florissants has chosen to insert plain-chant sections to mark different points along the cortège and the funeral rites. In the reconstruction offered in this recording, Brossard's Miserere comes sandwiched between two organ pieces – the instrumental Kyrie by André Raison – which figures in the procession towards the tomb, and then the return to the church. The time of the Sun King is reconstructed with care, right down to the choice of acoustics (the Abbey of the Holy Trinity in Lessaye, Manche) and the selection of vocalists. © SM/Qobuz
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Cantatas (sacred) - Released September 21, 2018 | Phi

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
For the fourth time on the Phi label, Philippe Herreweghe presents three cantatas by Johann Sebastian Bach – Christ lag in Todesbanden, BWV 4, Gott der Herr ist Sonn und Schild, BWV 79, and Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott, BWV 80. Written at different moments in the composer’s life and based to a large extent on the works of Martin Luther, these cantatas reflect a marked taste for dramaturgy, vivid word painting and an invariably astonishing use of instruments and voices. Philippe Herreweghe and Collegium Vocale Gent give us an accomplished version of these masterpieces, confirming, if further proof were needed, their stature as ardent champions of Bach. © Outhere Music
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Choirs (sacred) - Released September 21, 2018 | Mirare

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - Choc de Classica
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Sacred Vocal Music - Released September 7, 2018 | Coviello Classics

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
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Sacred Oratorios - Released August 31, 2018 | Alpha

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - 5 Sterne Fono Forum Klassik
There is no shortage of parallels to be drawn between Caldara and Vivaldi: both Venetians, both boasting an impressive body of work running to several hundred pieces of all genres, both died in Vienna (in the same street and in the same penury!), although Caldara had written more operas and oratorios than the Red Priest. And here is one of these very 32 known oratorios, Maddalena ai piedi di Christo written in Venice around 1698; it is "oratorio volgare", that is, recited in Italian, rather than Latin. Originally written as an accompaniment to spiritual exercises, the oratorio came to replace profane operas when the theatres were closed, especially from November to Lent. It took on the guise of opera, and used many of its techniques: naves and altars were (re)decorated and mechanisms and costumes were employed. In reality, it was nothing but an opera with a religious theme... The words and the plot of Maddalena ai piedi di Christo are perfectly suited to these months of penitence. It is a drama of the moral breakdown that tortures the sinner who has to choose between worldly and heavenly love, between living a life of luxury and truly promising herself to Christ. The Le Banquet Céleste ensemble, led by Damien Guillon (who also sings the alto part of Divine Love), takes to this rare piece with fervour. © SM/Qobuz
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Cantatas (sacred) - Released June 22, 2018 | Ricercar

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
Most of the works presented here by the Clematis Ensemble and countertenor Paulin Bündgen come from the rich Düben collection held by the Uppsala University. In the 17th century, Gustaf Düben was kapellmeister at the Swedish court; he had mostly gathered manuscript scores of compositions from numerous German, French, Italian and Baltic authors. It is one of the largest sources of Lutherian repertoire of the 17th century, particularly as it contains numerous in unicum scores. Among the composers featured in this piece, some were Schütz’ successors or disciples, but it’s worth mentioning that the German composers of that time – particularly Schein, Franz Tunder (who was Buxtehude’s master) and Johann Fischer – were considerably influenced by Italian baroque. You’ll notice the presence of two Bachs on this album: Johann Michael (1648-1694) and Johann Christoph (1642-1703), two second-degree cousins of Johann Sebastian. Johann Christoph Bach’s Lamento − whom his cousin described as a “deep composer” – is without a doubt one of the best-known compositions of the sacred German repertoire of the time. Like in the entire repertoire, the role of strings remains essential. This sacred piece relies on the text’s numerous descriptive effects, like a “painting in musical form”: the sharpest terms (crying, sighing, sinking…) are underlined by similar vocal and instrumental effects. This Lamento is without a doubt the perfect example of the aria à da capo form that Johann Sebastian Bach so frequently used in his sacred works. This vocal music programme is accompanied by a few instrumental pieces that can be assimilated to church music. © SM/Qobuz
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Cantatas (sacred) - Released May 25, 2018 | harmonia mundi

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
Bach's "Dialogue Cantatas" generally portrayed Jesus in dialogue with the human soul, first tormented and then at peace. The three cantatas selected here by Berlin's Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin, which has, over the years since 1982 (with over a million records sold!) brought together musicians from the city's different orchestras – first those under Soviet rule and then all orchestras following the fall of the Wall – are a part of this genre; all date from the great Leipzig period, specifically the third cycle written by Bach for Leipzig in 1726. It will come as no surprise, hearing these cantatas, that the essence of the first arias is desperate, heart-rending: and as they go on, they move towards relief and joy. It is in these first moments that we see Bach at his most intense, most pained, most chromatic, terribly modern as well as at his most romantic, profoundly lyrical and yet rigorous in the musical discourse. The most superbly original piece is surely the Cantata BWV 49, which begins with a Sinfonia with obbligato organ – in which the listener will recognise the final movement of the Harpsichord Concerto in E Major, when Bach recycled it a dozen years later – and continues with an aria with cello and oboe, both soloists immersed in the soprano's joyous voice; and we finish on a magnificent chorale with an aria – the aria being for the bass of the solo organ, while the soprano part sings the chorale's theme from on high: a staggering display of modernity. © SM/Qobuz

Sacred Vocal Music - Released May 18, 2018 | DUX

Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
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One might well say: this is just yet another recording of Rachmaninov's Vespers. And while, objectively, that's what this is, it’s also a reading which differs markedly from the norm – the norm in question being to drown the discourse in an intense reverberation, natural or artificial, and to record it at a distance, to create a "churchy" feel. None of that here: the choir – exemplary, superb – of the Podlasie Opera and Philharmonic in Poland, an institution based in Białystok, is recorded here quite close up, almost intimately, with no added reverb and in a comfortable acoustic location: the European Art Centre in Białystok. The result is that the listener hears every word and almost every counter-punctual line – and Rachmaninov had a field day with this, adding up to eleven real voices into the most harmonically intense passages. We bet that for many, this will be a real discovery, of an immense masterpiece of Slavic religious music. We also note that the soloists are of great quality and that the basso profundos demanded of the choir at points are real basso profundos, not unfortunate bass baritones in danger of asphyxiation. Hats off. © SM/Qobuz
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Sacred Vocal Music - Released April 20, 2018 | deutsche harmonia mundi

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
If we are to believe the archives of the Inquisition – and they knew a thing or two about partying – music played too big a role in a number of convents in the early Renaissance. Of course, plain-chant had always been a part of the liturgy, but it seems that the nuns were overstepping the mark and getting into playing all manner of contemporary music. This should hardly come as a surprise, as well-bred young women enjoyed a broad culture on the one hand, and their religious duties didn't take up so much time, leaving them with a lot of time to dedicate to less-holy activities on the other. These concerts were given in convent schools; but they were big draws. There was a limit to their musical possibilities: no male voices, of course, so the nuns had no choice but to give the tenor and bass parts to deeper instruments, which they would play themselves, such as bassoons or trombones. This album contains the movements that make up the full mass, mostly from the works of Tomás Luis de Victoria (1548-1611). But this is not an attempt to reproduce a particular mass: the documentation in those days wasn't precise enough to allow that. Rather, it is an "imaginary mass" from Renaissance Spain, with responses and plainsong interspersed among richly polyphonic movements. Of course, we only hear women's voices, as well as some purely-instrumental pieces. The album closes with Adorámoste Señor by Francisco de la Torre (1483-1507), which is almost a century older than the pieces by Victoria de la Torre from whom the ensemble Capella de la Torre took its name. © SM/Qobuz
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Cantatas (sacred) - Released April 20, 2018 | Audax

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
Continuing their research into the vast hinterland of German cantatas from the early baroque period, Johannes Pramsohler and the musicians of his excellent Diderot Ensemble here dive into the austere and strange music of Biber, but also the less-well-known works of Johann Christoph Bach, great uncle of Johann Sebastian and musicians like Pachelbel, Bruhns and Eberlin. Johannes Pramsohler brings a particular fire and mystical sensuality to this new album (heavenly and earthly delights never being so far apart), and intense celestial flights to his violin playing. A range of international singers have left behind opera and dived with staggering ease into a completely different repertoire. The architects of this success, the supply and airy voice of the Canadian mezzo Andrea Hill, the perfectly gloomy timbre of Spanish tenor Jorge Navarro Colorado and the dark colours of the Argentine bass Nahuel di Pierro, sound the depths of this music driven by a great piety. © François Hudry/Qobuz

Masses, Passions, Requiems - Released March 23, 2018 | Pan Classics

Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
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Every single note of this astounding mass of the Holy Virgin from Ghiselin Danckerts (1510-1567) is from the hand of the composer. The remark is by no means trivial, because at the time a good part of the Gregorian repertoire was the subject of thousands of improvisations, unannotated by definition. Yet, Danckerts annotated them, with a luxury of details, so we know precisely what the choirs and the soloists were singing and what they were improvising on the Gregorian sections of his mass (the introit, the hallelujah,…), a great rarity then, all the more so that the composer doesn’t hesitate to reproduce a few singular dissonances coming from implacable melodic logics. He is incidentally known for a few writings in which he clarifies with exactitude the art and the way to sing the sharp notes and the flat notes, to unfold the melisma, etc. Naturally, the polyphonic acts themselves (Kyrie, Credo, etc.) are also the subject of an extravagant harmonic and melodic profusion. It is hard to believe that this music is almost already half a millennium old. Danckerts was accepted as a singer in the papal chapel in 1538 and only left in 1565, not exactly his own choosing since according to his firing letter, he was accused of not having a voice anymore, to indulge in the pleasures with women, to be insanely rich and to be too sick to continue. Well, he wasn’t completely abandoned by the Church since, despite being a vile sinner, he kept on receiving his salary until his death two years later. The magnificent ensemble Cantar Lontano recorded this wonder in the captivating acoustics of two Italian baroque churches, in Pesaro and Castelbellino, neither too resounding nor too dry. © SM/Qobuz
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Masses, Passions, Requiems - Released March 23, 2018 | Aparté

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
From the start of the 18th century, Lutheran Germany has kept the tradition of performing an oratorio for the Passion in Holy Week. In Hamburg, where Telemann is said to have spent 46 years as musical director, he would have overseen as many Passions. But if we include his previous jobs, that would take the number of works by Telemann for this theme alone to over sixty! These Passions could be strictly liturgical, that is, they could closely follow the text of one of the Gospels; but they could also liberally paraphrase the story of the Passion, following a version by a contemporary author; or they could represent a meditation on the events. And so Seliges Erwägen by Telemann, whose full title leaves no doubt as to the content: Oratorio of the Passion, or Spiritual Contemplation on the bitter suffering and death of Jesus Christ, to inspire prayer, in several meditations taken from the account of the Passion. Not a linear account of the Passion, as with Bach: but a series of individual meditations set to music. The work was first composed in 1719, and then reviewed and completed three years later for Hamburg, where the first performance took place on 19 March 1722 the success was considerable, and the work was performed again and again many times throughout the following decades. This was probably the most-performed work on the Passion in the 18th century, out ahead even of Telemann's Brockes Passion... There is no evangelist here, nor storyteller, but rather an evocation of the main events of the Passion. That is why there are only two main "roles" here: Christ, with six airs and six recitations, and the allegory of the Devotion (soprano or tenor) as the mouthpiece for the thoughts of the faithful, with eight airs and eight recitations. The sole narrator is Peter, with his denial and despair, and Caiaphas, the high priest who condemns Jesus, comes on for a single, very violent, air. This is very much a series of individual devotional meditations. The instrumentation in particular is extraordinarily rich. Alongside the strings, the continuo and the standard woodwind, a dash of colour is added by two horns, two chalumeaux, ancestors of the clarinet – what a pity that Bach never made the most of this sound – echoing recorders, a magnificent bassoon solo that intermingles with the soprano's voice; in short, once again, Teleman proves to us that far from being a mill for middle-of-the-road baroque, he is in fact one of the most imposing musical minds of his age. The Freiburger Barockorchester and a lovely soloists come together to perform this work.. © SM/Qobuz
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Masses, Passions, Requiems - Released March 16, 2018 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - Choc de Classica
Mass by Bernstein, first performed in 1971, defies classification. It is not really a mass in the strict sense, but more of a kind of deconstruction of a traditional mass; after all, the full title is MASS: A Theatre Piece for Singers, Players, and Dancers and the theme resembles a divine service which turns sour before finally discovering universal peace. At the outset, the world seems to be at one, but then "street musicians" begin questioning the need for, or even the very existence of, a god. Cacophony reigns until the cataclysmic elevation of the host, when finally peace breaks out, when the Celebrant brings everyone together around the holy spirit, before intoning a final "go in peace". Bernstein's score brings together all the myriad elements of 20th century music: jazz, blues, rock, Broadway, expressionism, dodecaphonism, modernism with a hint of Britten, street music, fanfares, classical song mixed with rock and jazz voices and Gospel recitations: a veritable Tower of Babel which is hard even to list in a single breath. But Yannick Nézet-Séguin can be trusted to knit all these disparate elements together. Note also that this is a live concert recording, with a breathtaking spatial distribution. Putting history aside, the FBI – never one to miss out on a chance to look ridiculous – decided that Mass was pacifist, anti-establishment propaganda and begged Nixon to boycott its opening night. After all, the work had been commissioned by Jackie Kennedy for the inauguration of the Washington Kennedy Center for the Arts, when America was in the middle of its Vietnamese quagmire...© SM/Qobuz

Sacred Vocal Music - Released January 15, 2018 | naïve classique

Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
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It might be hard to believe that there could still exist a "discographic world first" when it came to the works of Gounod, and harder still to imagine that it could be such a substantial piece as this. And yet… Saint François d’Assise, a little oratorio in two parts first performed in 1891, has remained obscure up until now, to the point that its very existence has proved something of a surprise. And then all of a sudden, in 1996, the manuscript came back to light quite by accident: and here is its first recording, although several recordings had been made since its rediscovery. Gounod's last oratorio, of rather more modest proportions than Rédemption or Mors et Vita, with its great unity and flavoursome, carefully-tailored archaisms, conjures up both Franciscan austerity and that fullness of sound for which Gounod had such a knack. According to the composer himself: "I wanted the first of the two tableaux to be a musical translation of that beautiful tableau by Murillo showing Christ on the cross leaning over to St. Francis and putting his arm around his neck. The second tableau would be a translation of that fine work by Giotto, The Death of St Francis, surrounded by his brothers. " Let the listener be guided by his own lights. The album is rounded off with Hymne à Sainte Cécile, also by Gounod, and then Légende de Sainte Cécile by Liszt, written in 1874; and it should come of no surprise that the work is sung in French: it is, after all, the work's original language. © SM/Qobuz
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Sacred Vocal Music - Released November 10, 2017 | harmonia mundi

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - Choc de Classica
From the outset it should be said that this – sumptuous – album of Monteverdi’s Selva morale e spirituale (literally Moral and Spiritual Forest) doesn’t feature the complete collection of some forty titles contained in the master’s last work published in 1640, but rather a carefully minded selection of fifteen titles to provide the broadest possible overview of the various styles as well as melodic and choral genres approached by Monteverdi, with indeed a penchant for the sacred. A complete collection would have required three to four hours… Let’s get to the point: Pablo Heras-Casado’s reading at the head of the Balthasar Neumann Choir and Ensemble is absolutely stunning, allowing ample room for the vocal and instrumental colours (because Monteverdi quite specifically described the instrumentations and alternations between vocals and instruments) and sound layers so specific to the Venetian language. Undoubtedly Heras-Casado has proven to be not only an excellent symphonic conductor, but also that he fully understand the art of vocals and the writing of the Renaissance. © SM/Qobuz
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Sacred Vocal Music - Released October 13, 2017 | Arcana

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
Less famous—at least these days—than his colleague, “rival” and almost contemporary Giovanni Gabrieli, Giovanni Croce also worked in Venice, but wrote less in the sacred polychoral style and more in madrigals for four or five voices (often profane, carefree and happy) than Gabrieli. That being said, here’s some of his works for eight voices—often polychoral then—released in Venice in 1596 for the motets, and in 1605 for the Sacrae Cantiones, testimonies of his consummate art of melody and harmony. By comparison, the ensembles Voces Suaves—vocal— and Concerto Scirocco—instrumental—have chosen to include some works from the two Gabrielis, Andrea and his nephew Giovanni, and also from Guami and Merulo, all tight contemporaries going from the middle of the XVIth century to the start of the next one. Cornets, sackbuts, viols, dulcians and organs (the one built in 1565 in the Church of Mantua, in which the album is recorded, for that matter) answer to the voices in the very rich and yet intimate acoustics of the place. © SM/Qobuz
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Cantatas (sacred) - Released September 8, 2017 | Phi

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - 5 étoiles de Classica
For the third time on the Phi label, Philippe Herreweghe gives us the opportunity to (re)discover three cantatas by Johann Sebastian Bach – Nimm von uns, Herr, du treuer Gott, BWV 101, Ihr werdet weinen und heulen, BWV 103 and Mache dich, mein Geist, bereit, BWV 115. After two albums of cantatas written during the composer’s first year in Leipzig, the Belgian conductor and his Collegium Vocale Gent, orchestra and choir, will be performing three cantatas he composed during his second year as Kantor at St Thomas’s. The choir and vocal soloists are once again challenged to produce performances of subtlety and refined virtuosity, and the instrumentarium is as rich and colourful as those heard previously in this series. © Phi

Sacred Vocal Music - Released August 18, 2017 | Seattle Symphony Media

Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - 5 étoiles de Classica
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Written in 1936 for his young wife Claire Delbos, Poèmes pour Mi (“Mi” being the nickname the composer gave her) is a kind of wedding gift, nine melodies for soprano and orchestra all directly or indirectly inspired by the Dauphiné landscapes Messiaen had fallen in love with. Even though he wasn’t yet 30, the composer had already found his style, which in its harmonic and rhythmic structure would scarcely change. In some of his poems you can even detect the accents he would go on to use 40 years later in Saint François d’Assise. It goes to show that good music remains good music and recycling − conscious or not − isn’t exclusive to composers of previous centuries! Here Jane Archibald, almost without a hint of accent, sings these small gems with great emotion. Trois petites liturgies de la présence divine, written in 1944 when he was liberated from a prisoner-of-war camp, was initially designed for a women’s choir, piano, ondes Martenot and string orchestra. The Seattle Orchestra and Ludovic Morlot decided to entrust the chorus part to a children’s choir, giving it a “purer” and more angelic sound – a charming idea. Upon creating his work in 1945 Messiaen could boast about a particularly prestigious panel of auditors: Arthur Honegger, Georges Auric, Francis Poulenc, Henri Sauguet, Alexis Roland-Manuel, André Jolivet, Claude Delvincourt, Lazare Lévy, Jean-Yves Daniel-Lesur, Jean Wiener, Georges Braque, Paul Éluard, Pierre Henry and even Pierre Boulez (not yet famous but probably already predisposed to being spiteful). His success was as dazzling as immediate and lasting. It has everything that makes up Messiaen, including a rather virtuous piano part (played by Yvonne Loriod upon the work’s creation), little birds, Jesus Christ as well as his ever so specific chords, both brilliant and iridescent. © SM/Qobuz

Sacred Vocal Music - Released May 5, 2017 | Pan Classics

Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
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