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Sacred Vocal Music - Released April 29, 2016 | Glossa

Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - Gramophone Editor's Choice
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Classical - Released January 4, 2011 | Glossa

Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
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Classical - Released November 4, 2014 | Glossa

Distinctions 5 de Diapason
Graindelavoix and its director, Björn Schmelzer, have been praised for their imaginative approach to interpreting early music, especially for emphasizing the qualities of individual voices, as opposed to presenting a blended ensemble sound. This recording of vocal music from the Cambrai manuscript A 410 offers a few motets credited to Gobin de Rains and Eustache le Peintre de Rains, though most of the tracks are by that ubiquitous medieval composer, Anonymous. However, the figure Schmelzer looks to for inspiration is the architect Villard de Honnecourt, whose travels across medieval Europe suggested the methods and choice of repertoire for Graindelavoix's trilogy of CDs, Ossuaires, Confréries, and this third volume, Motets. Schmelzer employs male and female voices, which are accompanied by fiddle, guiterne, and lute, and the pieces represent the mix of sacred and secular music of the Cambrai region, near the area where Villard de Honnecourt operated. Of course, little of the history is apparent to the ear, and the music is what matters most to listeners, who may or may not appreciate the finer aspects of "cathedralism" and its impact on 13th century music. Instead, the melismatic vocals and austere instrumental music convey the appropriate atmosphere and expressiveness of northern French motets, creatively interpreted to the best of the group's abilities. © TiVo
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Classical - Released April 17, 2020 | Glossa

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There is something deeply troubling and inscrutable in Carlo Gesualdo’s music, something that any listener, even the most inexpert one, will unfailingly experience. This most particularly holds for Tenebrae Responsoria (1611), his definitive statement, his monument, his testament. It is as if this work, firmly embedded in the framework of liturgy for the Holy Week and reaching back to the practices of the Gregorian chant, would constantly extend over its boundaries and transgress its time and setting, immediately addressing modernity, disturbing all the rules in a severe tension, reaching into something that borders on chaos and madness, within the very order and religious devotion it fully espouses. Graindelavoix, that groundbreaking ensemble based in Antwerp and directed by Björn Schmelzer, are the ideal performers for this disquieting repertoire which originally was sung at Gesualdo’s castle and with probably only one listener in the audience: Gesualdo himself... In a tour de force lasting over three hours, recorded over ten days in summer 2019, the singers fully display all the features which, after 16 albums (all on Glossa) and hundreds of concerts, have made their sound a truly trademark one. In words of Schmelzer, “this is our most important recording to date”. A fascinating essay especially commissioned to Lithuanian philosopher and cultural theorist Mladen Dolar puts the music of Gesualdo into perspective, avoiding the clichés that are so often found in texts about the composer. © Alpha Classics
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Vocal Music (Secular and Sacred) - Released January 19, 2018 | Glossa

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The sixteenth-century madrigalist Cipriano de Rore perhaps remains something of a mystery figure in modern times, awaiting penetrating simplification and clarification. Rather than simplification, a new recording of selections from his expressive output from Björn Schmelzer and Graindelavoix, entitled Portrait of the artits as a starved dog, is more likely to yield illumination and fascination. That is Schmelzer’s way. As with many Graindelavoix recordings on Glossa, the accompanying artwork in the album booklet forms an integral part of the convincing performance (as does Schmelzer’s essay). Here, the imagery includes images by Albrecht Dürer and Hans Mielich, statues of Melpomene and Medusa, sculptures by Michelangelo, even a sardonyx cameo cup. A portrait of De Rore shows the inner likeness of the composer as being possessed of a manic madness or “furor divinus” and having the guise of an emaciated dog. De Rore was born in Ronse – not that far from Schmelzer’s Antwerp – and, as well as probably being under the protection of Margaret of Parma, he travelled through Europe in the first half of the sixteenth century, notably to Ferrara. Regarded as a pivotal figure in the evolution of the madrigal, De Rore’s style developed significantly across his career and Graindelavoix’s programme gravitates from some of his settings of stanze from Ariosto’s epic poem Orlando furioso through to some of his later, much more radical madrigals. Also found on this recording is De Rore’s multi-voiced setting of Dido’s lament from Virgil’s Aeneid. © Glossa
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Classical - Released March 24, 2017 | Glossa

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On June 2, 1640, a silent funereal procession proceeded to the Sint-Jacobskerk in Antwerp. The deceased was none other than the famous painter of the Baroque period, Peter Paul Rubens, and it seems clear – musicological research seems to have established the fact beyond doubt – that the requiem mass sung by the cathedral choir on this occasion was an eight-part work, i.e. a Dies irae printed in Antwerp 28 years ago and written by the Italian composer Orazio Vecchi (1550-1605). Of all the Masses published or available in Antwerp at that time, only the Missa pro defunctis by Vecchi, originally published posthumously in Italy by Phalèse in 1612 (with other masses of the same composer as well as Monteverdi’s Missa in illo tempore, the latter being an important artist in Rubens' life who began his career at the Mantuan court where he worked alongside the musician), deserves special consideration in the context of these funerals. The album offers the complete Mass setting, as well as liturgical works by a few other musicians who lived or worked in the region during Rubens’ life: La Hèle, Ruimonte and Lobo. The Belgian ensemble Graindelavoix, a dozen vocal soloists singing according to the uses of the time, is at the helm. In a way, you’ll be taking part in the funeral ceremonies of the great Rubens… © SM/Qobuz
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Classical - Released September 14, 2018 | Glossa

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With « The Liberation of the Gothic », Björn Schmelzer and Graindelavoix deliver an imaginative reading of music by two English composers active at the end of the fifteenth century, the towering figure of John Browne and the slightly later and much less wellknown Thomas Ashwell (or Ashewell). Björn Schmelzer draws a vivid connection between the florid polyphony of these two composers and the freedom of structure and ornament found in late Gothic architecture, notably that of the fourteenthcentury Lady Chapel built as part of the “Ship of the Fens”, Ely Cathedral. Performing Ashwell’s intricately-woven Missa Ave Maria – a landmark in polyphony – Schmelzer and his Antwerp-based ensemble echo, in the individual freedom accorded to these virtuoso singers, the rich ornamentation of foliage, seemingly in constant motion, decorating the walls of Ely’s Lady Chapel. The singers add their own “coloratura”, an approach which continues to be central to Björn Schmelzer’s interpretation of medieval and Renaissance works, as have been appearing on Glossa for a decade and a half now. In his booklet essay Schmelzer refers to the British writer and artist John Ruskin describing the “liberation of the Gothic” as also concerning “the workers, who were not submitted to repetitive, mechanical work but invested in continuous and infinite variation.” Acting as surrounding pillars to Ashwell’s Mass on this recording are two of the extended motets, much favoured by early Tudor English polyphonists – and encountered in the famous Eton Choirbook manuscript: John Browne’s Stabat mater and his first setting of the Salve regina. © Glossa
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Classical - Released March 24, 2017 | Glossa

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Sacred Vocal Music - Released January 1, 2009 | Glossa

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Choral Music (Choirs) - Released January 1, 2006 | 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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Classical - Released October 1, 2013 | Glossa

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Classical - Released January 3, 2012 | Glossa

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Vocal Music (Secular and Sacred) - Released January 1, 2013 | Glossa

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