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Classical - To be released January 7, 2022 | BIS

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Classical - Released December 3, 2021 | BIS

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In 2019, when Alexandre Kantorow, at the age of 22, became the first French pianist to win the Gold Medal at the Tchaikovsky competition, his programme included no less than three works by Johannes Brahms. Two of these, Piano Sonata No. 2 and the Rhapsody in B Minor, he went on to record for release on his previous, highly praised recital programme, which was awarded distinctions. The Brahms interpretations won Kantorow particular praise – the Guardian (UK) described them as "magisterial" while the website ResMusica placed his sonata "among the great reference recordings of the piece – if not the modern one". There is much to look forward to, then, when Kantorow releases an all-Brahms album with a playing time of no less than 85 minutes. He opens with music by a composer of a similar age as himself: Brahms wrote the Four Ballades in 1854 while only 21 years old, taking up a fashionable genre introduced by Chopin as late as 1840. The set is followed by the even earlier Sonata No. 3 in F minor which forms the centre of the programme. The sonata is of almost symphonic dimensions and it was indeed, along with its predecessors, famously described as a disguised symphony by no one less than Robert Schumann. To bring this stormy, impassioned album to a close, Kantorow has chosen a later, and contrasting work: with a lifelong admiration for Bach, Brahms in 1879 made a piano arrangement, for the left hand alone, of the iconic Chaconne from Partita No. 2 for Solo Violin – a composition that Brahms himself described as "a whole world of the deepest thoughts and most powerful impressions". © BIS Records
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Classical - Released December 3, 2021 | BIS

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At the age of 20, Henry Purcell entered his 14 Fantasias and two In Nomines into an autograph bearing the title "The Works of Hen; Purcell, A.D. 1680". Despite his youth Purcell was already making his mark as a composer, writing music for the London theatres and holding posts at Westminster Abbey and at court. But unlike his works for the theatre and the church, which were intended for specific occasions, very little is known about the impulse behind fantasias. Composed for between three and seven parts they are a consciously anachronistic distillation of an old style at a time when the reigning taste was for more modern sounds – for dance-based music with lively rhythms and hummable tunes. It isn’t even clear what kind of ensemble they were intended for: given the association with older music, one might assume that Purcell had viols in mind, but the distribution of the parts is not always in keeping with the standard sizes of the viol consort – nor for that matter those of the violin consort. Were the fantasias in fact ever performed? None of these questions has a satisfactory answer, and in this respect the Purcell Fantasias resemble Bach’s The Art of the Fugue, because of their quality and inventiveness but also owing to the mysteries that surround them. The collection is here performed by Chelys Consort of Viols, following up on three previously released recordings featuring the music of Michael East, John Dowland and Christopher Simpson (BIS). © BIS Records
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Chamber Music - Released December 3, 2021 | BIS

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Friends of long standing as well as regular partners in chamber music, Michael Collins and Stephen Hough bring their combined musical insights and expertise to bear on Johannes Brahms’s Sonatas for Clarinet and Piano. Together with the composer’s Trio for Clarinet, Cello and Piano and Clarinet Quintet, the sonatas are among the most treasured works in the repertoire of the instrument – but it is partly down to good luck that we have them at all. When Brahms in 1891 heard the clarinettist Richard Mühlfeld, principal clarinet of the Meiningen Court Orchestra, he had already announced his retirement. He was enraptured by Mühlfeld’s playing and its vocal qualities, however, and made a "comeback": during the following couple of years he composed all four of his clarinet works. These were written especially for Mühlfeld, whose spirit does seem to pervade the two Sonatas – we hear an unusually sunny and lyrical Brahms, with plenty of opportunity to sing for both instruments. When the Sonatas were published, they appeared with alternative viola parts to replace the clarinet, and soon violin versions prepared by the composer were also brought out. For the opening work here, Michael Collins has therefore taken a leaf out of Brahms’s book, by adapting the composer’s Violin Sonata No. 2, another late work. The amount of adaptation needed is small: a lot of the violin writing fits the clarinet well, and the Sonata share much of the songlike quality of the two "real" clarinet sonatas. © BIS Records
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Classical - Released December 3, 2021 | BIS

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Having begun their collaboration in 1997, the Swedish Chamber Orchestra and its conductor laureate Thomas Dausgaard have developed an unusually tight partnership. Nowhere is this demonstrated more clearly than in their cycles of the symphonies of Schumann, Schubert and, most recently, Brahms – performances which have been characterized by reviewers as variously "fresh", "vivid", "transparent" and "invigorating". Of Mendelssohn the team has previously recorded the incidental music to A Midsummer Night’s Dream, a release described as "capturing Mendelssohn’s inimitable spirit" (Crescendo). The same album included The Hebrides, and now the SCO and Dausgaard return to Scotland, with Mendelssohn’s "Scottish" Symphony. This was begun in 1829, after a stay in London during which the composer conducted his Symphony No. 1, also included here. Mendelssohn’s imagination was often fired by impressions from nature, and Scotland was the Romantic landscape par excellence, celebrated for its rugged Highland scenery and melancholy tunes. "I think that today I found the beginning of my Scottish" Symphony", he wrote to his parents after a visit to the ruined chapel at Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh. It took more than a decade for him to complete the symphony – but ever since its first performance, in 1842, it has been a staple of the symphonic repertoire. © BIS Records
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Tango - Released December 3, 2021 | BIS

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With his tango nuevo, Astor Piazzolla has been welcomed into the world of classical music in a way that no other "non-classical" composer has experienced. His music is played in concert halls around the world, and has been arranged for the most varied forces: symphony orchestra, string quartet, brass ensemble, mandolin orchestra, harpsichord... Taking their name from Piazzolla’s Escualo ("Shark"), written in 1979 for his Quinteto Tango Nuevo, the five musicians that make up Escualo5 have a different approach, replicating the formation that Piazzolla performed with for much of his career: bandoneon, violin, piano, guitar and double bass. The aim isn’t to recreate Piazzolla’s own performances, however – based in Munich but hailing from respectively Brazil, Germany, Greece and Belarus, the members are soloists in their own right, bringing their individual talents as improvisers and arrangers to the recordings. The programme that Escualo5 have devised for their first album includes some much-loved as well as less familiar pieces for the quintet setup – Primavera Porteña, Soledad, Adiós Nonino, Fracanapa – as well as arrangements of Tango Suite and Histoire du Tango, originally for two guitars and flute and guitar, respectively. © BIS Records
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Classical - Released December 3, 2021 | BIS

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Concertos for cor anglais are few and far between, and harp concertos aren’t very common either. In combining the two, Kalevi Aho has come up with a true rarity – possibly the only double concerto in existence for these two instruments. Composed in 2014, the work was commissioned by the Antwerp Symphony Orchestra for two of its solo players: Anneleen Lenaerts and Dimitri Mestdag, who also perform it here. The work is characteristically eclectic, making the most of the sonic possibilities of the solo instruments, but also of the orchestral palette. The Antwerp Symphony Orchestra is no newcomer to Aho’s music, having previously recorded his concertos for trombone and trumpet. Here, it also provides support for the Storioni Trio, in the Triple Concerto for Violin, Cello, Piano and Chamber Orchestra, a joint commission by the trio and the orchestra. In 2017, as Aho started work on the concerto, his granddaughter was born. Having written a lullaby for her, he decided to use that as the core melodic material of the piece. The lullaby is heard several times in the first movement, which is quite tonal and very dreamlike. It also features in the movements that follow, while the harmonic language becomes more complex. Aho himself describes the work as having "a general atmosphere full of joy and positive (sometimes quite virtuosic) energy". © BIS Records
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Classical - Released November 5, 2021 | BIS

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Bach was renowned as a keyboard player as well as being an accomplished violinist, but as far as we know he didn't play the lute. He seems to have been fascinated by the instrument’s special sound qualities, however, and was clearly inspired by the possibilities of the "Lautenwerk". This was a gut-strung harpsichord designed to imitate the sound of the lute and at least some of the works usually referred to as "the Bach Lute Suites" were probably composed for this instrument. Jakob Lindberg recorded the complete suites in 1992. Returning to the composer almost three decades later, he does so in the company of his Rauwolf lute, an instrument built in Augsburg around 1590 and "modernised" in 1715, during Bach’s lifetime. But this time, only two of the works belong to the standard lute repertoire – the Prelude, BWV 999 and the Suite BWV 1006a, which in fact is the composer’s own arrangement of his Partita No. 3 for Solo Violin. For the remaining works recorded here, Lindberg has taken the cue from Bach, making arrangements of Cello Suite No. 1 and Sonata No. 1 for Solo Violin in full. He has also chosen individual movements from other solo works, including the highly complex fugue from Sonata No. 3, BWV 1005. This amply filled album closes with the iconic Chaconne from Partita No. 2 in D minor. © BIS Records
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Classical - Released November 5, 2021 | BIS

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“Come over to Schober's today, and I will sing you a cycle of horrifying songs. I am anxious to know what you say about them. They have cost me more effort than any of my other songs”. These were the words with which Schubert coaxed his friends to come listen to Winterreise – 24 settings for tenor voice and piano of poems by Wilhelm Müller, mostly cast in minor tonality, which chart a rejected lover’s bleak trudge through a snow-covered landscape. It was 1827, and the following year he would die from syphilis, aged 31. So, while a preoccupation with death and loneliness had been a constant theme in Schubert’s music, with Winterreise those themes reach their ultimate expression. This reading sees Wagner specialist James Rutherford join colleagues such as Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Matthias Goerne in transposing them down to the baritone range, and Gute Nacht makes for a highly satisfyingly start: a nice, rounded weight to Eugene Asti’s trudging piano chords, and from Rutherford himself the balance of warm fullness with lighter-voiced delicacy. Onwards, and it’s all highly expressive, but never overblown. In fact, while their outbursts pack punch – Rutherford’s heartrending final shout of Da ist meine Liebsten Haus (“That’s where my beloved’s house is”) at the close of Wasserflut, or Asti’s colouristic range at the centre of Frühlingstraum, from menacing lower register growls to devilishly sharp, upper register stabs – it’s often the delicacy that most strikes; the impression they create of bleak, surrounding silence, thanks as much to Asti’s lightness on the pedal as to Rutherford. Most effective of all is the desolate quiet hanging over their Der Leiermann as each crisply, rhythmically imitates the hurdy gurdy grind, before the elegant, anguished curve of Rutherford’s final question, “Strange old man, Should I go with you? Will you to my songs Play your hurdy gurdy?” © Charlotte Gardner/Qobuz
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Classical - Released November 5, 2021 | BIS

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The Kalevala is a compilation of mostly original folk poetry, arranged into fifty extensive runos ("poems") by the Finnish physician and folklorist Elias Lönnrot. Beginning with the creation of the world, it develops into a series of separate episodes which nevertheless form a rich whole, introducing epic characters such as Väinämöinen, Lemminkäinen and Kullervo. The collection first appeared in 1835, with a final, extended version being published in 1849, and was soon hailed as Finland’s "national epos" – a sensitive matter given that the country had been subjected to Russian rule since 1809. It came to play a major part in Finland’s national awakening and had a massive influence on Finnish art in the late 19th century, but its role in the national consciousness remains important even today. The present album, from the Lahti Symphony Orchestra and Dima Slobodeniouk, brings together Kalevala-related works spanning the period between 1897 and 1943. No such collection could overlook Sibelius, who composed several works inspired by the epos. Included here is a rarity – the first recording of the 1897 version of Lemminkäinen in Tuonela, from the Lemminkäinen Suite. Finnish composers from later generations all had to find a way out from under Sibelius’s shadow – especially so when composing works based on the Kalevala. The portraits of Kullervo which bookend the recording, by Leevi Madetoja and Tauno Pylkkänen, are both compact works in contrast to Sibelius’s large-scale "choral symphony" on the same theme, and when Uuno Klami used bold and primitive colours in his five-movement Kalevala Suite, he was looking towards Stravinsky rather than his countryman. © BIS Records
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Chamber Music - Released November 5, 2021 | BIS

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In the spring of 2020, the Covid pandemic caused turmoil in the concert diaries of most musicians, including the conductor Andrew Litton and his wife Katharina Kang Litton, principal violist of New York City Ballet. To find an outlet for their musical expression they began to explore the repertoire for viola and piano together. Having played the Sonatas by Brahms they came across the music by two other Viennese composers, Brahms’ near-contemporary Robert Fuchs and his student Egon Kornauth. Fuchs – who the less-than-effusive Brahms called "a splendid musician" – had a long and distinguished career at the Vienna Conservatory where his other students included such composers as Mahler, Wolf, Sibelius, Zemlinsky and Korngold. That the Sonatas recorded here were composed around the same time as Schoenberg’s Second String Quartet can be hard to believe – as is the fact that Fuchs’s Phantasiestücke (composed in his 80th and final year) was contemporary with Bartók’s Piano Concerto No. 1. But if they are not in any way pioneering, all three works are beautifully achieved: formally both strong and flexible, with a subtle, deeply-felt emotional colouring of their own. The Litton Duo close the recital with a piece that has a personal significance for the two – an arrangement of the Korean folk song Arirang which they received as a wedding present from Stephen Hough. © BIS Records
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Chamber Music - Released November 5, 2021 | BIS

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In this transatlantic recording, three American composers born during the first half of the last century rub shoulders with two young musicians from Eastern Europe. A member of the BBC New Generation Artists scheme, the violinist Aleksey Semenenko first met the pianist Artem Belogurov at the Stolyarsky Special Music School in Odessa at an early age. Even if their individual careers have taken to different parts of the world, the two still perform together whenever possible, and here they present three sonatas. Of the composers, the best-known is André Previn who composed his Violin Sonata No. 2 in 2011 for Anne-Sophie Mutter. An improvisatory spirit permeates the work which is in three movements with the markings Joyous, Desolate and Brilliant. Tony Schemmer and Paul Gay are both based in the Boston area and share a background in which jazz and classical genres merge. This is reflected in their Sonatas, composed in the 1980s and here recorded for the first time. © BIS Records
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Chamber Music - Released October 1, 2021 | BIS

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For a string player, Beethoven’s 16 quartets are of an importance similar to that of his sonatas to a pianist, or his symphonies to a conductor. As a body they form the culmination of all the chamber music composed before them, and to this day they remain a benchmark for every composer of string quartets. The Chiaroscuro Quartet begin their cycle of these works at the same place as Beethoven did, with the Op. 18 set which occupied him intensively for the best part of two years (1798-1800). The effort he put into these quartets was surely due to the fact that he had much to live up to – they would be measured against those of Haydn and Mozart, who had raised the genre to a supreme vehicle for "learned" taste and subtle, civilized musical discourse. Beethoven was clearly determined that the six Op. 18 quartets should present the widest possible overview of his art. Of the three works included on this first volume, No. 1 in F major is the most imposing in scale and the widest in expressive range. In comparison, the Second in G major, is more urbane and light-hearted, recreating the spirit of an eighteenth-century comedy of manners à la Haydn. The most lyrical of the set is the No. 3 in D major, which despite its numbering was probably the first quartet that Beethoven completed. © BIS Records
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Classical - Released October 1, 2021 | BIS

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On the two previously released Bartók programmes (both highly praised), Susanna Mälkki and her players in the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra have recorded Bartók’s three scores for the stage – The Miraculous Mandarin, The Wooden Prince and Bluebeard’s Castle, all written before 1918. The team now takes on two of his late orchestral masterpieces. Composed in 1936 for the Basel Chamber Orchestra, Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta is one of the purest examples of Bartók’s mature style, with its synthesis of folk music, classicism and modernism. One immediately striking feature is the unusual instrumentation: two string orchestras seated on opposite sides of the stage, with percussion and keyboard instruments in the middle and towards the back. In 1940, during the Second World War, Bartók emigrated to the United States, where he initially found it difficult to compose. In 1943 he received a prestigious commission from the Boston Symphony Orchestra, however, and in less than eight weeks he composed the Concerto for Orchestra. In it he worked with contrasts between different sections of the orchestra, and the soloistic treatment of these groupings was his reason for calling the work a concerto rather than a symphony. © BIS Records
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Chamber Music - Released October 1, 2021 | BIS

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Formed in 2020, Wigmore Soloists is a chamber ensemble made up of a roster of outstanding musicians, led by Isabelle van Keulen and Michael Collins. An associate ensemble of the iconic London concert venue Wigmore Hall, it is the first one to be given the honour of using the name. The core line-up of string quintet, wind quintet and piano makes it possible to perform a wide and varied repertoire, and for its first recording the ensemble has chosen one of the larger works in the chamber music literature, in terms of duration as well as the forces involved. Franz Schubert modelled his Octet in F major on Beethoven’s Septet, a work which during the 24 years since its composition had proven extremely popular in Vienna. Schubert therefore copied Beethoven’s instrumentation (with the addition of a second violin) as well as his general plan of six movements. The Octet is however almost half as long again as the Septet, perhaps a consequence of Schubert wanting to "pave the way towards a grand symphony" by writing it. Like Beethoven – and Mozart in his serenades – Schubert strikes a perfect balance between entertainment and sophistication, while also including plenty of opportunities for the players – especially the first violinist and clarinettist – to show off their virtuosity. © BIS Records
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Classical - Released October 1, 2021 | BIS

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The phrase "memento mori" has its origins in classical antiquity, but the injunction to remember one’s own mortality has been a feature of different cultures and religions throughout the ages; just as death is universal, so is our need to adjust to this fact, and to consider our lives with it in mind. The arts are, and have been, an important means in helping us to do so, which is why the laments gathered on this album speak to us all. The Austrian ensemble klingzeug has gathered examples from some 500 years – from the Planh ("plaint") by Raimbaut de Vaqueiras, a Provençal troubadour of the early 13th century, to Locatelli’s Sinfonia funebre. Two of the most famous of all musical laments have also found their way onto the programme, albeit not in the form we normally hear them; transferred to a violin Dido’s Lament has become a song without words, while Dowland’s Lachrimae is heard in one of the many arrangements made of it, here by the German composer Johann Schop. © BIS Records
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Chamber Music - Released October 1, 2021 | BIS

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It is primarily for his large-scale orchestral works that Sebastian Fagerlund (born 1972) has attracted attention, but throughout his career he has also composed chamber music. In his production, orchestral and chamber music have a fruitful relationship in which a chamber work may contain the germ of ideas that then appear in a new form in an orchestral score. One example of this is Fuel – a set of six miniatures from 2010 – which grows out of the same basic material as Ignite, a work for large orchestra completed in the same year, although they differ greatly in scale and in character. Common to the two genres is also Fagerlund’s firm grasp of the capabilities of the instruments he is writing for. Some of Finland’s leading instrumentalists join forces on the present album, with French horn player Hervé Joulain making an appearance in Transient Light, which is dedicated to him. The six works were composed between 2007 and 2013 and are all for different constellations and of varying dimensions – from a brief duo in one movement (Scherzic) to a quartet in six (Verso l’interno). But there are also common features that recur throughout the programme; for example machine-like textures against which material with longer lines is reflected, and influences from other genres such as traditional music from the Middle East or rock. These do not appear as direct stylistic loans, however, but rather as elements embedded in Fagerlund’s own music. © BIS Records
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Classical - Released October 1, 2021 | BIS

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When Delphine Constantin-Reznik took up the post as harpist in the Norrköping Symphony Orchestra, she first came across the name Anton Pratté, well-known in his lifetime as a harpist and composer. Her research into the music and activities of this forgotten master has now resulted in the very first recording of any of his numerous compositions for the harp. Anton Edvard Pratté was born in Bohemia into a family that ran a touring puppet theatre. He came to Sweden as an adolescent, and soon made a name for himself, performing music of his own as well as by others. Pratté gave concerts across Sweden, as well as in Norway and Finland, and in the 1840s even went on an extensive tour of Europe, performing in Berlin (where members of the Prussian royal family were in the audience), Vienna and Prague. But much of his life was spent in the area around Norrköping where he taught the daughters of wealthy landowners and for a while conducted the local orchestra society – the forerunner of the Norrköping Symphony Orchestra heard in the Grand Concert which opens the present recording. This is followed by two works for solo harp, both making use of traditional tunes from Sweden and Norway respectively. © BIS Records
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Chamber Music - Released September 3, 2021 | BIS

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Previous instalments of the Beethoven sonata cycle from Frank Peter Zimmermann and Martin Helmchen have met with wide acclaim. Described as "conversations by a perfect instrumental pairing" in BBC Music Magazine. This the third and final volume brings together Beethoven's last three works in the genre, composed between 1801 and 1812. The centre-piece is the Ninth Sonata, the famed "Kreutzer"-Sonata. The title page of the first edition described the sonata as "written in a highly concertante style" and it does indeed surpass everything that had previously been written in the genre, in terms of scale as well as technical and compositional complexity. It is preceded by the more lightweight Sonata No. 8 in G major, in which ideas and motifs chase each other until the end of the whirlwind finale. Also in G major, Beethoven’s Tenth and final Violin Sonata closes the volume. It was composed almost ten years after the "Kreutzer", and is certainly less spectacular. In no way is it a step backwards in artistic terms, however: exchanging drama and heroics with songful intimacy, it is rather one of the works through which Beethoven freed himself from the depression into which he had fallen after renouncing his "Immortal Beloved". © BIS Records
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Classical - Released September 3, 2021 | BIS

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That Baïlèro, a shepherd’s song from the highlands of Auvergne sung in the Occitan dialect of the area, should become a favourite with singers ranging from Victoria de los Angeles to Sarah Brightman by way of Renée Fleming and Karita Mattila, is all because of Marie-Joseph Canteloube de Malaret. As a budding composer in Paris in the 1900s, Canteloube was unable to interest himself in the various musical cliques and currents. Instead he looked for inspiration in Auvergne in central France where he was born, starting to collect the songs of the farmers and shepherds that lived in the mountainous region. But he did so as a composer rather than a musicologist, and between 1923 and 1954 he published a total of thirty Chants d’Auvergne, arranged, harmonized and sumptuously orchestrated. The result is, one might say, idealized folk music: Canteloube largely respects the melodic line of the originals, but adds instrumental introductions, interludes and postludes, and gives an important role to the woodwind section. For the present recording, Carolyn Sampson and Pascal Rophé have selected 25 of the songs – ranging from love songs and lullabies to working songs and laments. They perform them together with Tapiola Sinfonietta, bringing sparkle to Canteloube's luxurious scores halfway between the impressionism of Debussy and the bucolic lyricism of d'Indy. © BIS Records

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