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Rebelles baroques

Claire Guimond

Classical - Released May 19, 2017 | early-music.com

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Orpheus Descending

Mark Edwards

Classical - Released January 20, 2017 | early-music.com

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Les trésors cachés d'Italie

Stefano Montanari

Classical - Released May 27, 2014 | early-music.com

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J.S. Bach: Keyboard Works

Hank Knox

Classical - Released August 27, 2013 | early-music.com

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Les nouveaux bijoux

Julia Wedman

Classical - Released September 4, 2012 | early-music.com

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Geminiani : Pièces de clavecin

Hank Knox

Classical - Released January 4, 2011 | early-music.com

The Pièces de clavecin promised in the title of this release by Canadian harpsichordist Hank Knox are arrangements of violin sonatas by Francesco Geminiani, made by the composer himself and published in London in 1743. Such a thing was unusual enough in the 18th century, and Geminiani's pieces remained in print for decades. Nowadays the surprise listeners of Geminiani's time must have felt is probably hard to re-create, but the lover of Baroque keyboard music can't help but be intrigued as two very different genres are mashed together. Most of the pieces come from movements in sonatas in Geminiani's Op. 4 set. The violin line is given to the keyboard player's right hand. Both versions would have been ornamented, but Geminiani supplies the ornaments for the keyboard version, which are idiomatic to the harpsichord (Knox suggested that Geminiani, a violin virtuoso, became acquainted with French keyboard music during a stint in Paris in the 1730s) and differ from violin ornaments; owing to the violin's capacity for sustained tone, the harpsichord has a lot more space to fill and gets a more thoroughly encrusted line. Accordingly, each piece has a distinctive character, and the extraction of individual movements from what originally were sonatas and suites doesn't give the listener pause. The whole exercise sounds a bit mechanical, but the music is fetching in Knox's graceful readings, excecuted on a 1772 English harpsichord. The engineering from early-music.com, which deals in physical as well as online products, is clear and unfussy. Recommended for serious fans of the late Baroque. © TiVo
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Bach: Symphonies & Concertos

Gary Cooper

Classical - Released October 26, 2010 | early-music.com

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Telemann, G.P.: Les tresors caches

Jaap Ter Linden

Classical - Released December 10, 2009 | early-music.com

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Telemann, G.P.: Tutti flauti!

Jaap Ter Linden

Classical - Released December 10, 2009 | early-music.com

This little disc of Telemann concertos from Dutch director Jaap ter Linden and a collection of French Canadian early music specialists should be enjoyable for anybody. From the vast field of Telemann concertos ter Linden extracts a group that naturally flow from one to another and illuminate each other. There is virtuosic writing, as in the Concerto for recorder, string orchestra, and continuo in F major, TWV 51: F1, in both the Allegro second movement and, less typically, the final pair of minuets. The only complaint about the booklet is that it does not definitively indicate which of the soloists is playing in which piece; this concerto presumably features Matthias Maute, who devised the cadenza. There are technically simpler pieces in which the concerto grosso format is wittily extended or French and Italian styles are inventively mixed. The highlight is saved for the end: the Concerto for flute, recorder, string orchestra, and continuo in E minor, TWV 52: c1, offers a brillliant treatment of the contrast between these two closely related instruments and closes with a fabulous romp through Polish folk rhythms at Presto speed. The entire ensemble crisply hangs together in the fast movements, and the degree of transparency ter Linden achieves with the texture is impressive. There's an elusive sense of fun in Telemann that is essential to an enjoyable performance, and it's present here, even if somewhat diminished by rather brittle church sound. On the whole, another successful release from the early-music.com label, which despite its name seems to have been mostly oriented toward physical product so far. © TiVo
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Corrette, M.: Symphonies des noels / Concertos comiques

Arion Ensemble

Symphonic Music - Released December 14, 1999 | early-music.com

This little disc emerging from Montreal's fertile historical-performance scene offers music unlike any other from the French Baroque or Classical periods most listeners will have heard before. Michel Corrette, a Parisian (and Rouen-born) organist and prolific composer, wrote works that might be called light music of the eighteenth century. The genres represented here, the Symphonies des Noels and the Concerto comique, differ in their movement structure (the Symphonies des Noel may have a longer sequence of short movements) but are nevertheless cut from the same cloth. Corrette builds his structures out of strings of short, binary tunes, many of them quoted from popular songs and carols. The music no doubt had a dimension of humor in its own time that is difficult to reconstruct at this distance, even with the help of the informative booklet notes by François Filiatrault (the English translation by Fred A. Reed alters certain details). But the music is colorful and filled with programmatic strokes that reflect the musical fashion parade that passed through the long life of Corrette, who was still composing in his 87th and final year. Even if it is difficult to say exactly what is "américain" about the penultimate Allegro of the Symphonie des Noels No. 4 in D minor, the opening "La turque" movement of the Concerto comique No. 19 in A major (track 29) is a striking early example of the Turkish style. The titles of most of the popular tunes quoted are given in the track list, and inasmuch as some of them have appeared in other works (or devolved into popular carols) they will be recognized as they go by. Unusual strokes of instrumentation such as a timpani further break up the texture of a program that could have been monotonous; an audience of Corrette's time would not have heard many concertos in a row like this. The veteran Montreal group Arion plays the music with the broad humor it requires, although the brittle-bright cathedral sound works at cross purposes with what it is trying to do. Recommended not only for French Baroque enthusiasts (the music is really Baroque in style, even though some of it was composed as late as 1781), but also potentially useful for anyone staging a French drama of the eighteenth century. © TiVo
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Vivaldi, A.: Chiaroscuro

Arion Ensemble

Classical - Released December 10, 2009 | early-music.com

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Maria - Madre di Dio

Monica Huggett

Classical - Released December 10, 2009 | early-music.com

Indefatigable early music specialist and virtuoso Monica Huggett serves as both guest conductor and concertmaster of the Canadian ensemble Arion in this recording of Baroque vocal music in honor of Mary. Huggett's exquisite sense of phrasing and musical drama brings these late Baroque Italian works, three of which are fairly obscure, to throbbing life. Vivaldi's Stabat Mater for alto, strings, and continuo is one of his most popular vocal works, and rightly so; it's graceful, inventive, and melodious. Male alto Matthew White doesn't have the bright, shiny voice that characterizes many countertenors, but his more velvety tone is well suited to this somber subject and Vivaldi's treatment of it. His ornamentation is all the more effective for being applied with discretion and restraint. He's equally effective in Scarlatti's Salva Regina, in which he's joined by soprano Agnès Mellon. Their voices are beautifully matched and their intonation is pure and piercing. Mellon is the soloist in two cantatas, one by Handel, Ah! Che troppo ineguali, and one, Il pianto di Maria "Giunta l'ora fatal," by Giovanni Battista Ferrandini, which had long been wrongly attributed to Handel. Ferrandini's lament, which is largely set as recitative, describes Mary's emotions during the crucifixion, and is particularly anguished. Mellon gives an appropriately wrenching, emotionally transparent performance. The sensitivity and consistently high quality of the singing and ensemble playing make this an album that should be of strong interest to fans of the Baroque. © TiVo
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Haydn, F.J. La Passion (Symphonies Nos. 41, 44, 49)

Gary Cooper

Symphonic Music - Released December 10, 2009 | early-music.com

While we may conceptually think of a symphony as a composition for a large number of musicians, such was not the case when Haydn, the so-called "Father of the Symphony," composed the majority of is 104 symphonies. Rather, his symphonies were composed for the smaller number of musicians (generally no more than two to a part) that were available to him, usually at the Palace of Esterház. Many modern recordings of Haydn's symphonies, even those incorporating period instruments, still use far greater forces than Haydn originally had at his disposal. This album by the Canadian early music ensemble Arion, led by the talented harpsichordist/fortepianist Gary Cooper, returns listeners to the time of Papa Haydn by using the proportions of instruments that Haydn himself would have used. Despite its small numbers, there is absolutely nothing small about Arion's sound, and its tone is as full and rich as an orchestra many times its size. The ensemble plays with remarkable technical precision, from the crisp, well-articulated strings to the clear, stratospherically high playing of the horns in Symphony No. 41. The three symphonies chosen for the program come from Haydn's middle period; numbers 44 and 49, both in rare minor keys, perfectly demonstrate Haydn's mastery of the concept of Sturm und Drang. Immediately enjoyable to everyone from novice listeners to those who think they've already heard all that Haydn has to offer, this disc is unreservedly recommended. © TiVo
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Mozart, W.A.: Flute Quartets Nos. 1-4

Claire Guimond

Classical - Released December 10, 2009 | early-music.com

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Bach, J.S. Suites / Concertos

Jaap Ter Linden

Classical - Released December 10, 2009 | early-music.com

The Montreal Baroque orchestra Arion has honed its skills and broadened its reach along with the rest of Montreal's vigorous early music scene, and it has attracted European soloists and conductors. Here the direction is by veteran Dutch gamba player Jaap ter Linden. He forges a rather cool but very finely detailed orchestral sound, with a really exquisite blend within and among the moderate-sized string sections. There isn't a strong accent to be found, and even the big cadenza at the end of the first movement of the Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 in D major, BWV 1050, receives a drama-free interpretation at the hands of harpsichordist Hank Knox. The balance among the soloists in the two multi-instrument concertos, and among the instruments in the genuinely orchestral Suite No. 1 in C major, BWV 1066, is carefully and expertly controlled. Except in the hands of a few adventurous soloists, the programs mounted by ensembles from Canada tend to be of the greatest-hits variety, and this one exemplifies the trend. The juxtaposition of these four much-played Bach orchestral works will tell those who've heard them before little new about them. As an introduction to Bach's instrumental music, however, this could make a solid choice. The booklet notes are in French and English, with the word "harpsichord" consistently misspelled in the tracklist. © TiVo
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De Bach A Mozart Sur Les Trac

Various Artists

Classical - Released December 10, 2009 | early-music.com

The stated "following the path of the trio sonata" concept of this album is a good one, for the journey leading from the Baroque trio sonata to the Classical string quartet is an intriguing one, with detours leading to most of Europe's musical capitals. Unfortunately, this disc falls wide of the mark in terms of delivering what it promises, although much of it is listenable. The chief problem is that there are no true trio sonatas on the program. The trio sonatas have two melody instruments of roughly equal weight, plus a continuo that usually includes more than one instrument: a chord-playing instrument and a low melody instrument reinforcing the bass line, with a viola da gamba and harpsichord being a common example. The term "trio sonata" is thus one of those misnomers music historians have created to keep the riffraff out. But the Bach works set up as exemplars of the form are problematical. The opening Sonata in B minor for flute and harpsichord, BWV 1030, is an accomapanied sonata for solo instrument, not a trio sonata, and it is atypical of the Baroque in that Bach wrote it for a specified harpsichord part with no other instrument, not with a harmonic "continuo" to be realized by the performer or performers. The following Sonata No. 3 in D minor, BWV 527, is the only work on the program originally designated as a trio sonata; it is one of Bach's trio sonatas for organ (again an odd use of the term), transcribed for flute, cello, and harpsichord continuo. The pieces by Bach's sons Carl Philipp Emanuel and Johann Christoph Friedrich are sonatas for flute and harpsichord, while the final two pieces, by Johann Christian Bach and the eight-year-old Mozart, are examples of yet another genre, the keyboard sonata accompanied ad libitum by another instrument, in this case a flute. The origins of this genre bear investigation by performers, but it has little to do with the trio sonata; the emphasis on these pieces is completely on the keyboard. A recording showing how the trio sonata texture diversified into the Italian sinfonia, the divertimento, and the early string trio would be well worthwhile, and it would involve an important composer, Haydn, who does not make an appearance here. What the listener is left with in this case is some crisp and lively Bach playing, some galant works that are attractive and not heard too often, and some early Classical pieces in which flutist Claire Guimond seems more at ease than harpsichordist Gary Cooper and Baroque cellist Jaap ter Linden. There's nothing objectionable in the sounds on the disc, but libraries should take careful note of its contents. © TiVo
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D'Anglebert, J.H.: Pieces de clavecin

Hank Knox

Classical - Released December 10, 2009 | early-music.com

Quebecois harpsichordist Hank Knox makes a virtue out of the supposed shortcomings of the music of J. Henry d'Anglebert, a court composer at Versailles in the late seventeenth century. The harpsichord suite selections heard here were published in 1689, and they have neither the majesty of d'Anglebert's predecessors nor the intensity of his successor Couperin. The "clavecytherium" mentioned and pictured on the cover is a little less unusual than the imposing name suggests; it is a vertical-standing harpsichord whose purpose was unclear. Annotator Yves Beaupré dismisses without explanation the idea that it might have been intended as a space-saver, but the rooms at Versailles, despite the scale of the whole, are not large. Each of the three suites excerpted here begins with a prelude in free rhythm and a quasi-improvised style. Knox's notes go into quite a bit of detail about these, touching on such matters as how d'Anglebert's notation differs from that used by other composers. He also helps the listener put the music in context in more general ways. His portrait of evening music-making at Versailles could serve as a useful corrective for players and engineers who mike Baroque harpsichords closely and try to create a severe atmosphere of quiet: the music room, he points out, competed for attention with those devoted to dancing, gambling, and, of course, the buffet. "Those in attendance were invited to drift from room to room," he writes, "partaking of all the offerings." His playing and the associated engineering emphasize the lightness and melodicism of d'Anglebert's suites, which several times (at least in these excerpts) present two of the same dance in a row, in contrasting tempos and moods. The notes go into detail about d'Anglebert's influence as a codifier of ornamentation (which touched J.S. Bach, among others), and there's a certain grace in Knox's playing that comes from deep familiarity with ornamentation procedures. Not an essential purchase, but a release of plenty of interest for those whose acquaintance with the French Baroque keyboard style runs beyond the casual. © TiVo
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Couture, Johanne: La belle homicide

Johanne Couture

Classical - Released December 10, 2009 | early-music.com

One of the great black holes in the history of Western music is the lack of roughly the first two centuries of harpsichord music from France, despite ample evidence that the tradition was flourishing well before its most famous exponent, François Couperin, took his place at the manuals. The reasons for this lapse are manifold, though a lack of surviving manuscripts and the refusal of monopolistic French printer Ballard to publish such material remain among the most conspicuous suspects. Notwithstanding the breach in the repertoire, Canadian harpsichordist Johanne Couture has put together an intriguing program out of some of the earliest extant French harpsichord music in her album La Belle Homicide for the enterprising early-music.com label. This draws from expected sources within this realm, such as Champion de Chambonnières, Jean-Henri d'Anglebert, and Louis Couperin, but also draws from lute music known to have been played interchangeably on both instruments; most of these pieces date from the middle of the seventeenth century. It might not take us back to the true foundations of French harpsichord music circa 1500, but it does demonstrate that the basic seeds that were harvested in the work of Couperin's Le Grand were planted not only in the enigmatic music of his uncle, but that of lute composers like Ennemond Gaultier and even a female composer, Germain Pinel, Louis XIV's lute instructor. Couture plays a copy, made by Canadian instrument builder Yves Beaupré, of a magnificent French harpsichord in the Victoria and Albert Museum dated 1681 that seems almost psycho-acoustically matched to the music under consideration and has a deep, royal color while retaining a great deal of intimacy; seventeenth century French tastes put a high premium on quiet music-making. Couture's own sense of style brisé -- a manner of keyboard playing derived from the arpeggio figures favored by lutenists -- is innate and serves to transmit the deep flowing sense of emotion and graciousness; in recordings of French harpsichord music, one does not always get both of these aspects. Couture's La Belle Homicide will well more than satisfy tastes already attuned to early harpsichord music, but might well reach out to those simply looking for a quiet, elegant, and reflective musical experience. © TiVo
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Telemann, G.P.: 6 Concertos

Claire Guimond

Classical - Released December 10, 2009 | early-music.com

It's not clear why Telemann called these works "concertos" when they are really sonatas for transverse flute and harpsichord, with no tutti instrumental group involved. Annotator Jean-Claude Thériault works up an argument that it was due to the "concerted" nature of the music, with the flute and harpsichord playing generally equal roles instead of assigning ritornello-like music to the keyboard. It's hard to say whether he's right, but it's precisely the departure from the Baroque trio sonata and concerto models that makes this music so interesting. It is strikingly modern for the late 1710s, when the first edition of the music was published. These pieces had a complicated edition history, dutifully laid out by Thériault in the booklet as he tries to link various pieces to Italian and French models. But the big picture is that the music is all over the map -- in a good way! There's dense Bachian counterpoint. There are indeed movements that sound like reduced Vivaldi concerto material. There are harmonically static passages that sound like they could have come out of Scarlatti sonatas, with a flute added. And there is an overall light mood described by the word galant, before that word was in really wide use. In the hands of French Canadian Baroque flutist Claire Guimond, playing a large wooden flute, and harpsichordist Luc Beauséjour, it adds up to a sparkling hour of music. They catch the small details, yet they're not scholarly or pedantic; Guimond's tone is fetching and her intonation keen. © TiVo