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Highly Reviewed Recordings

July 25 - August 7, 2012

BACH, J.S.: Motets, BWV 225-230 (Monteverdi Choir, Gardiner)
(SDG: SDG716)

BACH, J.S.: Motets, BWV 225-230 (Monteverdi Choir, Gardiner) Gramophone Recording of the Month, Aug 2012


As you would imagine, surprises abound – some of which take a little getting used to.  Gardiner challenges orthodoxy in how these a cappella holy grails are fundamentally signposted and he does so, almost always, with persuasive passion and genuine zeal.  High-wire artist Philippe Petit is a fitting cover image to this important landmark in highly recommended, high-stakes performances.

By Jonathan Freeman-Atwood, Gramophone

HAYNES, B.: Brandenburg Concertos Nos. 7-12 (after J.S. Bach) (Milnes)
( ATMA Classique: ACD22565)

HAYNES, B.: Brandenburg Concertos Nos. 7-12 (after J.S. Bach) (Milnes) WQXR Album of the Week

Bach’s six Brandenburg Concertos – those perennial Baroque crowd-pleasers beloved by both modern chamber ensembles and early-music groups – are getting a sequel.

In 2010, the late oboist and musicologist Bruce Haynes conceived the idea that Bach might have reused some of his cantatas in constructing the Brandenburg Concertos. After all, Bach was a chronic recycler, both of his own work and that of other composers, and while on deadline he would often rework an existing tune for a new occasion.

Haynes chose six cantatas as a basis for a set of “new” Brandenburgs and began transcribing the vocal lines for the instrumental forces used in the original Brandenburgs. He had orchestrated three of them before his untimely death in May 2011, during what was supposed to be low-risk heart surgery. He was 69. His widow, cellist Susie Napper, finished the set and oversaw this recording.

The Bande Montréal Baroque presents all six concertos, each with a different configuration. The concertos are numbered seven to 12 and are structurally modeled after the six originals. Horn, trumpet, oboe and recorders all make appearances. The first features prominent solo trumpet lines. The bouncy third, for strings, omits the middle movement just as the original does.

The most interesting of the batch may be Concerto No. 11 for oboe, harpsichord, strings and bass continuo, which features lively virtuosic turns for oboist Matthew Jennejohn and harpsichordist Erin Helyard.

The performances, conducted by Eric Milnes, are appropriately zesty and without a whiff of mustiness, as they should be.

© 2012 WQXR (New York)

KLEZMER Yale Strom: Devil's Brides Klezmer and Yiddish Songs
(ARC: EUCD2345)

KLEZMER Yale Strom: Devil's Brides Klezmer and Yiddish Songs

In 18th-century Poland there were women klezmer musicians who travelled to perform at fairs all over Central Europe. Ethnographer-violinist Strom has researched their repertoire, and this CD contains some of his discoveries.

With Miriam Margolyes’ help he also introduces the music: supported by cimbalom, accordion and bass, the husky timbre of Elizabeth Schwartz brings an aching authenticity to these songs and dances from the shtetls of pre-1939 Europe.

© 2012 The Independent UK

BEETHOVEN, L. van: Glorreiche Augenblick (Der) / Choral Fantasy (McCawley, City of London Choir, Royal Philharmonic, Wetton)
(Naxos: 8.572783)

BEETHOVEN, L. van: Glorreiche Augenblick (Der) / Choral Fantasy (McCawley, City of London Choir, Royal Philharmonic, Wetton)

Beethoven’s cantata Der Glorreiche Augenblick was first performed in 1814, and the “glorious moment” it celebrates was the opening of the Congress of Vienna, the aim of which was to redraw the map of Europe after the Napoleonic wars. The text is messy, and its underlying vision of Hapsburg Austria donning its “imperial mantle” to safeguard European freedom nowadays seems suspect. The score, however, is by no means negligible: there are strong links with Fidelio, as well as flashes forward to the Ninth Symphony and Missa Solemnis. After years in obscurity, it was successfully revived by Hilary Davan Wetton, the Royal Philharmonic and the City of London Choir in 2010. Their recording, made a year later, is thrill-a-minute stuff that draws you in and sweeps away any scruples you may have. The filler is the Choral Fantasia with Leon McCawley as piano soloist, done in a very grand manner, though also with great panache.

© 2012 The Guardian

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