Pablo Held: Ascent (2020)

Pablo Held: piano
Robert Landfermann: bass
Jonas Burgwinkel: drums
Nelson Veras: guitar

1. Unlocking Mechanism (5:13)
2. Dikkedeo (4:17)
3. Poem #6 (5:12)
4. Forest Spirits (6:51)
5. Ascent (6:58)
6. Seizing (4:14)
7. Musica Callada #24 (8:09)
8. Excerpt from Piano Concerto #4 (4:47)
9. 52nd Street Theme (1:06)

Arianna Savall, Petter Udland Johansen: Hirundo Maris (2012)

Hirundo Maris is Latin for “sea swallow” and, like that bird’s flight, harpist Arianna Savall’s quintet – part early music ensemble, part folk group – drifts on musical currents between Norway and Catalonia, and adds its own songs, created on the wing. Savall and co-leader Petter Udland Johansen have shaped a band with a bright, glistening timbral blend, capped by Arianna’s ice-clear voice, well-equipped to address songs of the north and the south…

Tunder, Kuhnau, Bruhns, Graupner: Deutsche Kantaten

“In recent years, there has been increased interest in the composers whose cantatas amounted to the steps along the pathway to the unparalleled cantata cycles of Sebastian Bach. Dieterich Buxtehude’s works in the genre have held the most interest, probably because of Bach’s 200-plus mile pilgrimage to Lübeck to hear the Great Dane’s now famed series of Abendmusiken, but there were other composers whose works in the genre would easily dispel the notion that German sacred music was in the doldrums between Heinrich Schütz and Sebastian Bach. Several of these have been illuminated to a greater or lesser degree, among them Christoph Graupner, Johann Schelle, Sebastian Knupfer, and Johann Kuhnau, of whom the last three preceded Bach as Thomaskantor in Leipzig.

Their music was the subject of a three-CD series incorrectly entitled “Contemporaries of Bach.” Why incorrectly? Simply because the three composers were Bach’s predecessors, not his contemporaries. That niggle aside, the well-nourished and exceptionally fine performances featured Robert King and his critically acclaimed ensemble, The King’s Consort, on Hyperion (a fourth disc was devoted to the music of Bach’s Czech contemporary, Jan Dismas Zelenka). Several of Christoph Graupner’s cantatas have also been exhumed and recorded for the Canadian label Analekta by Geneviève Soly and her ensemble Les Idées Heureuses. This Harmonia Mundi recording—issued in 2000—predates the King recordings and includes music by four of Germany’s most important composers of sacred music. Franz Tunder died at the age of 53, 18 years before Bach’s birth; Johann Kuhnau was 25 years older than Bach; Nicolaus Bruhns was 20 years Bach’s senior and Christoph Grauper was but two years old when Sebastian Bach entered the world. With this wide range of ages, one might expect—and correctly, I might add—that the approaches are quite diverse, melding as they do the old and new, but they all fall within the sphere of the North German sacred cantata.

They offer much insight into the structure and nature of the pre-Bach Baroque cantata, but they also are building blocks for the forthcoming cantata tradition of the Leipzig Thomaskantor, his family, and others who were his contemporaries and musical descendants. There are no grand canvases replete with trumpets, timpani, and woodwinds here; the cantatas are sparsely scored for strings and continuo, but each of the composers makes the most of these modest resources via imaginative writing and Affektenlehre.

Following the current thinking on repertoire of this sort, Herreweghe’s forces are spartan, but committed. The singing and playing, while never really evidencing any effort on the part of the vocalists and instrumentalists, are exceptionally clean but never antiseptic. These readings are models of their kind. Pitch and ensemble are consistently on the mark and the singers are most responsive to Herreweghe’s leadership, resulting in wholly musical and totally sympathetic accounts that are void of academic characteristics and that bring belated credit to these neglected works.

What emerges from the 75-minute run of this CD is not music that will challenge the pride of place in the repertoire held by Bach’s cantatas, but music that offers an intimate thumbnail sketch of four important pre-Bach composers whose works should be on the shelf of every lover of vocal music from this period. Therefore, I gladly admit them to our Classical Hall of Fame.”

Michael Carter, FANFARE


Mancini, Scarlatti, Valentini: Concerti di Napoli

…As was typical of the more flexible use of terminology of the time, the title pages of the manuscript refer to the pieces as “concerti”, while inside the designation “sonata” together with the appropriate ordinal number is given for each piece. The pieces embody both sonata and concerto characteristics. The small forces required to perform them, as well as the ensemble nature of the pieces, make them clear examples of the sonata for four parts or sonata a quattro…”

Johann Sebastiani: Matthäus Passion

…The Boston Early Music Festival Chamber Ensemble presents the St Matthew Passion by Johann Sebastiani (1622 83), who was Kantor at Königsberg Cathedral for a little over a dozen years before becoming Kapellmeister at the court of the Elector of Brandenburg. Das Leyden und Sterben unsers Herrn und Heylandes Jesu Christi nach dem heiligen Matthaeo was published at Königsberg in 1672; Paul O’Dette praises the score ‘not only for the lyrical beauty of the music and the rich instrumental scoring of viols and violins used to accompany the Evangelist and Christ respectively, but also for Sebastiani’s introduction of Lutheran chorales at dramatically strategic moments throughout the story, the first known use of multiple chorales in a Passion setting’.
An instrumental ensemble of two violins, four violas da gamba and continuo features prominently in sinfonias and interludes, and also accompanies recitatives for the characters of the Passion (violins without viols when Christ sings), whereas five-part choruses are in the stile antico. The narrative flows with a smooth sense of theatrical engagement, with the singers (both individually and as an ensemble) and the instrumentalists meshed to each other’s every musical gesture.

Colin Balzer’s Evangelist is a compassionate storyteller, Christian Immler performs Jesus’s lines with eloquent authority and the soprano solo chorales are sung brightly by Ina Siedlaczek (accompanied poignantly by four-part viols). Led by theorbists O’Dette and Stephen Stubbs with a vivid emotional sweep to proceedings, the Bostonians have a clear edge over the relaxed sublimity of the Ricercar Consort’s 1995 version…”

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Alessandro Scarlatti: Passio Secundum Ioannem

…With his Latin St. John Passion, written around 1770, Scarlatti strictly follows the contemporary conventions advanced for the Catholic liturgy: the continuo-supported evangelist’s report is presented throughout as a monolodic recitation that is reminiscent of Carissimi and Monteverdi. Only for the words of Christ and the few four-voice choruses, as well as for some significant moments like the Judas scene or the death of Jesus, is a subtle string accompaniment added…”

Marilyn Mazur: Celestial Circle (2011)

Marilyn Mazur: drums, percussion, voice
John Taylor: piano
Josefine Cronholm: voice
Anders Jormin: double-bass

1. Your Eyes (5:49)
2. Winterspell (6:10)
3. Kildevaeld (3:53)
4. Gentle Quest (2:30)
5. Secret Crystals (2:43)
6. Temple Chorus (2:51)
7. Antilope Arabesque (6:44)
8. Chosen Darkness (2:05)
9. Among The Trees (4:13)
10. Color Sprinkle (2:20)
11. Tour Song (5:09)
12. Drumrite (4:33)
13. Oceanique (2:14)
14. Transcending (2:07)