Notes 60.2 (2003) 515-520
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Sound Recording Reviews
For information about the scope of this column, consult the headnote in the September 2003 issue (p. 240) of this volume.
Tomás Luis de Victoria. Officium Defunctorum; Vadam et circuibo civitatem. Musica Ficta/Raúl Mallavibarrena. Enchiriadis EN 2006, 2003.
Musica Ficta director Raúl Mallavibarrena and countertenor Jordi Abelló must have undertaken this project with some trepidation, given the excellent recordings of these Victoria pieces already available and the significant cost of producing recordings of these large-scale works. But their desire to produce a new and, in Abelló's words, "essentially Hispanic interpretation" of the pieces led them to find a financial solution and produce this exquisite recording. Because of the difference in tessitura between the two soprano and tenor parts, it has been common for choral groups (notably the Tallis Scholars in their landmark recording of 1987 [Gimell CDGIM 012]) to raise the pitch by a whole tone when performing the Requiem. Mallavibarrena and Abelló chose to forgo that practice and lend extra support to the bass voices by doubling their parts using organ and dulcian (an early bassoon, not to be confused with the douçaine or dolzaina). The result is, predictably, darker and heavier than usual, and almost certainly truer to the composer's original vision; that general flavor carries over to the group's rendition of Victoria's unusually long motet Vadam et circuibo civitatem, which ends the program. Highly recommended to all collections of Renaissance choral music—even those that may already own previous recordings of the works.
Music at the Court of Emperor Maximilian I. Concentus Musicus Wien; Wiener Sängerknaben; Chorus Viennensis/Nikolaus Harnoncourt. Archiv 474 233-2, 2003.
Originally released on LP in 1964 and belatedly reissued on compact disc in 2003 as part of the mid-priced Archiv Blue series (with three additional tracks not originally included on the LP version), this collection of high Renaissance vocal and instrumental pieces comes as a welcome reminder that even during a time when the "authentic instruments" school of performance was in its infancy—and a fair number of rather poor recordings were being made—there were artists making exceptional records of what was, at the time, still a relatively unexplored repertoire. This album features brief works both sacred and secular, though mostly secular, by Heinrich Isaac, Antoine Brumel, Josquin des Prez, Costanzo Festa, Pierre de la Rue, Ludwig Senfl, Paul Hofhaimer, and a handful of anonymous composers. The program is nicely varied, and while the performances are very clearly a product of their time (the influence of David Munrow can be heard, particularly in a slightly quirky, but ultimately successful, setting of Brumel's "Tandernac"), the recorded sound is exceptionally rich and clear, considering its vintage. This is a welcome reissue that can happily supersede many a well-worn library LP.
Johann Christian Bach. Complete Opera Overtures. Hanover Band/ Anthony Halstead. CPO 999 963-2, 2003.
Anthony Halstead, with the Hanover Band, continues his survey of works by one of Johann Sebastian Bach's more commonly overlooked sons with this three-disc [End Page 515] set of his complete overtures—most written for the opera, but some for cantatas. (The individual discs were previously released individually as Opera Overtures Volume 1 [CPO 999 129-2], Volume 2 [CPO 999 488-2], and Volume 3 [CPO 999 753-2].) All were written between 1759 and 1779, most of them during the high point of Bach's career as a London theater composer. (His untimely death came only a few years after the last of these works was composed.) Most are written in a simple three-part format and have little thematically to do with the operas to which they were attached; they are more like light symphonic works than the grander and more allusive opera overtures that would come into vogue after the composer's death. As such they are somewhat short on musical depth, but they offer a fine insight on this Bach's impressive musical imagination. The Hanover Band plays beautifully, with only a minor error...