This ‘themed’ programme by Da Pacem derives from a series of concerts devoted to Bach’s infamous journey on foot to hear Buxtehude play. Did he have leave of absence from his employers? Did the four month absence change his style for ever? Buxtehude achieved a staggering synthesis of the polyphonic, numerical and rhetorical traditions of his predecessors with a very personal poetry, taking care to make his music accessible to everyone, from the specialist to the layman. It is not surprising that Bach took him as his model.
The composers known collectively as the Fiamminghi made their mark in Europe in general and in Italy and in France in particular during the 15th century. Their talent and skill gained them the most important positions in the great musical establishments of the time. This collection is devoted to the leading composers of the 15th century, from those of the first generation (Guillaume Dufay, Gilles Binchois, Arnold de Lantins and Johannes Brassart) through Johannes Ockeghem, the great master of polyphonic technique, to Josquin Desprez and Pierre de La Rue, two musicians taught by Ockeghem who laid the foundations of the Ars Perfecta during the Renaissance. Also included is Jacob Obrecht, the only composer of this school whose career was based essentially in his native Flanders. Every genre of both sacred as well as secular music of the time is represented here.
Jordi Savall has brought us yet another treasure on his own Alia Vox label, this time a mixed bag of music by Reformation Era composers and a handful of slightly earlier works. It’s all taken from a concert program Savall gave last year under the aegis of “greatest hits of the court of Charles V”. The composers presented are mostly court musicians for that Holy Roman Emperor, but Josquin and Heinrich Isaac also are included, the latter as a nod to Charles’ grandfather, Maximilian I, who was responsible for getting Charles the crown. Savall combines his first-rate instrumental ensemble, updated to Hespèrion XXI, with his own vocal group, La Capella Reial de Catalunya. The results are captivating. Savall’s musicians are tops in the field, and their collective talents, constantly on display in this varied program, are simply a joy to hear.
Stephen Layton and Polyphony have a long and fruitful relationship with the music of Arvo Pärt. Their recording of Triodion and other choral works (CDA67375) won a Gramophone Award and became a cult classic. The extraordinary purity of Polyphony’s singing is the perfect vehicle for music of such clean, elemental simplicity, such cathartic calm. This third Pärt album from Stephen Layton and Polyphony reaches right back, intriguingly, to the composer’s youthful modernist phase and spans nearly five decades—from 1963 to 2012—in the process. As with the album Triodion, it reflects an increasingly broad spread of languages and sources in Pärt’s chosen texts. Latin, German and English are joined here by Church Slavonic and Spanish. A range of biblical texts are set alongside ancient prayers.
It is only recently that two seemingly unconnected names, those of Vivaldi and the viola da gamba, have been uttered in the same breath. The established, uncontested view on the matter was quite simply this: from the middle of the 17th century, the viol, which was still flourishing north of the Alps, had all but disappeared in Italy, where it had been replaced by the bass violin and, subsequently, by the cello.
Over a period of five years, Swiss directors Norbert Wiedmer and Peter Guyer documented the activity of legendary producer Manfred Eicher, the founder and driving force behind ECM Records, whose advocacy of progressive jazz and of classical composers like Arvo Pärt, Meredith Monk, Valentin Silvestrov, and György Kurtág changed the landscape of contemporary music in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. The film Sounds and Silence: Travels with Manfred Eicher was released in 2009 and this 2011 soundtrack album is made up largely of tracks taken from previously released ECM albums that Eicher produced, some from as early as 1980. Most of the pieces are low-key and understated and feature chamber ensembles, although there are several piano tracks and several featuring orchestra or chorus. The album has a mix of selections from ECM's classical and jazz repertoire, and from the label's specialty, the many pieces that lie somewhere in between the two.
Jordi Savall, performer, researcher, and promoter of early music, has become known for beautifully produced thematic collections organized around topics as diverse as the worlds of Miguel Cervantes, Christopher Columbus, and Caravaggio, performed by his ensembles Hespèrion XX (and XXI), and La Capella Reial de Catalunya, and recorded on his own label, Alia Vox. This immensely ambitious project, Jerusalem: City of the two peaces: Heavenly Peace and Earthly Peace, consists of two SACDs and a sumptuous book in eight languages, French, Spanish, English, Catalan, German, Italian, Arabic, and Hebrew, that includes a wide assortment of intriguing essays.