A prestigious project: the recording of the complete string quartets of Franz Schubert, by the German Diogenes Quartet. Volume 1 offers one masterpiece, the famous Rosamunde Quartet in A minor, and the early quartet in D major D94. Schubert’s String Quartets count among the most frequently performed quartets of the repertoire (only rivalled by Beethoven). These works express Schubert’s superb gift as a melodist within the classical structure of a string quartet, unique creations of romantic content and classical form.
Even though Master of Puppets didn't take as gigantic a leap forward as Ride the Lightning, it was the band's greatest achievement, hailed as a masterpiece by critics far outside heavy metal's core audience. It was also a substantial hit, reaching the Top 30 and selling three million copies despite absolutely nonexistent airplay. Instead of a radical reinvention, Master of Puppets is a refinement of past innovations. In fact, it's possible to compare Ride the Lightning and Master of Puppets song for song and note striking similarities between corresponding track positions on each record (although Lightning's closing instrumental has been bumped up to next-to-last in Master's running order). That hint of conservatism is really the only conceivable flaw here.
Marcus Creed amply proves in this recording of the Ode for the Birthday of Queen Anne and the Dixit Dominus that he has what it takes to conduct George Frederick Handel. He's got the big beat down, plus the muscular rhythms, vigorous tempos, and vivid textures, as well as the tight ensembles and the unstoppable drive so essential in making Handel come alive. And that's just in the fast choral movements. In the solos and duets, Creed creates poised, alert, and wholly sympathetic accompaniments that help shape the singers' performances as part of the total work. And what singers! Both sopranos are superlative, especially Sophie Kussmann, and countertenor Andreas Scholl is, as always, strong, yet supple and sensitive. With the expert period instrument skills of the Akademie für Alte Musik, Berlin, and the agile but robust singing of the Vocalconsort Berlin, Creed has delivered one of the great Handel discs.(James Leonard)