The Ensemble Pygmalion directed by Raphaël Pichon commences its collaboration with Harmonia Mundi with this new recording of J.S. Bach’s lost music to the Köthener Trauermusik (Cöthen funeral music), BWV 244a. Founded in 2006 at the European Bach Festival, Ensemble Pygmalion is a combination of choir and orchestra - all young performers with experience of authentic instruments and period-informed performance. Its repertoire concentrates primarily on Johann Sebastian Bach and Jean-Philippe Rameau.
I've been listening to Brandenburgs non-stop for the past three weeks, for some reason. I love the Ristenpart recording, and I like the Britten version even better in some ways. This Baumgartner recording has a certain elegance. The pace is a tad slower and the ambience a bit thicker. The second movement of the first Brandenburg hits that emotional place a bit better than in the Britten version. I would be hard pressed to say which I prefer overall, but on first listening I sure loved this recording.
Concerts with Maria Schneider are something special. They are stylistically not only out of the ordinary, they also manage to bring large orchestras to perform artistically at high voltage, with an energy and at a creative level which is otherwise known only in much smaller ensembles. It is not the music alone that drives the participants, but rather the serene seriousness of a band leader who demands a maximum of intensity from her compositions and passes this premise on to their interpretation. It is impossible to conceive of compositions for jazz orchestras more stringently. The instrumentalists know this too, and therefore feel called upon not only to reproduce the charts accurately but to work out all the contained hints, implications, and visions of sound down to the deepest levels. This original recording was made in May 2000 when Schneider appeared alongside the SWR Big Band. And for the SWR Big Band, those days in May 2000 are some of the highlights of their orchestral history.
Cinque Profeti is a little known Christmas cantata by Alessandro Scarlatti. It has a power and subtlety redolent of Handel coupled with touches of early Monteverdi. Sung here to great effect by the five soloists with sensitive instrumentalists, they play together to bring the gentle and subtle melodies - surely written to confer a sense of the special nature of the Christmas season - to life. It’s a recording which is sure to please. Opera was not performed in Rome for much of Alessandro Scarlatti's lifetime; that's why his vocal church music mostly comprised oratorios and cantatas, of which he wrote three for the Palazzo Apostolico. Only one survives: to a libretto by Silvio Stampiglia. Cinque Profeti takes the inventive form of a conversation between the five old testament prophets, Daniel, Ezekiel, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Abraham (the cinque profeti) about the birth of Christ – which was about to be celebrated on the occasion of the cantata’s first performance, in 1705 at the Papal Palace in Rome.
Legendary Bach interpreter Karl Richter leads his Münchener Bach-Orchester and choir in a double-DVD version of J. S. Bach's grandest sacred work, a riveting chronicle of the Last Supper and Christ's final hours, with the Gospel text sung by Peter Schreier as the Evangelist.
The opening chorus "Jauchzet Frolocket" is absolutely awesome. I have never heard any other performance that captures the brilliance and power in that chorus the way Flamig and the Kreuzchor do. Equally amazing is the way they combine precision and expressive sensitivity (may have something to do with the influence of Heinrich Schutz on the Dresden Kreuzchor). It avoids the lush excesses of many "modern" performances as well as the weak sound of some "authentic" performances. This is Bach at its best.