Agony and ecstasy—12 months of turmoil, disaster, death, rescue, victory, and celebration
Portrait of a Lady with a Harp: Music for Queen Christina of Sweden
“To recreate Christina’s hypothetical encounter with the harp,” writes Arnaldo Morelli in the liner notes, “one can only reconstruct the setting established by the environments which she frequented and by the composers whom she would have known.” To this end, Galassi has recorded pieces by Pasquini (seven), Corelli (five), Arcadelt (one), Stradella (four), Scarlatti (two), and “Anonymous” (three). Baroque musical delicacies don’t come any more delicate. And by not miking Galassi too closely, Rino Trasi allows the “studio”—Roccabianca, Italy’s Arena del Sole—to have its say.
For Glenn Gould
Who better than a fellow son of Toronto to strip Gould’s early concert programs of their cult of personality while retaining their audacity? Goodyear initiated this project as a way of paying homage to his hero, and somehow, without slipping into imitation, pay homage he does. But what Goodyear demonstrates most clearly in following Gould’s blueprint (26 minutes of Bach sandwiched between Gibbons and Sweelinck and Brahms and Berg) and by going out on the Goldberg Aria is his consummate ability to elucidate the sense that it makes.
Misterio: Astor Piazzolla, H.I.F. Biber
Julia Shröder, Lautten Compagney
Not every listener will be convinced that, by intermingling six Biber Rosary Sonatas (plus a passacaglia) and five Piazzolla tangos and playing both on Baroque-period instruments, these musicians have transcended space and time. But the dark heat of their playing makes the possibility enjoyable to consider. And they definitely evoke the tension between spirit and flesh even if their goal was more about unity—specifically, about capturing the transcendent emotions common to both the mutual longing of two lovers (the tango) and the soul’s longing for God.
Anna Segal: Chamber Music for Harp
Rachel Talitman, Jean-Marc Fessard, Adrien Eble, Ensemble Mendelssohn
It makes sense that, having dedicated these compositions to the harpist Rachel Talitman, Anna Segal would also enlist Talitman for their world-premiere recordings. But although Talitman gets top billing and “harp” appears in all but one of the titles, Segal has also given the clarinetist Jean-Marc Fessard, the oboist Adrien Eble, and the violin-viola-cello sextet Ensemble Mendelssohn roles of nearly equal importance. The overriding mood is bucolic. In “Sonata for Harp and Violoncello” and “Lullaby,” however, hints of something darker occur as well.
Completed in the year before his death, Bach’s Mass in B Minor (along with the unfinished The Art of the Fugue) has come to be regarded as the culmination of his life’s work. Two new renditions appeared in the weeks leading up to Easter, and both—one by William Christie’s Les Arts Florissants (Harmonia Mundi), the other by Stephen Layton’s Choir of Trinity College Cambridge and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment (Hyperion)—live up to the music’s august demands.
Layton’s, which was recorded over five days in Cambridge’s Trinity College Chapel and therefore amenable to retakes, has a marginally warmer and fuller sound than Christie’s, which was recorded live in Paris and therefore, presumably, in one take. Christie’s, on the other hand, follows slightly brisker tempi, running four fewer minutes than Layton’s. Ultimately, as the playing and the singing on both are flawless, neither difference matters much—a win-win. —A.O.