Recording Reviews

  • September 29, 2018

     

    Kathryn James Adduci, trumpet, and the Baroque Chamber Orchestra of Colorado, Forte e Dolce (BCOC002) 2013.

     

    Forte e Dolce is the second recording issued by the Baroque Chamber Orchestra of Colorado on their own self-published label and is available digitally for download on Amazon, iTunes, and elsewhere. Given that more than half of the CD’s tracks highlight the trumpet, it might be better thought of as a solo album featuring Baroque trumpeter Kathryn James Adduci (playing a 2006 Egger instrument modeled after a 1748 Ehe III instrument).

     

     

    The trumpet works included here will be well known to all: Franceshini’s Sonata for Two Trumpets, Torelli’s “Etienne Roger” Concerto and Sonata G. 7, Stradella’s Sinfonia Avanti Il Barcheggio. Adduci’s playing and interpretations have a great deal of merit from both the technical and artistic perspectives, and although recordings of these works are frequently seen her interpretations stray just far enough from “standard” to warrant hearing. In the opening moments of “Etienne Roger,” for example, she presents the famous leaping subject in far more a legato style than others, an artistic decision requiring more than the usual amount of technical prowess. The remainder of the movement follows suit. One might presume that her chosen repertoire would offer Adduci limited opportunities for virtuosic displays, and while this is true for the most part, there are noteworthy flashes. The most impressive is the extended chain of trills concluding the third movement (“Canzone”) of Stradella’s Sinfonia, which insofar as my ear is concerned is flawlessly executed.

     

     

    I found myself to be particularly impressed with Adduci’s ability to manipulate the tone of the instrument via articulation. Of course she captures the spirit of the natural trumpet in tone and timbre—apparently on a vented trumpet for those who feel strongly about such things, though the CD gives no indication either way—but on occasion (and especially in the more fanfare-like passages) she finds a way to coax a brilliant and biting, almost modern (but in a good way), sound from the instrument. I am not sure I was aware that the Baroque trumpet had such a wide variety of possible sounds given what I have heard on the recordings of others. Clearly Adduci excels in the areas of articulation and tone even as her interpretations offer differing perspectives on familiar works.

     

     

    The only artistic decision I would question is the replacement of the second trumpet soloist with a violinist for the Franceschini Sonata. The liner notes indicate that this decision was made to “highlight the dialogue inherent in the piece with contrasting timbres.” To me there is a fundamental contradiction in a "historically informed" ensemble taking such liberties without some apparent historical justification (none is provided). By the same token I did not really think that the rewards justified the risk. The violin proved unequal to the task of competing with the noticeably louder trumpet and the end result, for my ear at least, was a solo trumpet work with some kind of halfway accompanimental quasi-obbligato violin part.

     

    The non-trumpet half of the album has its own outstanding features. Generally the orchestra performs admirably both as an accompanimental ensemble and in the non-solo pieces. The recording includes chamber works as well. Violinist Cynthia Miller Freivogel and theorbo/guitarist Daniel Zuluaga collaborate on the CD’s wonderful closing track, Antonio Bertali’s Chiacona. Both performers demonstrate their skill in transforming an apparently unassuming movement into a virtuosic showcase over the course of some eight minutes.

     

    Bryan Proksch, Lamar University

  • Giovanni Battista Fontana and Giovanni Gabrieli, Sonate et Canzone, Le Concert Brise, Accent Recordings (ACC 24250), 2013.

    William Dongois, cornett and direction; Christine Moran, Alice Julien-Laferriere, violin; Stefan Legee, Franck Poitrineau, sackbut; Hadrien Jourdan, harpsichord and organ; Judith Pacquier, cornett; Matthias Spaeter, archlute; Carsten Lohff, harpsichord

    Recorded June, 2013 at Notre-Dame-de-l’Assomption, Treffort, France; A=466

    The offering of Le Concert Brise on this recording is elegant, stunning, and exciting. There are no “grand” works as such, yet there is grandeur in each selection. I recommend that one first read the liner notes by William Dongois which give the listener a wonderful historical/musicological entry into the recording. For example, when describing the Fontana sonatas, he mentions that they “are made up of numerous individual sections, each of which appears to tell a story.” Indeed, and our performers do well in their “story-telling” as they perform these sonatas. Dongois notes that while Fontana was a violinist and had that interest in mind for his sonatas, he also names the cornetto as the principal instrument for many of them. The listener will concur that Dongois’s playing fulfills Fontana’s compositional demands and desires with mastery, charm, purity of sound, and flare. Surely a highlight of this recording is Dongois’s performance of Fonatna’s Sonata VI. He tosses off the numerous technical passages found in it with ease. He always shapes his phrases with grace. Even those which are full of dazzling technical jumps and runs are polished and smooth. There is yet another quality of Dongois’s playing which deserves attention: his warm pure sound, especially in the upper register.

    The cornetto playing of Judith Pacquier is deserving of high praise as well. She blends perfectly with Dongois in every way including in some very dazzling technical passages which she handles with ease and grace. The listener will want to note how well they are matched in Fontana’s Sonata XI: note the phrasing, articulation, execution of florid passages which are always performed with warmth and ease. Stefan Legee’ssacbut playing is excellent throughout. One has the opportunity to appreciate it best in Fontana’s Sonata XIII in which he has an extended solo section. He plays with excellent refined sound, intonation, and is always refined in his phrasing.

    The disc closes with Le Concert Brise’s arrangement (for their specific instrumentation) of the well-known Canzon Duodecimitoni. It offers the listener, perhaps, a better window into this composition: one hears the individual lines with great clarity, and the entire ensemble performs it splendidly.

    This recording by Le Concert Brise is a delight in so many ways. It is an intriguing program and the liner notes are informative and interesting. The performance of Le Concert Brise is both inspired and inspiring. The listener will appreciate both the highest level of virtuosity of its players, as well as an obvious commitment to playing as a unified ensemble. I highly recommend it.

    -- Jim Miller

  • gonzaga venice 1629The Gonzaga Band, Venice 1629, Resonus Classics (LC28421), 2018.

    Jamie Savan, director, and cornett (treble cornett by John McCann, mute cornett by Serge Delmas, and tenor cornett by Christopher Monk); Helen Roberts, cornett by Paolo Faniciulacci; Faye Newton, soprano, Oliver Webber, violi; Theresa Caudle, violin, and cornett (by Roland Wilson); Steven Devine, organ and harpsichord

    Recorded in St. Mary’s College Chapel, New Oscott, Sutton Coldfield, England at A=466 Hz, ¼ comma mean tone temperament

    It is well-documented that Venice was a fertile place to be for musicians in the early 17th century. This recording focusses on a single year, 1629, which could arguably be thought of as a time of particularly high activity. It is of note that the plague reached Venice the following year. The highly detailed and very interesting program notes by Jamie Savan state that perhaps one-third of the population of Venice died from the plague in 1630-1631. He notes that there are 50 extant publications from Venice in 1629, 30 from 1630, and none from 1631. For that reason alone, a study and recording of music from 1629 is valuable.

  • prb russian revThe Prince Regent’s Band, Russian Revolutionaries Vol.1: Victor Ewald & Oskar Böhme. Resonus Classics (RES10201), 2016.

  • distin prince regentThe Prince Regent’s Band, The Celebrated Distin FamilyResonus Records, 2016.

    Richard Fomison; soprano cornet in Eb, cornet in Bb, contralto saxhorn in Bb, Richard Thomas; soprano cornet in Eb cornet in Bb, contralto saxhorn in Bb, tenor saxhorn in Eb, Anneke Scott: tenor saxhorn in Eb, ventil horn in Eb, Phil Dale; baritone saxhorn in Bb, Jeff Miller; contrabass saxhorn in Eb.www.princeregentsband.com

  • dovel uky trumpetsUniversity of Kentucky Baroque Trumpet Ensemble, Jason Dovel, director, with John Foster, guest soloist. Music for Natural Trumpets. New Branch Records (NBR 018), Recorded July 11, 2017. www.jasondovel.com

    Baroque trumpets: Drew Burke, Jason Dovel, John Foster, Bailey Goff, Phillip Chase, Cadem Holmes, Jessica Lambert, Kyle Mitchell, Rhiannon Montgomery, Coleman Scott, Abby Temple, Jared Wallis. Sackbut: Denver Pascua, Timpani/Tabor: David Davenport.

    Those who attended the 2017 HBS Symposium will remember a stunning performance at the Metropolitan Museum of Art by the University of Kentucky Baroque Trumpet Ensemble, directed by Jason Dovel. The present CD is the ensemble’s first recording and may be the first professional recording by a college baroque trumpet ensemble.

  • snedeker gallayJeffrey Snedeker, Twelve Etudes for Second Horn, op. 57 (1847) by Jacques Francois Gallay (1795-1864) (self-published, 2017).

    Recorded: May 2017, Central Washington University by Allen Larsen. Natural Horn: Seraphinoff Classical Horn, 1989 after Raoux (Paris, ca. 1820). Valved Horn: Patterson Custom Double 2003

    The name Jeffrey Snedeker will be a familiar one to any who pay attention to historical horn performance and pedagogy. Snedeker is a horn player (both natural horn and modern valved horn) and pedagogue of the highest order, and we have been recently blessed with another fine recording from him.

  • dovel baroque

    Jason Dovel and Schuyler Robinson, Baroque Music for Trumpet and Organ (New Branch Records 019, 2018). www.newbranchrecords.com and www.jasondovel.com.

    Jason Dovel has produced a beautiful recording with a stunning program of five well known and elegant works from the late-seventeenth and early-eighteenth century trumpet repertoire. Those who attended the HBS symposium in New York in 2017 will remember his fine playing with his Kentucky University baroque trumpet ensemble. Jason Dovel is a great promoter of historical trumpet performance and has established, perhaps the very largest university baroque trumpet program in the US at the University of Kentucky.

  • Collina Confluence 300 72Ensemble Collina, Confluence (Acis APL 01744), 2016. acisproductions.com

    Confluence is the first recording by the early music group Ensemble Collina. The quartet consists of Leah Peroutka, violin, Brent Wissick, viola da gamba, Michael Kris, trombone, and Elaine Funaro, harpsichord and organ. For their inaugural recording, they have chosen thirteen seventeenth-century works.

  • HandelMusica Fiorita, George Frideric Handel: Ode for St. Cecilia’s Day (Pan Classics, 2017).

    Recorded at Adullamkapelle, Basel, Switzerland November 17-21, 2016 in A=415 Hz. http://www.musicafiorita.ch/

    From 1683 through 1703, on November 22, St. Cecilia, the patron saint of music would be celebrated with great festivities including a religious Mass, banquets, and a gala concert. Composers whose music was performed during these years include Henry Purcell, John Blow, John Eccles, Daniel Purcell, Giovanni Battista Draghi, and Jeremiah Clarke. It is not known why the tradition ended, but in 1739, it was revived and this time featured music by Georg Frederic Handel. The program included his Alexander’s Feast, which had premiered three years earlier, and a new work with the same title as one composed for these occasions many years earlier by Henry Purcell: the Ode for St. Cecilia’s Day.

  • gemill hornAlec Frank-Gemmill and Alasdair Beatson. A Noble and Melancholy Instrument: Music for Horns and Pianos of the 19th Century. BIS, 2017 (BIS-2228, Hybrid SACD). www.bis.se. Recorded January 2016 in Cologne, Germany.            

    This recording is well worth the investment and time required for attentive listening. Overall, Alec Frank-Gemmill displays beautiful horn playing, agile technical ability, excellent tone quality

  • madeuf molterJean-François Madeuf, J. M. Molter: Concertos for Trumpets and Horns (Accent ACC 24327).

    Johann Melchior Molter (1696–1765) was a highly regarded and prolific composer, born in Tiefenort near Eisenach. He spent considerable time in Italy and was influenced there

  • December 31, 2017

    Back from Oblivion; Nick Byrne, Ophicleide; David Miller, Piano. Melba Recordings MR 301111 Australia, Recorded at the Australian National Academy of Music (6-8 December 2006)

    CD Contents:
    Dagnelies: Fantasie Variée
    Proctor: Adagio from Ophecleide Concerto
    Demersseman: Introduction et Polonaise
    Elgar: Romance
    Kummer: Variations for Ophecleide
    Rachmaninov: Vocalise
    Handel: Oh Ruddier than the Cherry
    Grieg: Ich Liebe Dich
    Klosé: Air Varié
    Piazzola: Oblivion

    The "rare" Ophicleide is enjoying a renaissance. This is certainly proven by the release of Nick Byrne's wonderful CD. Nota bene: "From Oblivion" is the first commercially released solo recording ever made of this curious and evolutionary instrument! While it seems that the ophecleide could be considered an ancestor of the modern-day tuba, it actually was invented around 1817. So the ophecleide actually is more of kissing cousin to the tuba (Moritz' first tuba was patented in 1835, so was first constructed some years before). Or maybe ugly stepsister. It certainly looks "ancestral" as related to a tuba, appearing to echo the relationship between the keyed bugle and the valved cornet. Because the valved low brass instruments eventually proved to be a better design, many opheclides were soon relegated to storage closets -- except in the hands of only the most ardent fans and virtuosi. Its wider usage was only for a couple decades after 1820, and so maybe the real ophicleide "golden age" is happening right now, when we have an international community of ophicleidists (?), including several modern day virtuosi, such a Nick Byrne. Many of the original 19th-century instruments have been refurbished into playing condition, and some are even for sale in certain Parisian shops. There also are artisans are building new ones.

    So, it is authentic for us to be hearing 19th-century romantic music played on this instrument. It is an object from the early part of that era and it played a part in initiating composers, conductors, and audiences to the possibility of a bass brass instrument with facility. Nick notes on his fine website: "Performers, such as English Virtuoso Samuel Hughes and the Royal Italian Opera's (Covent Garden) J.H. Guilmartin, continued to perform on the instrument late into the 1890's."

    The name is derived from the Greek "ophis" (meaning serpent) and "kleis" (to cover). Having between 9 and 11 keys, and in a variety of sizes, from the alto (quinticlave) pitched in E-flat or F, to the contrabasses in E-flat or C, "ophicleide" can be considered a family of instruments.

    If the ophicleide is a "period" instrument, that period embraces orchestral works of Mendelssohn, Berlioz, Meyerbeer, Italian opera composers, and others. As a chamber instrument or military band instrument, it seems to have made brass chamber music more possible for the first time since sackbuts and cornettos were shelved. Both the orchestral works and the smaller ensembles are represented by some good examples in the CD catalogs. See Nick’s website (address below) for a very complete ophicleide discography.

    Back from Oblivion is a first-class production, with gorgeous recording acoustics, and stylish and masterful playing by both Nick Byrne and pianist David Miller. The CD was produced with the support of the Melba Foundation, Australia Council, and arts agencies of the Australian government, allowing for a deluxe product in every respect. It is a pleasurable listening experience and the liner notes are excellent. His website www.ophicleide.com, is the primary destination for learning more about this instrument and its tradition. Nick plays on an 1830 Finke ophicleide in C, and an 1875 C model by Halévy, both, by the measure of this recording, perfectly restored.

    The CD is not available on Amazon.com, but Nick suggests cduniverse.com in the U.S. and play.com or crotchet.co.uk in the U.K. and Europe. In Australasia, try melbarecordings.com.au. This is one CD to own and enjoy repeatedly. The first modern solo recording of the ophicleide didn't have to be this superb. We'll have to throw all our ophicleide jokes out.

    --- Paul Niemisto

  • brise SchmelzerWilliam Dongois and Le Concert Brisé. Johann Heinrich Schmelzer: Sonatas. Accent (ACC 24324), 2016.

    Joy. Joy without limit. This sums up William Dongois’s recording of music by Johann Schmelzer. It contains all of the characteristics which we have come to expect from Dongois, both in terms of his stunning playing, and in terms of the musicians he surrounds himself with: Le Conçert Brisé.  Dongois continues to impress with his virtuosity on cornett, mute cornett, and cornettino. However, in the final minute or so of Schmelzer’s Sonata secondo his playing is beyond virtuosic. It is positively on fire, yet entirely controlled and refined. That said, the joy in this recording is not entirely joy for the display of technical virtuosity. All of the phrasing is refined. Ornaments are tossed off easily and serve to enhance and not dominate phrasing. Dongois absolutely sings in his playing and it is joyous singing.

    Stefan Legée’s work on sackbut is refined and nimble. He blends perfectly with the other instruments. When he is in his high register it can be difficult to differentiate his sound from the cornetto and trumpet.

  • 2017 fede amorAlex Potter, Catherine Motus, Simen Van Mechelen, Carles Cristobal, and Ensemble La Fontaine, Fede e Amor (Ramée, RAM1304, 2013) www.ramee.org

    In his revealing “Trombone Obbligatos in Viennese Oratorios of the Baroque” (HBSJ 2, 1990: 52–77), Stewart Carter drew our attention to an overlooked source for seventeenth- and eighteenth-century virtuoso trombone practice: the music written for the Easter Week celebrations in Vienna. Between about 1640 and 1740

  • breathtakingHana Blažíková and Bruce Dickey, Breathtaking: A Cornetto and a Voice Entwined (Passacaille 1020, 2016). Recorded November, 2015.

    This remarkable recording is a perfect exemplification of the marriage of research and practice. This is not to characterize it as just an academic project because its main achievement is the artistic pleasure it generates. But an important point is also made. The fact is that the living presence of the cornetto in the modern musical world is due to Dickey. Not only is he a virtuoso, but the journey he has taken to understand the instrument in its own terms has, over decades, provided us with a series of revelations that he has been able to display with increasing eloquence. None surpasses this. The repertoire, the performance of the supporting players, the quality of the recording, the singing of the remarkable young Prague-born soprano Hana Blažíková, and of course Dickey’s own playing create one of the best recordings I have ever listened to.

  • John Ericson, horn and Yi-Wan Liao, piano. Rescued! Forgotten Works for the 19th Century Horn. Summit Records DCD 689, 2015. www.summitrecords.com

    John Ericson, professor of horn at Arizona State University, is a noted horn scholar and leading horn virtuoso. He has made a special study of 19th century valve horn and this wonderful recording is the culmination of those efforts.  Ericson has not only unearthed and “rescued” a number of fine but scarcely known solo horn pieces but put together a fine program emphasizing a particular aspect of the brass tradition. These pieces are part of the low horn playing tradition at a time when there was a clear delineation between high and low horn playing. The music included in this recording was composed from about 1860–1910. Low horn players during that period used the single F horn while high horn playing was done on the single Bb horn. Ericson explains in his fine CD notes that the modern double horn in F/Bb was not invented until 1897.

    The single F horn that Ericson plays on this CD, made by Richard Seraphinoff, is not based on a particular existing historic instrument but instead patterned in layout after an illustration in the Kling Method. In a private communication with John Ericson he explained that having a proper period mouthpiece was a key to the recording. He played on a mouthpiece built by Tom Greer of Moosewood Mouthpieces. It is a replica of a 19th century Courtois mouthpiece. Ericson explained that he spent about four months working on upper range articulations. While the adjustment from his modern horn mouthpiece was not an easy one to make, the results were well worth it. The sound produced was decidedly not a typical modern sound but one most appropriate to the period of music.

    Ericson’s program consists of solo horn works with piano accompaniment. These are not household names but the composers on this CD program were important musicians of the period some of whom were noted performers and teachers of their day.  Bernhard Eduard Müller (1842–c. 1920) is the most represented composer on the recording with four of the fifteen pieces on the CD: Nocturno, Op. 73, Melancholie, Op. 68, Am Abend, Op. 71, and Wiegenlied, Op. 69.  Ericson points out that Müller played horn in the Gewandhaus Orchestra in Leipzig and is today most noted for his horn etudes. The other works include: Sonate, Op. 347 by Fritz Spindler (1817–1905), Gondellied, Op. 15 by Karl Matys (1835–1908),  Lied ohne Worte, Op. 2 by Oscar Franz (1843–86), a leading orchestral hornist and teacher. Richard Strauss dedicated the orchestral score of his Horn Concerto no. 1, Op. 11 to Franz. The rest of the program consists of the Serenade, Op. 20 by Louis Bödecker (1845–99), Lied ohne Worte by Josef Richter (d. 1925), Resignation, Op. 16 by Charles Eisner (1802–74), and Sonata, Op. 7 by Hermann Eichborn (1847–1918).

    Yi-Wan Liao does an admirable job on accompanying Ericson particularly in light of the demanding piano parts on many of these works.

    The repertoire on this recording might not be masterpieces on the order of works by Beethoven, Brahms, or Schumann, but they are clearly solid musical expressions representative of a style and period of music history. We would be the poorer if they were lost to us completely and clearly we owe a great debt to John Ericson for not only “rescuing” a wonderful segment of that repertoire with a beautiful performance on this recording but for his important scholarly activities exploring them.

    -- Jeffrey Nussbaum

  • terra nova chantsTerra Nova Collective, Chants d’Amour (Self-published, 2016)

    Joroen Billiet, historical horns, Jean-Claude Vanden Eynden, piano, Véronique Bogaerts, violin, Mark De Merlier, early valve horn, Marjan De Haer, harp

    Recorded 3-4-5 November, 2015 in AMUZ-Augustinas Muziekcentrum Antwerp

    This recording, featuring historical hornist Joroen Billiet, brings together a fine collection of works that reward the listener with wonderfully “lyrical” melodic lines reminiscent of the vocal literature. These pieces are rather different from the operatic fantasias of Gallay, seeming more in line with the vocalises of Cancone or Bordogni. As stated on the inner cover of the CD jacket, “The playlist of Chants d’Amour is based on the concert repertoire performed by [the] legendary Liègeois horn player, admired by Johannes Brahms”, Alphonse Stenebruggen. Five of the works on this CD are world premiere recordings, and each of the pieces will be made available for purchase by Golden River Music.

  • pygmalionrheinPygmalion, Rheinmädchen (Harmonia Mundi 902239) 2015.

    Raphaël Pichon, director; Emmanuel Ceysson, harp; Anneke Scott, Joseph Walters, Olivier Picon, and Chris Larkin, horns; Bernarda Fink, mezzo-soprano.

    A recent recording on the Harmonia Mundi label features the vocal group Pygmalion, under the direction of Raphaël Pichon. In this recording we are treated to twenty one selections of music, mostly for female voices - our Rhinemaidens, of course - with several pieces featuring horns and harp. The pieces on this recoding are pulled from the oeuvres of Franz Schubert, Robert Schumann, Johannes Brahms, and Richard Wagner, along with one piece from Heinrich Isaac. Additionally, the works are organized in such a way as to illuminate similarities in text, literary themes, and musical devices amongst these titans of Romantic music.

  • rescuedhornJohn Ericson, horn and Yi-Wan Liao, piano. Rescued! Forgotten Works for the 19th Century Horn. Summit Records DCD 689, 2015.

    John Ericson, professor of horn at Arizona State University, is a noted horn scholar and leading horn virtuoso. He has made a special study of 19th century valve horn and this wonderful recording is the culmination of those efforts. Ericson has not only unearthed and “rescued” a number of fine but scarcely known solo horn pieces but put together a fine program emphasizing a particular aspect of the brass tradition. These pieces are part of the low horn playing tradition at a time when there was a clear delineation between high and low horn playing. The music included in this recording was composed from about 1860–1910. Low horn players during that period used the single F horn while high horn playing was done on the single Bb horn. Ericson explains in his fine CD notes that the modern double horn in F/Bb was not invented until 1897.