EMA Recording & Book Reviews

Reviews by the editorial staff of Early Music America. Have a new recording or book? Submit it for consideration.


Medieval Sights and Sounds

Medieval Sights and Sounds

William Watson
Emily Zazulia's valuable 'Where Sight Meets Sound: the Poetics of Late-Medieval Music Writing' explores notational aesthetics in polyphonic music, where it's not obvious how you're meant to sing what's on the page.
A Marriage of Music and Mastery: Scarlatti from Ars Lyrica Houston

A Marriage of Music and Mastery: Scarlatti from Ars Lyrica Houston

Jeffrey Baxter
Long undervalued, Alessando Scarlatti's vocal writing naturally weds singable lines with the Italian language. Ars Lyrica Houston's colorful new recording of a Scarlatti oratorio, with an outstanding cast, makes a brilliant case for this rarely heard music.
A Palestrina First from Suspicious Cheese Lords

A Palestrina First from Suspicious Cheese Lords

Karen M. Cook
On their latest stellar recording, the Suspicious Cheese Lords focus on Palestrina’s 'Missa Illumina oculos meos,' and the lengthy motet by Andreas de Silva on which it's based. World premiere recordings, beautifully sung.
In the Hands of AGAVE

In the Hands of AGAVE

Stephanie Manning
Chamber ensemble AGAVE's latest album, with the versatile voice of soprano Michele Kennedy, crisscrosses the Atlantic and spans several centuries. The focus is on women composers from the 17th through 20th centuries. Carefully planned, beautifully paced, this album forges connections deeper than the composers' shared womanhood.
Jacob Obrecht and his Misbehaving Church Singers

Jacob Obrecht and his Misbehaving Church Singers

Emily Thelen
Using church records, Robert Nosow's fascinating, richly detailed book portrays Jacob Obrecht at St. Donatian in Bruges, and the church singers he composed for. The choristers were deeply embedded in the city's civic life, and records show some were disciplined for mockery or being 'extremely lazy, disobedient, and wholly incapable.'
Bach and Weston: 'Singing My Song Tells My Story'

Bach and Weston: ‘Singing My Song Tells My Story’

Jeffrey Baxter
'Myths Contested,' the Washington Bach Consort's new recording, pairs Bach at his most theatrical and humorous with new music. Trevor Weston's evocative cantata 'A New Song' deserves its own place in a concert setting — and not just alongside Bach performed with period instruments.
Jordi Savall Blurs All Borders with 'Oriente Lux'

Jordi Savall Blurs All Borders with ‘Oriente Lux’

Anne E. Johnson
In 2016, Jordi Savall assembled a group of immigrant musicians with a fundamental mission: to preserve and revive precious musical traditions from a range of under-stress cultures, from Syrian and Kurdish to Armenian, Sudanese, Afghan, and Moroccan. The resulting live performance was captured as 'Oriente Lux,' bridging gaps and making connections.
Handel's 'Israel in Egypt' Rework'd

Handel’s ‘Israel in Egypt’ Rework’d

Jeffrey Baxter
Jeannette Sorrell's adaptation of Handel's popular 'Israel in Egypt' cuts, re-orders, restores, and replaces music and text throughout the oratorio. But Handel didn't leave us with a 'definitive' edition, and Sorrell's version is so artistically logical that someone new to the work might not know anything is missing. Apollo's Fire and the outstanding vocal and instrumental soloists make a compelling case.
Bach Worship? It's Complicated.

Bach Worship? It’s Complicated.

Pamela Dellal
People who love Wagner operas can separate his music from his toxic beliefs. Yet J.S. Bach's 'superlative ability to move listeners' and status as 'a pinnacle of Western art' brushes aside the composer's harsh theology and often intolerant personal philosophy. In this collection of essays, Bach scholar Michael Marissen warns us to 'not soften or assimilate this figure to our own preferences, no matter how much we find inspiration, solace, or transcendence in his art.'
Zesty Music for High Baroque Trumpet

Zesty Music for High Baroque Trumpet

Aaron Keebaugh
Trumpet soloist Josh Cohen and Ensemble Sprezzatura bring together regal flair and expressive grace with 'Altissima,' exploring the varied colors and dimensions of the high Baroque trumpet. The recording makes an ideal introduction to myriad trumpeting styles through mostly unfamiliar repertoire.
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