Reviews by the editorial staff of Early Music America. Have a new recording or book? Submit it for consideration.
Performer-scholar Charles Metz’s 2021 valuable recording includes English virginal music by William Tisdale, plus 16 works by other late 16th-century English composers. The lovely instrument, mostly preserved, dates to c. 1590.
A champion of under-performed 18-century treasures for cello, Elinor Frey's latest recording is high in virtuosity and appeal. As the cover suggests, she has two instruments at her disposal: one a standard Strad-model cello, the other a 3/4 size cello that allows several of the works to really sing.
Two damaged fragments of parchment, circa 1300, have an amazing story to tell. The Dorset rotulus, a scroll of music, helps flesh out a 400-year gap in our knowledge, adding new insights into the development of the medieval English motet. And for anyone looking for new early English material available for performance, the book will be an excellent resource.
This fantastic new disc, the Concerto di Margherita's debut recording, includes an array of madrigals, arias, and villanelles for two to five voices, interspersed with instrumental works. The quality of the vocal production throughout is top-notch, and it is matched by that of the instruments, which shine as much in their various accompanying roles as in the standalone instrumental works.
This insightful and well-researched collection of 10 essays shed light on Jewish musical activity in the Italian peninsula from the 14th to the 17th centuries. Unique to this time and place was an efflorescence of musical activity—in the sense of European “high culture”—and the authors point to the many instances of cultural, economic and social connections. There's a focus on two phenomena: the participation by Jews in European musical culture, and the creation of new Jewish musical artifacts that resulted from a fusion of the two cultures.
'Mozart’s Bassoon' features Peter Whelan as the soloist in the popular Bassoon Concerto while also directing his period-instrument group Ensemble Marsyas. The disc includes compelling performances of Mozart’s lesser-known Bassoon Sonata in B flat and one of his convention-defying wind serenades.
In Three Notch'd Road's latest recording, 'Shining Shore: Music of Early America,' the Charlottesville group has mined the rich heritage of its own musically fertile region, presenting a fresh, inviting line-up of short songs and instrumental works that were likely heard in Virginia or its preceding colony from the late 17th-to mid-19th-centuries.
Pietro Castrucci is not well enough known. He studied violin with Arcangelo Corelli, moved to London in 1715, and served as leader of Handel's opera orchestra. Castrucci often performed with Handel and another of Corelli’s students in London, Francesco Geminiani. Although Castrucci’s compositional output is relatively small, his incredible invention and skill are much to be admired. This recording is the first complete set of his Op. 1 sonatas, a welcome addition to the Baroque violin repertoire.
American pianist David Hyun-su Kim’s historically informed recording of three familiar Robert Schumann masterworks—Papillons, Carnaval, and Arabeske—is brilliant artistry indeed. And his instrument is of special interest: a copy of an 1830s Graf fortepiano, made in 2013 by Rod Regier of Freeport, Maine, and based on an instrument given by Conrad Graf to Robert and Clara as a wedding present. Kim is sensitive to Schumann’s mercurial mood shifts, and he uses the fortepiano for sounds and effects that are hard to achieve on a modern instrument.
Pinchon and his superb singers and ensemble offer an immersive, all-encompassing experience. Throughout, they let Bach’s dance rhythms propel music and narrative. The conductor’s attention to relative weights and specific articulations adds a dimension of almost sensual physicality—the emotions expressed here are vividly embodied, not abstract prayers, What makes this interpretation a significant contribution to the vast Matthäus-Passion discography is the admirable balance it finds between dramatic, contemplative, and even architectural approaches, too often taken as polarities.