Reviews by the editorial staff of Early Music America. Have a new recording or book? Submit it for consideration.
This fascinating book—rich in historical and analytical detail—offers many surprising reevaluations of long-held beliefs. With essays ranging from consumer culture in Bach’s Leipzig and Bach’s humor to an outright dismissal of 'Affektenlehre' and heated questions of antisemitism, the book is always provocative, often controversial, and smartly argued.
'Vivaldi: Cantate per soprano I' is the first of two volumes dedicated to Vivaldi’s chamber cantatas for soprano, part of Naïve’s colossal Vivaldi Edition. This new recording of six cantatas, composed between 1718 and 1735, reveals the depth of Vivaldi’s ingenious ability to shape moods, timbres, and emotions. Italian soprano Arianna Vendittelli and Abchordis Ensemble, led by Andrea Buccarella, have imbued this music about love with their own sense of drama, daring, and intimacy.
A new recording of Debussy's opera raises complicated and interesting questions on issues of vocal sound and the attitude towards performance style. Do we want to adopt every aspect of Debussy’s sound world into our own? Do we prefer to call upon the highly refined and skilled vocal qualities that are prevalent today, or are we obliged to adhere to the styles of the past?
The Orlando Consort's latest album explores music from GuillaumeDu Fay, Heinrich Isaac, and numerous anonymous pieces. But a standard treatment of the Florentine Renaissance this is not. In conjunction with research by musicologist Patrick Macey, who authored the detailed liner notes, the album presents a surprising number of premiere recordings.
The collected essays take "voice"—with its multiple meanings—as the starting point for lively discussions on the construction of gender in medieval culture. The essays extend from 12th century Arthurian romance to Anne de Graville’s writings in the 16th century. The bulk of the book is dedicated to music of the 12th and 13th centuries, considering the troubadour and trouvère song and the polyphonic and polytextual ars antiqua motet. It draws a connection between literature and song and provides a wonderful example of how new perspectives can be found on medieval material via the application of contemporary critical tools.
It’s exciting to discover an up-and-coming early-music ensemble, especially one with a focus on Medieval repertory. Concordian Dawn, with its debut album, is just such an ensemble. Its theme speaks to us today: fortune, desire, and hope, in the wake of forces beyond our control. The ensemble focuses on music that depicts medieval love and loss, anger, bitterness, grief, anticipation, and joy—emotions many of us have felt over the last few years.
Jeannette Sorrell and Apollo’s Fire, based in Cleveland, seek the themes that unite diverse cultures in "O Jerusalem!," an intriguing new recording that explores folk, religious, and high-art traditions. These live recordings, arranged from traditional sources and played with fire and reverence, offers a musical tour through each of the city’s four neighborhoods.
Book Review: God is in the Details. Bach is, too, with Baroque Violin & Viola Lessons from Walter Reiter
'The Baroque Violin & Viola' provides an important introduction to Baroque violin playing for the modern violin and viola student, in 50 highly detailed lessons. The book is a rich collection of ideas, techniques, insights, and sources compiled and interpreted by the author during a teaching career of 30 years as professor of Baroque violin.
The Oakland-based Cantata Collective opens its Bach series with a sampling of the solo-cantata repertoire in an engaging, intimate setting of one-to-a-part performances. This rewarding new disc features two gifted singers and Nic McGegan at the keyboard.
The star of Luisa Morales' uniformly excellent recording isn't the performer or the repertoire, it's the keyboard instrument: a hybrid with a lower manual on which the strings are plucked and an upper manual where the strings are struck by hammers. The sound is sweet with plenty of expressive nuance.