Saturday, July 22, 2017

Live organ Concertos in the Netherlands.

Today I attended two organ concertos in the Netherlands. The first concert was in a place called Zandeweer near the Dutch coast, and the organ was a Hinsz instrument from 1731, in a church build in the middle ages. The organist was Dirk Molenaar.
The composers he played were:
Erbach, Sweelinck, Tunder, Fischer, Kauffmann and J.S. Bach.

And early Hinsz organ with a gorgeous sound. Performance was not as good as the organ deserved. Acoustics were a bit unforgiving for the smaller pipes.

The second place was Uithuizermeeden near Zandeweer for the second Hinsz organ from 1785. A much bigger organ as in Zandeweer. The original Maria church was build in the 14th century.
The composers were:
Walther, Buxtehude, Stanley, Haydn, 
a1=465 HZ.
Wind pressure 69 mm/wk.
Neidhardt.
Played by: Ties Molenhuis.

Much better performance, sound almost perfect, a fine organ, one of the last Hinsz build.


Zandeweer, Hinsz organ 1731

Uithuizermeeden, Hinsz organ 1785

Friday, July 21, 2017

Graupner, Christoph. (1683-1760. Partitas for Harpsichord, Volume 4.


New acquisition.
Date of purchase: July 2017.
First listen: 21-7-2017.
Label: Analekta.
Recording dates: June 2004
Recording venue: Église Saint Augustin de Mirabel, Canada.
Recording engineer: Steven Bellamy.
Running time: 64:01.
Relevance to me: Essential.

Works performed:
Partita No. IV in D minor.
No. V in E flat major.
No. VII in E minor.

Works performed by:
Geneviève Soly.

Harpsichord used:
Hubbard & Broekman, 1998, after Hass.

After listening to Volume 2 & 3, I came to the same conclusion with Volume 4. Simply excellent in all departments. I seriously cannot conceive better performances as what Soly delivers. However hard you search, you will find no fault with her, and neither with the recording. It is simply a well prepared survey in the likes of Christoph Graupner, a very underrated composer I might add. Listening some years ago to a bunch of concertos I quickly realized that this is not one of many composers justly forgotten, but a great master on his own terms, in which shadow many a composer of name will disappear. Why he is treated with so much negligence is beyond me, and these harpsichord compositions proves once more that I and others are right in their assessment of this man's greatness. Soly is not an opulent virtuoso but she has an inward frame of mind that enables her to connect in a pure and uncluttered way to Graupner. The music is beautifully paced, and I particularly like the way in which she is handling the dynamics with such subtlety and pose, her finely chiseled rhythmic ability, and the luminosity she brings to the music, that sets her interpretation apart. This is utterly unshowy playing with maximum creative punch. Her choice in tempi is always well weighted, very considered and soft-edged. The overall effect is one of harmony and balance, and her impressive technique is utterly in the service of the music. What could one wish for more. It is almost too late for all to discover this, for the 7 volumes of this music will not be available for long. Volume 1 is OOP, and 7 will soon follow, as will the rest. It will be available only by download, and as I understand it, it will not be reprinted.
The harpsichord sounds wonderful and the sound is perfectly suited to it. The only minor quibble I have is, that the booklet might have contained much more info. But as I said it's a minor quibble.





Braunfels, Walter. (1882-1954) String Quartets No. 1 & 2.


New acquisition.
Date of purchase: July 2017.
First listen: 21-7-2017.
Label: CPO.
Recording dates: November 1996.
Recording venue: Immanuelskirche Wuppertal, Germany.
Recording engineer: Georg Litzinger.
Running time: 59:14.
Relevance to me: Essential.

Works performed:
SQ No. 1, opus 60 in A minor. "Verkündigung"
No. 2 opus 61 in F major.

Works performed by:
Auryn Quartett.

I already own some orchestral works by this composer and very much liked it, so I was hugely pleased that the present recording was re-released. Both string quartets are tonal, rather late romantic in nature. The concentrated polyphony with tonally extended harmonies is something to marvel about. Very approachable and undoubtedly belonging to the very best he wrote. It is said that he was one of the most performed composers of the New Munich school. I readily believe that after hearing these SQ. The first SQ is a complex work, that digs deep in the emotional structure of Braunfels. The part writing is intricate, which undoubtedly grew out of loneliness and isolation. It is introspective  and tells of age and experience of life. It tells of deep suffering, and understanding the meaning of it. It even has something of a mercurial character about it. Not flashy in expression, but in fits and starts on the rhythmic flow, quite unsettling. Beautiful though. It has a certain affinity to Bartok SQ's.
No. 2 is different in character, in that in has a life affirming lilt to it. Lighter, less tense, it is far removed from the serious first. Here the concept of a beautiful sound comes in play, through which it gets more breathing space. There is a real command of light and shade, more lifelike. Braunfels is creating his musical perspective, further removed from the deepness of the second movement in No. 1, plunging into a soft edged almost springlike brilliancy.  The atmosphere thus metamorphosing in one of easy going lightness. The shadowy connotations of the first SQ are gone. Free and dreamlike in phrasing, Braunfels uncovers important inner lines, distinctly characterized by a mind that is untroubling itself. This is why I consider both SQ as essential to have. The performance is top notch, as is the recording.



Eccles, Henry. (c.1670-1742) Sonatas for Violin & Continuo. (First Book 1720)

New acquistion.
Date of purchase: July 2017.
First listen: 21-7-2017.
Label: Musica Omnia.
2 CD'S.
Recording dates: September 2011.
Recording venue: Trinity United Methodist Church, Wilmette, Il. USA.
Recording engineer: Joel Gordon.
Running time: 45:21 & 49:18.
Relevance to me. Interesting.

Works performed:
See heading.

Works performed by:
The Callipygian Players.

An US based ensemble, their first recording on this label, and a totally unknown composer. That should prove interesting? I am in two minds about composer and ensemble, but this is for later.
Henry Eccles was a gifted violinist, and he first enters history in January 1705. He seems to have been employed by the Duke d'Aumont, a French ambassador extraordinaire. His first book of Sonatas was dedicated to Sir William Gage, Baronet of Firle, Sussex. He had a brother called Thomas who was also a violinist but succumbed to the bottle. There is little more known about Henry Eccles. He was not a very original composer and he used verbatim complete movements from the likes of Giuseppe Valentini and Francesco Bonporti, in which initially it was very difficult to discover what was Eccles and what Valentini or Bonporti, but this was finally settled by research. All original scores were carefully edited and cleaned of mistakes and errors added by others. But what on the whole is the benefit of Eccles his music? Is he adding to the wealth and tradition of his time? Let me put it like this, there is originality and some finely crafted melodies. The music is pleasant but not extraordinarily refined, and I would have him not in the first row of worthies but certainly on a well deserved second row. Henry Eccles clearly did not attempt to elevate the general technical level of a violinist, he was quite prepared to leave that to others. His melodies are certainly engaging, and even up for repetitive listening in the background. Careful scrutiny may disappoint anyone with a deep knowledge of the Baroque era. I for one can live with the music and find enough rewarding moments to keep my interest on a conscious level. As to this ensemble, they play well, but are missing the ultimate refinement. It is historically informed playing, but compared to other ensembles in this field they fall short in expression and the finer distinctive details. There is simply too much legato with the violinist. The playing reminded me at times of ASMF under Marriner or Iona Brown, which is quite devastating methinks as a conclusion. To be fair, the second CD of this set is much better recorded and more rigorously performed in an authentic style. 
The recording is forward but clear. If you are interesting caution is advised. But in the end you may conclude as I did, that little is recorded of this composer, so this double CD is welcome, alone for that reason.


This is not a portrait of Henry Eccles, of which there are no paintings, but depicted is
a young man with a violin or a portrait of Charles Theodose Godefroy (1718-1796)

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Graupner, Christoph. (1683-1760) Partitas for Harpsichord, Volume 3. World Premiere Recordings.



New acquisition.
Date of purchase: July 2017.
First listen: 20-7-2017.
Label: Analekta.
Recording dates: September 2003.
Recording venue: Èglise Saint Augustin de Mirabel, Canada.
Recording engineer: Marc Paquin.
Running time: 62:39.
Relevance to me: Essential.

Works performed:
Partita in C minor.
Februarius in G major.
Partita III in D major.

Performed by:
Geneviève Soly.

Instrument used:
Hubbard and Broekman 1998, Hamburg style double manual harpsichord, after the designs & practices of H.A. Hass, c. 1730's.

Almost needless to say that this is top drawer playing. Graupner found in Geneviève Soly the perfect interpreter of his music. As in volume 2, her playing is exemplary, and she cannot not be faulted in any way.  The harpsichord used has a great sound. A matching recording crowns this volume.  
Soly's deep seated understanding of colour and vitality is amazing and refreshing. She brings to the music subtle variations in shading and dynamics. Reflective, and yet a urgency to communicate, she carefully navigates through the notes, and never steps into the ordinary, but always keeps to a tasteful line in elegance and sophistication. Her suppleness and flexibility of phrase creates for me obvious enjoyments. The pure sonority and tints, all the shades of tone, the distinctive imagination, all leads to a expressive picture of Christoph Graupner's music, and so tells us what a creative composer he was. All this would come to nothing if the performer isn't any good, but luckily for us, we are served in high quality interpretations.



Sunday, July 16, 2017

Graupner, Christoph. (1683-1760) Partitas for Harpsichord Volume II. Partien 1718 & Galanteries. Top recommendation.


New acquisition.
Date of purchase: July 2017.
First listen: 16-7-2017.
Label: Analekta.
Recording dates:  December 2002.
Recording venue: Église Saint Augustin de Mirabel.
Recording engineer: Steven Bellamy.
Running time: 59:38.
Relevance to me: Essential.
Reference recording.
State of the Art sound.

Works performed:
See heading.

Works performed by:
Geneviève Soly.
Harpsichord: 
Hubbard & Broekman 2002, after H.A. Hass 1730's.
Tuned: to a'=415 Hz.
Basic temperament: 1/5th comma mean tone.

Christoph Graupner was well respected in his lifetime. Judging by what I already knew of him, and now listening to his harpsichord compositions I am easily convinced that he ranks amongst the greats. The level of this music is so high, that it will astound many a  listener, me included. It has to do with the remarkably talented Geneviève Soly. Her easy grace exudes such confidence that the outcome could not be other as perfect. Her playing reveals contrast and dynamics that are quite infectious. Not so much a dazzling affair, but sheer control over the textures. She delights in the music's expressive power, which is wonderfully confiding and unfailingly imaginative. Soly's rhythmic focus underlines the music's excellence. She leaves room to let the music sing and breathe, it sounds light and has an inbred elegance. All is so refreshingly animated, splendidly articulated, unleashing imaginatively controlled embellishments that fuse heart and mind to the brim. I could go on endlessly, but I urge everyone to buy at least one volume, after hearing it you will want all. The instrument used is a marvel in sound and colour.
The recording is reference quality. 



Live organ Concertos in the Netherlands.

Today I attended two organ concertos in the Netherlands. The first concert was in a place called Zandeweer near the Dutch coast, and the org...