Notes flash past, either beautifully in tune or completely jarringly out of tune!
Parley of Instruments/Peter Holman
Giovanni Battista Draghi ‘What Passion cannot Musick raise and quell?’ (from Odes to Saint Cecilia)
This is my top 17th-century listen, with the wonderful countertenor Michael Chance singing. The settings by Purcell and Handel of this text are well known, but Draghi is another world: the harmonic turns are extraordinary. This is one of the great discoveries of Hyperion’s monumental and highly acclaimed ‘English Orpheus’ series, which the Parley recorded in the 1980s and 90s.
Bach Cello Suites (complete)
I have spent a lot of time listening to recordings of the Bach Suites for masterclasses and lectures given with cellists. Casals is, surprisingly, still refreshing to listen to. In contrast to so many pulled-around ‘expressive’ renditions made in the past few years, Casals gives us a clear and simple version. The main reservation I have is with his approach to the chords, which now sound old-fashioned and aggressive. Also, the lack of cadential trills dates the recording. We might think that we’re making progress in historically informed performance (HIP), but listening to early recordings can remind us that people managed to play Bach perfectly well in the pre-HIP era.
London Classical Players/Roger Norrington
Brahms Symphony no.2, second movement
The last frontier in the historically informed, period-instrument field remains the 19th century. If you remain unconvinced about the no-vibrato idea, listen to this. The rich sonority is achieved through beautiful intonation, and portamento in the strings.
Duval Suite I from Sonates et autres pièces op.1 (1704)
This is a live recording, available on YouTube, of the first suite by François Duval, with Baroque violinist Olivier Brault. It is a perfect example of Baroque rhetorical playing – subtle, but expressing every detail. Because Brault is also a dancer, he moves very gracefully when he plays, but without exaggeration.
Richard Egarr (harpsichord)
Bach Fantasia and Fugue in A minor BWV922
This recording, found on Egarr’s 2006 collection Bach: The Young Virtuoso, demonstrates wonderfully the effective use of early tuning on this rich-sounding historic instrument. The notes flash past, either beautifully in tune or completely jarringly out of tune! Egarr’s rhetorical panache in the prelude is exemplary.
Photo: Bruno Schultz