My Reflections on the 2016 Gramophone Awards (Part II): Baroque Vocal

The Gramophone Awards 2016

Following yesterday’s post on the Gramophone Awards Nominees in the Concerto category, let’s attack another one: Baroque Vocal. Again, this isn’t meant to be an exhaustive review of the nominated albums, but just a couple of comments and reflections, as usually I’ll know quite a number of the recommendations well.

And if I don’t, I’ll try to find out (or shut up).

Baroque Vocal

Baroque vocal is not surprisingly one of my favorite categories. As written previously, you can never have enough Bach.

The good thing is, this year’s Gramophone award nominees in this category feature 3 times this great composer, even twice with his outstanding b-minor mass (sorry for all the superlatives here, but what else can you call this?).

Bach: Magnificat – John Butt – Dunedin Consort

Gramophone starts very appropriately for this hot summer season with… Christmas Music.

Well, actually, the title piece is the Magnificat BWV 243a, which is as magnificent as the name implies. I’ve praised John Butt and his Dunedin consort several times here on this blog (e.g. his fantastic St Matthew Passion), and this album keeps the very high level of playing of this great ensemble (plus the beautiful recording quality of the Scottish label Linn, known for their turntables, and more recently, excellent digital hifi).

Bach: Magnificat Christmas Cantata 63 John Butt Dunedin Consort Linn Records

You also get a Christmas cantata plus some other church music (this is trying to recreate Bach’s first Christmas Vespers as he could have performed them), so make sure you get this excellent album under your Christmas tree this year (side note: this is one of the downside of the virtual download era, a FLAC file doesn’t look that pretty even wrapped).

My rating: 5 stars

Bach: B-minor Mass by Gardiner and the Monteverdi Choir

Bach: Mass in B-Minor - Gardiner (2015) - SDG

Already reviewed here, so no need to repeat my four star rating. Very well done, but I still prefer Herreweghe (no matter which version, see also here).

 

Bach: B-minor Mass by the Lars Ulrik Mortensen and the Concerto Copenhagen

Bach: Mass in B Minor Lars Ulrik Mortensen Concerto Copenhagen CPO

Yes, another version of the masterpiece. And admittedly one I haven’t heard. This is mainly due to the fact that this SACD release doesn’t seem to be available on my streaming provide of choice.

Mortensen’s recordings of the Bach keyboard concertos are, and I’m not a big fan. However, the couple of snippets of this b-minor I was able to find on the internet sound interesting. The couple of reviews I’ve read speak of a lot of transparency. Once this becomes available on a streaming site I’ll have another look, and if you have an SACD player, you may even want to check it out right now.

 

Händel: Partenope – Riccardo Minasi – Il Pomo d’Oro

From baroque giant no. 1 to no. 2, Händel.

Händel: Partenope - Riccardo Minasi - Il Pomo d'Oro - Gauvin - Jaroussky Erato 2016

No idea why I haven’t purchased this one yet. I’m usually a big fan of the countertenor Philippe Jarrousky, and Riccardo Minasi is very reliably producing high level baroque productions.

And Erato (in spite of being part of Warner these days) is also a gauge of quality.

In spite of this album being available on Qobuz, I haven’t spent a lot of time on this recording yet, so I’m not going to offer any judgment beyond that I like what I’ve heard so far.

 

Monteverdi: Madrigali Vol. 1 – Cremona – Paul Agnew – Les Arts Florissants

First of all, reading “Les Arts Florissants” and not seeing William Christie in the same entry is a bit weird. They have been associated for so many years (and I’m looking forward to seeing him live again in the soon to open Hamburg Elbphilharmonie early next year).

But Paul Agnew, his disciple, does an outstanding job there.

Monteverdi: Madrigali vol. 1 Cremona Paul Agnew Les Arts Florissants 2016

I must admit I listen to Monteverdi less than I should. While my musical brain feels immediately at home in the harmonic world of a Bach and Händel, the 100+ years between them and Monteverdi, the very beginning of what can be called baroque music, makes is much less immediately approachable to me.

However, when I’m in the mood and have the patience, it can be a very rewarding experience.

Again, I haven’t spent enough time with this album for proper judgment, but my initial impressions are very positive.

Le Concert Royal De La Nuit: Sebastian Daucé – Ensemble Correspondances

From Germany via England (Händel) and Italy now to France (Well to be fair, of the previous mentioned countries, only France and England actually were countries, Germany and Italy still had to wait for a couple of centuries for this pleasure).

And directly to the court of the Sun King, Louis XIV.

Why haven’t I written about this fantastic album yet, although I purchased it months ago? No idea, shame on me. This is putting you directly into the front row at Versailles, into a musical spectacle of first order.

Le Concert Royal de la Nuit: Sébastian Daucé - Ensemble Correspondances Harmonia Mundi 2016

I must admit, I didn’t know any of the composers previously (I’m not a great expert in French music in the first place), but the booklet quotes them as:  Cambefort, Boesset, Constantin, Lambert, Cavalli and Rossi.

Never mind, just sit back, close your eyes, and enjoy the beauty of the music!

By the way, this was also a Choc Classica in addition to the Gramophone Editors choice. It is rare that these two magazines agree, but if they do, it’s usually on something rather outstanding.

My rating: 5 stars

Now, the tricky question, who should win this year’s Gramophone Awards? My guess is Gardiner will make it, as a sort of lifetime award (and having seen him live earlier this year, he’d certainly deserve it).

But my personal call would go for the outsider: Sébastian Daucés account of a night at Versailles. Let’s see.

Who would you choose?

 

UPDATE Aug 18: Gramophone has just communicated the three finalists for each category. For this one, still in the running are the Dunedin Magnificat, the Monteverdi, and the Concert Royal. So my personal favorite has a one in 3 chance of winning. Nice!

 

You can find the recordings here:

Bach Magnificat Dunedin

Bach B-minor Mass Gardiner

Bach B-Minor mass Mortensen

Händel: Partenope

Monteverdi: Madrigali vol. 1

Le Concert Royal de la Nuit

 

 

 

 

Author: Musicophile

I'm not a professional musician, I don't work in the music industry, I'm just what the name says, somebody who loves music. I've been in love with music for all of my life, took piano lessons for nearly 10 years, and played in several amateur Jazz groups. I go to concerts, both classical and Jazz, quite regularly. And I collect music previously on vinyl and CDs, now on my computer, and am slightly OCD on my music collection. You can reach me at Musicophile1(AT)gmail.com

7 thoughts on “My Reflections on the 2016 Gramophone Awards (Part II): Baroque Vocal”

  1. I am not a great fan of Baroque vocal. I was, but somehow mostly lost my taste for it, and greatly prefer instrumental now. However, two albums from this category very much impressed me.

    The Daucé is an entertainment, a spectacle, which I enjoyed in spite of my bias. While I like this album for its big sound, I like the Monteverdi for the opposite reason, its delicacy. There are so many stentorian, declarative vocal performances around, and I find very few with the delicate, shimmering harmonies of Les Arts Florissants. Everyone can be clearly heard individually, all can be heard at once, and the pacing is just right. So a couple of very nice recordings in a category where I didn’t expect to like much.

    I keep wanting to like the Dunedin Consort more than I do – it’s been praised so widely. I just find their performances exemplary of exactly the sort of “declarative” (to use that word again) baroque vocal performances that I have tired of.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your insightful comments. Fully agree that the Daucé is a spectacle. I suppose it took a bit of show to entertain the King of France, one of the most powerful men of the world at the time.

      I really like your comments bout Les Arts Florissants.

      I’m surprised by your impression of the Dunedin, to me, while certainly “declarative”, they are also a lot of fun, at least to my ears.

      I guess if you look for a more introvert Baroque Vocal, at least from the snippets I heard the Mortensen b-minor may be your cup of tea.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

classical life

A classical music blog by music critic Tim Mangan

This Week's Music

Making Classical Accessible

From my Macbook to the Net

Evaporation of my thoughts and observations

Elestra

Author: Artienne

My Life in Music

Piano Teaching, Playing, Singing and Listening

ArsX3

A brand new journal reviewing books, cinema, music

LawrenceEz's Blog

Creative and Performing Arts: Writing, Classical Music, Photography

Laetitia Strauch-Bonart

Contemporary Politics & Culture

sibling revelry

reveling in all things classical

It's A Raggy Waltz

I collect jazz on vinyl, I dig the Dave Brubeck Quartet, & I write about it

La Musica

By two cousins

Music Enthusiast - At the junction of rock, blues, R&B, jazz, pop,and soul

#𝟏𝟐𝟖 208 Top Music Blogs To Follow in 2022, #𝟓0 Top 80 American Music Blogs 2021, #𝟗𝟒 Top 200 Most Influential Music Blogs 2019, 𝐓𝐨𝐩 𝟐𝟎 Music Blogs 2019 (no ranking).

thejazzbreakfast

Dishing it out from the heart of England

only jazz

random thoughts about music that matters to me

Le Corso del Destino

a journey in classical music

The Culture Project

Exploring the world of literature, wine, art, music and more.

René Spencer Saller

The music causes me to dream of fabulous empires, filled with fabulous sins.

The High Arts Review

Βιβλία, ταινίες, μουσική

Breaking Baroque

Blog of Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Chamber Choir

Tasting Nirvana

Eating your Dosha

The Immortal Jukebox

A Blog about Music and Popular Culture

April Greene

Writer + Editor

a pianist's musings

A history of your favorite classical music.

Classical music for all

Boris Giltburg's blog

%d bloggers like this: