CD review: A magical 500-year leap backwards into the wonders of the Eton Choirbook

A page from the Eton Choirbook representing a motet by composer John Browne, whose reationship with the fabled school started as a choirboy in the 1460s.

There was an in-joke among English choristers in the late 15th century: “The French sing, Italians shake, Germans wail and the Enlish rejoice” (Galli cantant, Italiae capriant, Germani ululant, Anglici jublilant, in the original Latin).

The national slurs are silly, of course, but it’s pretty much impossible not to reach a state of bliss after listening to a new album featuring seven pieces chosen by English a capella choir Tonus Peregrinus from the Eton Choirbook, one of the rare sources of English sacred music from the closing decades of the 1400s. Continue reading

CD Review: Martha Argerich pours out life force in 2011 summer festival album

For 11 straight years, pianist Martha Argerich has assembled her personal dream team of musicians for a festival in Switzerland — captured in an album of highlights.

MARTHA ARGERICH AND FRIENDS
Live from Lugano 201 (EMI Classics)

A half-century of musicmaking seems only to have been a warmup for Argentinean pianist Martha Argerich, who continues to wow with the immediacy and love she pours into every note she plays. There is life force in everything she touches. Continue reading

Cellist finds vein of lucre in the ugly rock face of free music streaming

People in the music business make such a fuss about streaming and file sharing that we don’t often hear about artists who see free listening as just another sales tool. Continue reading

Interview: Pianist David Jalbert grasps for the unreachable in Bach’s Goldberg Variations

“Bringing out one voice is not enough. It doesn’t pay homage to everything there is in the music,” says David Jalbert of the Goldberg Variations (Chris Mukula photo for the Ottawa Citizen).

Ottawa-based pianist David Jalbert earlier this year released an impressive new album of J.S. Bach’s Goldberg Variations album on the ATMA Classique label.

He performsthe masterpiece at at Stratford Summer Music recital tomorrow (Aug. 15) afternoon at St Andrew’s Church. Concert details here.

This performance promises to be well worth the drive. It is followed at 4 p.m. by the launch of Colin Eatock’s new book, Remembering Glenn Gould: Twenty Interviews With People Who Knew Him, at Stratford City Hall. Continue reading

Two CD releases show off the art of composer Camille Saint-Saëns

Camille Saint-Saëns in his element — on a steamship.

Repeat something enough times with conviction, and people start to believe it, whether it has to do with politics, economics or art.

French composer Camille Saint-Saëns, who bridged the Romantic and Modern eras thanks to an 86-year lifespan, was treated as a relic of a bygone age by his obituarists and university lecturers.

It’s a status that does not square with a legacy of rich craft he left behind, and which deserves a fresh look and listen now that we can have some perspective on the aesthetic steamroller of Modernism. Continue reading

Introducing: The Sea, a suite for orchestra by Frank Bridge

Frank Bridge completed The Sea at Eastbourne, on the Sussex coast, in July 1911.

Spend a couple of weeks near a large body of water and you’ll likely witness the seductive shimmer of water on a calm sunny day transform into a roiling, heaving monster in a matter of minutes. Anyone whose ankles have ever been suddenly lassoed by an undertow knows that water is a treacherous vacation partner. Continue reading

DVD review: Renée Fleming and Christian Thielemann a great Richard Strauss match

Renée Fleming sang Strauss Lieder in Salzburg a year ago, accompanied by conductor Christian Thielemann and the Vienna Philharmonic.

Exactly one year ago, Renée Fleming sang an all-Strauss programme at the Grosses Festspielhaus in Salzburg and, wrapped in a half-hectare of black tulle, brought the house down. Continue reading