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

Claude Debussy at 150: We take his musical revolution for granted

Today marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of Claude Debussy, one of Western music’s revolutionaries.

As with the varying styles of Impressionist paintings, the long view represents something defined, but the closer you get, the more his compositions start to fall apart into the individual components that our minds work imperceptibly to piece together into meaningful shapes.

The long view is so sleek and seductive that listeners long ago began taking Debussy’s art for granted.

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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

Il Divo puts Atlanta Symphony on stage but pipes pre-recorded music to audience

Those orchestra players lost in the crimson dusk behind Il Divo may look like they’re playing — but it’s highly likely they’re just part of the stage dressing.

Organisers of male popera quartet Il Divo’s current world tour hired the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra for their concert at Encore Park last Sunday — then used pre-recorded tracks as the musicians played in the background. Continue reading

An all-Bach weekend in Stratford for Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra

Canada’s Daniel Taylor sings with Tafelmusik in Stratford on Sunday afternoon.

This year’s expanded Stratford Summer Music festival includes the local début of Toronto’s Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra on Saturday and Sunday at St Andrew’s Church. 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