Metronome is delighted to announce the release of new recordings by Carole Cerasi of the complete works for harpsichord of Francois Couperin to coincide with the 350 anniversary of his birth on 10th November 1668. Carole has spent the last 18 months recording these wonderfully varied, subtle and elegant works on 6 harpsichords including two outstanding original instruments across Europe. It continues a long record of distinguished performing of the music of the French baroque, which launched her association with Metronome when she won the Gramophone Award and the Diapason D'Or D'Annee for her recordings of the music of Elizabeth Jacquet de la Guerre, and features in her concert repertoire today - she gave a recital of Couperin at the recent Utrecht International Early Music Festival.
Robert de Visée INTIMITÉ ET GRANDEUR
Are you missing Downton Abbey?… Maybe not… but if so “Versailles” is about to become the latest TV period blockbuster on ITV screens in 2016. It remains to be seen whether period soaps à la Française will be such a hit with the British and American audiences but if you want to know a bit more about the real music of Louis XIV’s court rather than the bodice ripping accompaniments of bare-chested stallions in ruffs and frou-frou, this recording is for you.
The 300th Anniversary of the Death of The Sun King (September 1715 – December 2015) is celebrated by Fred Jacobs and Metronome with the completion of the 3rd and final volume of the Collected work of Music for Theorbo of “La Chambre du Roy” composer Robert de Visée.
The first composer names of Louis XIV’s dazzling court at Versailles that tend to spring to mind are Lully and Couperin but among the most intimate of his musicians was his Master of Theorbo and Guitar, Robert de Visée to whose work for theorbo this new release is devoted. The theorbo was an impressive plucked instrument that offered a huge range both of pitch and expression, a reflective subtlety and sophistication of sound. Towards the end of Louis’ reign after Lully’s death in 1687 the fashion moved away from the grandeur of the great operatic showcases to music of intimate expressiveness… the theorbo rose to this challenge and had its moment in the sun.
The fount of De Visée’s music is the “Contredanse”, a transliteration of the English words for country dance which had been introduced by an English Dancing Master to the ladies of the court in 1684 and became the rage.
Not long after De Visee’s death the theorbo passed into obscurity, and no instruments survive to the extent that the exact shape and structure of the instrument was unknown. Michael Lowe, and English lute maker based near Oxford, whose skill and researches allowed this instrument to be built on which this recording is made writes in the booklet which accompanies the recording about how he traced the instrument from surviving paintings (an important one came up for auction in London recently). It should change the composition of baroque authentic instrument orchestras
Fred Jacobs is one of the modern performing masters of this extra-ordinary instrument. Dramatic to look at as well as to listen to, Fred plays it in recital to accompany singers (on Metronome a release of Michel Lambert’s Air de Cours with Charles Daniels) and many of the leading baroque orchestras and opera houses in Europe (notably the Gabrieli Consort, the Locke Consort which he founded, the Parley of Instruments etc.)
Fred is based in Holland where he teaches at the Amsterdam Conservatoire.
This recording is the third and final one in a series which recorded the Collected Works for Theorbo of Robert De Visée’s.
Volume 1: Pièces de théorbe METCD 1072
Volume 2: Confidences galantes METCD 1089
Carole has received another great review, this time from Gramophone Magazine. Here are some snippets from the review which can be found online here: Review.
"Listeners familiar with Cerasi’s 1998 CPE Bach recording on harpsichord and fortepiano (7/00) will find her clavichord interpretations of this composer equally lively and brash. L’Aly Rupalich’s rapid dynamic alterations really rock out here, and so do the left-hand broken octave ostinatos: Billy Joel, take note! All 12 minutes of the Freye Fantasie teem with drama, from the stark and intense slow sections to the wildly dispatched toccata-like passages. Cerasi plays all three movements of the E minor Sonata sensationally, exploiting the instrument’s twangy sonorities at full-tilt.
In Muthel’s Arioso and Variations, Cerasi’s agogic stresses and carefully considered accents intensify embellishments and key isolated single notes in the bass without sounding the least mannered. Although the sustaining power of a fortepiano or concert grand better suits the operatic qualities of Mozart’s B minor Adagio, modern pianists can learn plenty from Cerasi’s shaping of long crescendos and diminuendos, or her judging of silences for maximum effect – qualities that also distinguish the Haydn C minor Sonata. To quote Virgil Thomson approving a friend’s cuisine: ‘This is no kids’ stuff!’" - Jed Distler (Gramophone)
The glorious high soprano of Grace Davidson was the talking point of the performance on 6th December 2014 of the Messiah in Truro Cathedral. A packed cathedral was pin drop silent in the performances of "I know that my redeemer liveth" and "How beautiful are the feet" - and the comparatively delayed arrival of the soprano in the Messiah made the impact all the greater. The great Victorian edifice beautifully in tune with the high controlled and appealing phrasing of a singer on top form.
The Christmas concert by the impressively rehearsed Three Spires Singers directed by Chrisopher Gray, organist at Truro Cathedral had a strong soloist line up with in addition to Grace Davidson, Nicholas Hawker a Cornwall based tenor of fine technique, Stephen Kennedy a robust and adept bass suitably noble in the wonderful interplay with trumpet in "The trumpet shall sound".
and mezzo soprano Lise Christensen. Sadly, the acoustic mulligatawny soup that this otherwise glorious Victorian cathedral delivers for both orchestral and vocal music in the bass range and the middle range did not give as much help to these soloists. Truro is poorly served for musical venues. The Hall for Cornwall is a notoriously "distant" sound which provides little rapport between audience and performers, the cathedral provides a boom box which makes discerning performance and listening difficult. A performnance on the famous Willis organ by Luke Bond earlier in the week of fhte J.S. Bach in dulci jubilo demonstrates that even the Victorians did not manage great acoustic engineering.
Still it is remarkable that a piece written 250 years ago has still such a strong hold on the collective cultural identity of Englishmen and also Cornishmen. Handel's impact in the 18th an 19th century strongly influenced the Anglican and Methodist composers and organists, the West Gallery tradition of Wessex and Cornwall. Observing the audience in the Cathedral rapt up in the performance of a work (over) familiar to the majority - not much has changed. I would suggest its enduring appeal is its combination of the prospect of the safe enjoyment of a chocolate digestive biscuit together with the spiritual uplift that choral writing of such sublime genius provides for the reluctant Anglican church-goer the reassurance of a fleeting intimation of divinity.
Three Spires Singers and its director are to be congratulated that their programming, recently including such comparative novelties for Choral societies as Elgar's "The Music Makers" and "Israel in Egypt" and destined to include new commissions from Paul Drayton and Russel Pascoe, can also deliver a Messiah with panache, a tight ensemble and a determination to make a performance to remember.
To enjoy an album devoted to Grace Davidson's singing from the monody of Hildegard of Bingen to Mozart's Exsultate Jubilate click the link above.
Charles Daniels (tenor) and Fred Jacobs (theorbo) release new CD Airs de Cours of Michel Lambert METCD 1092
Michel Lambert, Airs
Can an English singer and a Dutch theorbo player perform a French ruelle with the souplesse required? Here Charles Daniels and Fred Jacobs lay down the gauntlet and give an amazing intimate display of musicianship and subtlety.
Metronome announces a new CD and download release of the stunning “Airs” or Michel Lambert
Performed by Charles Daniels (tenor) and Fred Jacobs (French theorbo). This is a very rare release of repertoire largely ignored in the modern day partly for its highly technical ornamented style. To accompany Charles Daniels, one of the leading early music tenors in the world, at the peak of his form Fred Jacobs picks up a Michael Lowe reconstruction of a French theorbo and in an Anglo- Dutch alliance assails a style from the altesse of the French Court.
“Lambert, having tuned his theorbo, sang an air in his particular way which was admirably beautiful”. Thus the great poet and writer of fables Jean de La Fontaine evokes in Le Songe de Vaux the fascination inspired by the man who was recognised in his time as one of the most accomplished craftsmen of the art of the “ruelles”, those salons where one thought up and dashed off gallant verses while listening to music designed to elate the passions.”
An art form of dexterity, virtuosic singing and delicacy the “Airs de Cours” emerged as the key song form in the 17th century households of the French aristocracy. Michel Lambert (1610-1696) occupies a central position by virtue of the quantity (almost three hundred airs) and the quality of his output. Though he was a favourite figure in salons précieux, his career unfolded in the shelter of powerful patrons: Gaston d’Orléans, the brother of King Louis XIII and his daughter La Grande Mademoiselle, Cardinal Richelieu, surintendant Fouquet. In 1660 he obtains the post of “maître de la Chambre du Roi” at the same time as his son-in-law, the illustrious Jean-Baptiste Lully, attains the highest position in the King’s Music, that of “surintendant de la Chambre”.
This disc has an essay by the leading French scholar Catherine Massip on Lambert and the recordings themselves have the benefit of the input for contemporary 17th century French pronunciation Jean Sebastian Beauvais who at the launch in Utrecht on Monday 27th October will regale the audience with spoken renditions of this febrile, bucolic love poetry.
This release links the very earliest recordings of Metronome where Charles Daniels recorded with .the Orlando Consort , with the most recent releases of solo French theorbo music by another great composer for Louis XIV Robert de Visée which have met with such acclaim in UK, France and Holland. The first “Pièces de Théorbe” METCD1072 was released in 2008 and received enthusiastic reviews: “an absolutely splendid recording” (Early Music and in France “10” from Classica – Répertoire).
Fred Jacobs is a leading performer of the French theorbo. His discs and recitals as a soloist and accompanist have been well reviewed. He teaches the lute and the theorbo at the Amsterdam Conservatoire. In addition to these solo releases by Metronome, he also appears in the Locke Consort recordings of Matthew Locke released by Metronome.