Celebrating Early Music and Early Music Performance

New Releases

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New CDs:

Steven Devine  Goldberg Variations (Chandos CHAN 0780)

Binchois Consort Music for Henry V and the House of Lancaster (HyperionCDA67868)

Duo Dorado Violin sonatas and keyboard suites by William Croft (CRD 3529)

Julia Doyle Welt, gute Nacht: music by Johann Christoph Bach with the English Baroque Soloists/John Eliot Gardiner (Soli Deo Gloria SDG 715)

Emily van Evera J S Bach Trauer-music reconstructed by Andrew Parrott (Avie, released 19 September)


Annette Dasch

German Baroque Songs


 It was in 2004 that Annette Dasch recorded this collection of songs composed during the Thirty Years War. Listening to it, we discover that Baroque poets become more accessible when they speak of the atrocities committed in their time. But perhaps the moving songs of thanksgiving written to celebrate the end of the war in 1648 are even more immediately affecting than these scenes of horror.

Harmonia Mundi



O gemma, lux


A sumptuous farewell to the musical Middle Ages.
"Certain disciples of the new school hasten without rest, inebriating men's ears without appeasing them, miming with gestures that which they cause to be heard." These were the words used in 1324 by Pope John XXII to castigate the "so-called" progress which none the less paved the way to a prodigious development in the rhythmic notation and the polyphonic execution of musical compositions (Ars Nova). A century later this system based on learned mathematical rules reached a peak of refinement in the work of Guillaume Dufay, the great master of poly-textual isorhythm, an art of which the motets may be considered to represent the quintessence. Written over a period of twenty years, they are an admirable fusion of this extremely complex rhythmic system with an unequalled sense of melody, contributing in their way to the new spirit of the Renaissance.

Harmonia Mundi


The Sacred Mysteries

The Rosary Sonatas for violin and continuo

New from Lyrichord Early Music Series
Release Date:  July 19, 2011
2 CD Set NOW AVAILABLE at Amazon.com

Leah Gale Nelson, Violin

Daniel Swenberg, Theorbo

Dongsok Shin, Organ

I have delayed publishing this review of The Sacred Mysteries, simply because I feared that my initial declaration of  'Being blown away' by this album, may just have been the first flush of my impending senility - or at best, a simple over reaction.  Therefore, it has since accompanied me on my car stereo for thirty minutes a day, each way, for a couple of weeks, to and from my office - just to make really sure I could put my hand on my heart and say:  This is simply the best new release I have had the pleasure to listen to, this decade.  Breaking news: I most certainly can say just that!

Those of you who have followed Early Music Radio for the last eighteen months or so, will, no doubt,have realised I have a great admiration for Nick Fritsch of Lyrichord Records.  Not only is he a great advocate of World Music, his appreciation for Early Music, and in particular, his enthusiasm for The Lyrichord Early Music Series, singles him out as a very special person indeed.  So when I receive a new release from his ever-impressive and ever- expanding stable of excellent musical scholars, I know it will be well worth a listen.

But The Sacred Mysteries has moved beyond simple excellence - it simply oozes passion, pain and dare I say it - perfection - simply perfection.

At this stage, I could tell you all about scordatura (re-tuning), and Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber, but if you want to know more, simply visit  http://www.leahgalenelson.com  



Based on Handel's visit to Ireland in 1741, the album contains harpsichord music by Handel, Roseingrave and Carter, plus virtuosic operatic arrangements from Handel's Rinaldo by William Babell. As a bonus there are two tracks of popular Irish melodies; one a favourite of Handel, and the other written in a Handel manuscript.  Both the Carter Sonatina and The Poor Irish Boy are previously unrecorded.  The CD also includes a 16 page booklet with a fascinating summary of an article for Essays in Honour of Christopher Hogwood by Bridget Cunningham.

As an early music specialist, harpsichordist and conductor Bridget Cunningham was supported by the Worshipful Company of Musicians as a Fellow of the Royal College of Music.   The Finzi Trust awarded her a research scholarship  to study Early Baroque Irish Music with research visits to Ireland, which led on to her recording the album ‘Ireland's Enchantment’  with her group  Emerald Baroque and specifically to researching music for this solo harpsichord CD, ‘Handel in Ireland’.

To hear samples of all the tracks go to  http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/bridgetcunningham


March/April 2011 Releases

From Harmonia Mundi - In Bach's time, the exalted place the purely vocal motet had once occupied had already been ceded to the cantata. But alongside this artfully simple ‘functional’ style, Bach perpetuated in his own motets, with incomparable mastery, the tradition handed down by his own ancestors, as preserved in the so-called ‘Old Bach Archive’.

Vocalconsort Berlin was founded in 2003 and made its debut the same year in Monteverdi´s L’Orfeo under the direction of René Jacobs at the Innsbruck Festival. The ensemble specialises in early and high Baroque repertoire, but also interprets Romantic and contemporary music. Under the direction of Marcus Creed, René Jacobs, Jos van Immerseel and Ottavio Dantone, the ensemble has worked with the Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin and the Accademia Bizantina. With the Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin, it has participated since 2006 in the projects of Sasha Waltz & Guests at Radialsystem V, the new venue for interaction of the arts on the Spree. Marcus Creed, artistic director of the SWR Vokalensemble (South West German Radio Choir) since 2003, studied at King’s College Cambridge, Christ Church Oxford and at the Guildhall. From 1977 to 1998 he was chorusmaster at the Deutsche Oper. In 1987 he became artistic director of RIAS Kammerchor, being awarded many international prizes for his recordings. He has formed close working relationships with Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin, Freiburger Barockorchester and Concerto Köln. His recordings of works by Bruckner, Ives, Nono and Kurtág with the SWR Vokalensemble have received a number of awards from the critics.


From Glossa - One of the many delights coming from Frans Brüggen’s distinguished career has been the understanding which he brings to the music of Johann Sebastian Bach – such as here with the St John Passion – whether on the concert platform or on record. Brüggen’s cultured feeling for Bach’s musical structures as much as for its style and expressive content permits a textural clarity enjoyed by few of his directing colleagues. A special wealth of experience in the music of Bach has also been gained by the members of the Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century across the three decades of its existence and as part of its regular concert series (there have now been over a hundred of these tours!) and with a concentrated opportunity to focus on one work, Bach’s masterpiece was performed and recorded in Spring 2010.

From Glossa - With Tenebrae Antonio Florio continues on his journey of exploration of the Neapolitan Baroque, now appearing on Glossa, with a timely release of Lamentations of Jeremiah from one “known” composer in Cristofaro Caresana, long-valued by Florio (and whose vocal music occupied most of his previous recording in L’Adoriatione de’ Maggi), and another from the succeeding generation at the end of the 17th century in Gaetano Veneziano, a musician taught by Francesco Provenzale. The vocal works on this new recording are scored for a solo singer and this role is taken by a soprano (who comes from Naples herself) in Valentina Varriale, fast becoming a central member of Antonio Florio’s musical organization, (the recently-renamed) I Turchini.

Instrumentalists from I Turchini take the opportunity to demonstrate their mastery of the Neapolitan style in string music – a Sinfonia and a four-part Sonata – by Veneziano and one of his contemporaries, Giuseppe Antonio Avitrano.

As with so many of Antonio Florio and I Turchini’s performing delights over the years, important musicological assistance for Tenebrae has been provided by Dinko Fabris, the author also of a fascinating article for this new recording of music for the Holy Week.

From Glossa - Alessandro Scarlatti in Italy, like Marc-Antoine Charpentier and later François Couperin in France, brought the musical form of the Lamentations of Jeremiah to a state of dramatic intensity, a complement to the religious ritual which even in the first decade of the 18th century had barely changed since the Middle Ages. One of the special characteristics of Scarlatti’s Lamentations is the skill with which he treats the melodic line, which he reduces to what is bare and essential stylistically, resisting the temptation to indulge himself in operatic writing, preferring instead “madrigalistic” effects.

It was around 1707 that Scarlatti composed his six settings of the Lamentations (two each for the three days leading up to Easter Sunday; although by forming part of the service of Matins they would be sung on the previous evening) and it was not until the Umbrian violinist and director Enrico Gatti went to the Bolognese Eremo di Ronzano with his Ensemble Aurora that these Lamentations received their first complete recording.

The two soloists called upon by Gatti to be backed by his instrumental group (one which includes keyboard player Guido Morini) were soprano Cristina Miatello and tenor Gian Paolo Fagotto. The church music of Alessandro Scarlatti (like his operatic, oratorio and solo cantata work) is receiving increasingly more attention from musicians and the public so the transfer to Glossa of Enrico Gatti’s 1992 recording (including Gatti’s essay on the subject) can be warmly welcomed, as it joins more recent examples of Gatti’s work in Bach and Vivaldi.


“You cannot have an army without music.”—Robert E. Lee

On April 5th, Smithsonian Folkways Recordings will release two albums to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the first shots of the Civil War at Ft. Sumter. A Treasury of Civil War Songs, performed by Tom Glazer, and Civil War Naval Songs by Dan Milner and Friends feature popular songs from the era representing both Union and Confederate sources. 

First recorded in 1973, and now reissued digitally for the first time, A Treasury of Civil War Songs is Tom Glazer’s (1914-2003) take on classics such as “The Battle Cry of Freedom,” and “John Brown’s Body,” along with twenty-three other standards that display all the emotional complexity and hardship of what came to be known as America’s most violent war.

“When Johnny Comes Marching Home” from A Treasury of Civil War Songs (track 22)


Also set for release on April 5th, Civil War Naval Songs is artist Dan Milner’s 2nd Smithsonian Folkways release following his critically acclaimed 2009 album, Irish Pirate Ballads and Songs of the Sea. Collected from many nineteenth century sources, the songs presented here document the maritime journeys of sailors, merchants and prisoners whose fate was to become America’s history. Along with traditional covers, Milner takes various poems and texts and revises them into song with help from guest musicians and friends over this 52 min. record.

“The Monitor and the Merrimac” from Civil War Naval Songs (track 13)


 Smithsonian Folkways is the nonprofit record label of the Smithsonian Institution, the national museum of the United States. As part of our mission, we are dedicated to supporting cultural diversity and increased understanding among people through the documentation, preservation and dissemination of sound. 

We look forward to hearing from you and, as always, appreciate the time you’ve taken to hear about what we’ve been up to here at Smithsonian Folkways. 


January 2011 Releases

If you’ve got it, flaunt it - and flaunt it again!

Harmonia Mundi’s budget series, Musique d’abord, received a make over in 2010 with a stripped down look and packaging from eco-sustainable sources.  Drawing from their immense back catalogue, the series is by no means budget in terms of recording quality and excellence of performance.

The eye catching vinyl-looking CD’s give a pointedly retro feel to the brand and reminds the listener that they are dipping into over fifty years of recording brilliance.

These three Albums are new to the market (January 2011) and will catch the ear of Early Music enthusiasts who wish to build a collection without breaking the bank! 

The pavan, the round dance, the galliard and the branle have all had a lasting influence on our musical culture in the spheres of both art and folk music. In the Renaissance era these dances played the same role as today's popular hits, for the 16th century too had its ‘fashionable' dances. Their horizon, for all their codification and their necessary social function, was clearly secular. Whether courtly or festive, they implied a liberation of the body. By including a group of pieces from the Middle Ages which inspired them (Machaut, Dufay, the Notre-Dame School), this disc also offers an opportunity to hear their original sonority and retrace its evolution

It would hardly be possible to find a more perfect image of the Romanesque style in music: with Marcel Pérès and Ensemble Organum, relive Mass for Christmas Day as it was sung in the prestigious setting of the School of Notre Dame in Paris, the cradle of western polyphony

Josquin: the first name that comes to mind when one discusses the masters of the Renaissance. In this now classic recording, Philippe Herreweghe offers an exceptionally rich portrait of his music, midway between the liturgical (Stabat Mater) and the quasi-secular (certain motets). Canons, echo and repetitive effects, all manner of counterpoint: every element in this music contributes to a valorisation of the sung text which was soon to culminate in the late 16th-century madrigal.