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Gramophone Awards Shortlist 2016

Philippe Jaroussky at the recording sessions for Warner’s new Partenope: the French countertenor is ‘more a lover than a fighter’ as Arsace i c s

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p h o t o g r a p h y p h o t o g r a p h y between players and singers: perspectives where our modern ears are forced to re‑evaluate expectations within our conventional understanding. This is borne out in many ways, none more than the dialogues of the ‘Quoniam’, where the bass, horn and bassoons fulfil many purposes in a changing canvas.

Gardiner’s admiration for this work is palpable in every bar, perhaps over-c urated for some; and if so the softer-h ues of Cohen may be preferred. But in the grip of its conceits and its virtuoso executancy, captured in the strikingly immediate recorded sound of LSO St L uke’s, this High Mass joins a distinguished discography at high table. Jonathan Freeman‑Attwood

JS Bach Mass in B minor, BWV232 Maria Keohane, Joanne Lunn, Else Torp, Hanna K appelin sop s Ale x P otter, V aldemar V illadsen c ountertens Jan K obow, Chris W atson t ens P eter Harvey, Jak ob Bloch Je spersen ba sses Conc erto Copenhagen / Lar s Ulrik Mor tensen CPO F b Í CPO777 851-2 (104’ • DDD • T/t)

There are a plethora of p eriod-i nstrument recordings of the B m inor Mass big and small, from The King’s Consort’s 73 players and singers (Hyperion) to Cantus Cölln’s 29 m usicians (Harmonia Mundi). It is futile to debate whether there is a meaningful pecking order of recordings of the piece, let alone a single benchmark version. Concerto

Copenhagen and Lars Ulrik Mortensen adopt the minimalist one-v oice-p er-p art approach to the choir, as advocated by the research of Joshua Rifkin and Andrew Parrott: 10 e xpert voices have been chosen shrewdly, with five ‘concertino’ singers (the s oloists) reinforced in choruses by an a dditional five ‘ripieni’ voices.

Polemical debates about performance practice will continue to rage on and will probably never be settled satisfactorily, but   in the meantime open minded Bachians might be content to simply evaluate each performance according to how successful it is in reaching a clear set of aesthetic aims. To my mind, Mortensen’s special performance, which is full to the brim with insightful musicianship and has a refreshing avoidance of contrived formulas, comfortably joins Parrott (EMI), Junghänel and John Butt (Linn) as the finest examples of this kind of perspective on performing Bach’s monumental sacred masterpiece.

The opening strains of the Kyrie are phrased compassionately, and the unfurling fugue has an impeccable balance and shapeliness, with an equal democratic balance between the instrumentalists and singers achieving results that are both coherent and eloquent. Mortensen nurtures a natural flowing momentum throughout proceedings; the trumpets, oboes and drums in flamboyant D   major choruses achieve conversational transparency, with a convivial dialogue between the choir and orchestra preferred to the kind of bold punchiness one often encounters in grander conceptions. It is gratifying to hear ‘Cum Sancto Spiritu’ in a courtly manner instead of seeming like a hyperventilating bull charging at a gate (there is definitely a place for the thrills and spills of a more impatient method, but not in this performance). The double whammy of ‘Et   incarnatus est’ and ‘Crucifixus’ receive rapturous performances during which the   instrumentalists obviously listen and respond attentively to the five concertino singers. The tenor cantus firmus in ‘Confiteor’ is projected too weakly, although the immaculately balanced polyphony proceeded to take my breath away at the transition into ‘et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum’. Maria Keohane and Joanne Lunn combine to beguiling effect in an understated ‘Christe eleison’, and the latter sings ‘Laudamus te’ radiantly in partnership with Fredrik From’s sophisticated violin obbligato playing. The musical conversation between oboist Antonie Torunczyk and countertenor Alex Potter in ‘Qui sedes’ ebbs and flows sweetly. Peter Harvey’s ‘Quoniam’ has dignified gravitas (and tasteful horn playing by Ursula Paludan Monberg), and Jan Kobow sings poignantly in partnership with flautist Katy Bircher in the Benedictus. Moreover, each concertist astutely shades their leading of each strand within contrapuntal choruses. The individual components are routinely marvellous, but Concerto Copenhagen produce something much more than the sum of its parts: one of the most profoundly captivating interpretations to have emerged recently. David Vickers

8 GRAMOPHONE AWARDS 2016

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