HANDEL: Organ Concertos, Op. 4
Academy of Ancient Music/Richard Egarr, organ-conductor
HARMONIA MUNDI SACD HMU 807446 TT: 71:35
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MOZART: Sonata in A, KV 305. Sonata in C, KV 403 (385c). Sonata in B, KV 31. Sonata in D, KV 306.
Rachel Podger, violin; Gary Cooper, fortepiano
CHANNEL CLASSICS SACD CS SA 255608 TT: 71:10
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FRANCK: Penitential Psalms 1615
Weser-Renaissance/Manfred Cordes, dir.
cpo SACD 777 181 TT: 58:07
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Those who enjoy period performance will gain much pleasure from the first two SACDs listed. Richard Egarr conducts the Academy of Ancient Music from the keyboard performing on a 2005 4-stop chamber organ. The recordings were made in November 2006 at St. Jude's-on-the-Hill, Hampstead Garden in London, and producer Robina G. Young and her engineering staff have perfectly captured the warm acoustics of the church. Distinguished violinist Rachel Podger, a major figure in baroque and early classical music, and fortepianist Gary Cooper who also specializes in this repertory, continue their outstanding series of all of Mozart's sonatas for keyboard and violin with this, the fifth disk in the series, containing sonatas K. 31, 305, 30 and 403. Excellent sonics on both of these releases, with the performers in front, ambient sound from the rear.

The other SACD doubtless will have a much more limited audience. German composer Melchior Franck (1579-1639) was quite popular during his time composing much Protestant church music including more than 600 motets. His works include a group of Penetential Psalms mostly for six voices. At the time, performances of this music depended upon available resources. Baroque specialist Manfred Cordes has opted for the vocal parts (2 sopranos, also, 2 tenors, and bass) with 7 "quiet instruments" including 4 viola da gamba, Stiller Zink (a kind of wooden trumpet), Dulzian (a Renaissance double-reed bass woodwind instrument), and a harp. These are premiere recordings of this music, the excellent performances were recorded in Bassum in February 2006. This is a co-production with Westdeutscher Rundfunk, and the sound is spacious and resonant, sounding like a larger performing group than we actually have. Complete texts are provided but we might wonder why more music wasn't included: only 7 of the Penitential Psalms are included, and playing time is less than an hour, not much for a premium-priced disk.

R.E.B. (April 2008)

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