Naxos has collected its four volume traversal of the lute music into a handy slipcase. All the volumes are available singly, but you can also buy the four together as a quartet of excellence, presided over by Nigel North, the acknowledged hero of the hour. What follows is a reprise of two volumes already reviewed - volumes 1 and 3 - and a look at volumes 2 and 4.
This Septem verba a Christo in cruce moriente proloata (The Seven Words of the Dying Christ on the Cross) was rediscovered nearly a century ago, and scholars down through the years have reached differing conclusions as to whether or not the work was really by Giovanni Battista Pergolesi, as one manuscript claimed. More and more copies surfaced, and finally the discovery by musicologist Reinhard Fehling of a new set of parts at an Austrian monastery in 2009 showed that the work was at the very least popular over a good part of Europe, and the forces represented here gave the work its modern-day premiere performance and first recording. You can see why some were skeptical of Pergolesi's authorship, for it doesn't sound much like his more famous Stabat Mater or like anything by anybody else, either. The closest parallel would be Bach's so-called dialogue cantatas, with soloists representing Christ and the soul. The work is Bachian in another way, too, with a set of hidden symmetries and apparent meanings outlined in the album notes. It consists of seven aria pairs, with a few of the arias prefaced by accompanied recitatives. Each of the pairs represents one of the seven last words of Christ on the cross, with Christ (a bass in all cases except for the second "word," where he is a tenor) setting out the basic meaning and the Soul (a soprano, alto, or tenor) providing a kind of emotional reaction that is closely related, both musically and conceptually, to Christ's aria. It's thus a tightly constructed, rather intellectual piece, atypical of Pergolesi. The orchestral writing, featuring horns, trumpet, harp, and lute, is also unlike anything else in Pergolesi's oeuvre. But the work is successful on its own terms, and it receives a fine performance here from conductor René Jacobs, the Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin, and an impressive quartet of soloists. This odd piece isn't going to displace the Stabat Mater from the top rank of Pergolesi's work, but it adds substantially to the picture of his genius.(James Manheim )
This recording is the World Premiere of Charles Koechlin's Jungle Book and received the Orchestral Gramophone Award and was, memorably, accepted by the son of the composer. Charles Koechlin loved Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book and set different parts of the book to music at various points in his career. The first of these - The Three Poems - bear the titles: Seal Lullaby, Night Song in the Jungle and Song of Kala Nag, with texts from The Jungle Book. The music, scored during 1904 - 04, is exotic and evocative. The lullaby mimics the gently lapping of waves as the soprano and chorus spin a soothing tapestry of sound. The Night-Song in the Jungle had a cadence that suggests movement (sung by the soprano, tenor, baritone and chorus) and is a song of well-wishing to the animals of the night. The Song of Kala Nag is a lament of an elephant that has been tamed for his old life in the jungle, sung by the tenor. The poem describes a night in the year when all of the elephants gather to dance together and, rather than being somber, the music is triumphant as the elephant recounts his past freedom and vows to have it again.
Pimpinone, TWV 21:15, is a comic opera by the German composer Georg Philipp Telemann with a libretto by Johann Philipp Praetorius. Its full title is Die Ungleiche Heirat zwischen Vespetta und Pimpinone oder Das herrsch-süchtige Camer Mägden (The Unequal Marriage Between Vespetta and Pimpinone or The Domineering Chambermaid). The work is described as a Lustiges Zwischenspiel ("comic intermezzo") in three parts. It was first performed at the Theater am Gänsemarkt, Hamburg on 27 September 1725 as light relief between the acts of Telemann's adaptation of Handel's opera seria Tamerlano. Pimpinone was highly successful and pointed the way forward to later intermezzi, particularly Giovanni Battista Pergolesi's La serva padrona.
This two-LP set features the great multi-instrumentalist Eric Dolphy mostly stretching out on standards, coming up with very original statements on such songs as "Hot House," "When Lights Are Low," "Hi Fly," "I'll Remember April" and "God Bless the Child" (the latter taken as an unaccompanied bass clarinet solo), in addition to two brief originals. With trumpeter Benny Bailey helping out on half of the selections along with a strong rhythm section, the two-fer would be a perfect introduction for listeners not familiar with Eric Dolphy's innovative style, but this set is very difficult to find.