This expertly performed "Stabat Mater" compilation includes two important 16th-century works: the Eton Choirbook setting by John Browne, a sumptuous-if-not-solemn fantasia for six-part choir; and Palestrina's serene double-choir setting, performed one-voice-per-part with improvised embellishments–as Renaissance singers commonly did. Pärt's "Stabat Mater" for vocal trio and string trio (performed stunningly on ECM by the Hilliard Ensemble and, among others, Gidon Kremer) is performed here by three voices and viol sextet. The string playing on the ECM disc was, within the confines of Pärt's somewhat abstract style, very emotional. The viols can't replicate the violin family's intense singing tone and dynamic range; consequently, the expression of grief in the music is yet more abstracted. Technically, Andrew Parrott's singers are at least equal to the Hilliard Ensemble, possibly better. Not necessarily an ideal performance, but worth investigating.Matthew Westphal
John McLaughlin & Paco de Lucia: Paco and John - Live at Montreux 1987 it's truly a shame that, all too often, artists with diverse careers become pigeon-holed, defined by the primary genre in which they first achieved notoriety. Take guitarist John McLaughlin, for instance. Ask most jazz fans about him and what will first come out of most of their mouths will include either the words "fusion," "jazz-rock" and/or Miles Davis, in any permutation/combination (not that there's anything wrong with that). Those a little further in the know might also be aware of his longstanding investigation into the nexus of eastern and western music with his Indo-collaboration, Shakti.
If the court of Elizabeth I could be compared to a bee-hive, John Dowland was one of its workers, tirelessly bringing in news from the Continent which he constantly visited, and as tirelessly producing the spiritual sustenance vital for the court's existence. It is this honey that Emma Kirkby and Anthony Rooley have gathered in an imaginative recital that focuses on Dowland's relationship to his various patrons – among them Elizabeth I and the Earl of Essex.