William Byrd (1543-1623) has been called the greatest English composer, an arbiter of the sublime and master of his craft. And while discerning early music listeners have a fair number of recordings to choose from in order to put any stake into this claim, this offering from ECM is as sensitive an introduction as any into all things Byrd.
Sweet and sexy sounds from William Sheller – a rare French set from the early 70s – and a record we'd rank right up there with the best work by Serge Gainsbourg and Jean-Claude Vannier! Sheller's got a similar groove here – a way of compressing the instrumentation right down to the core, and slipping it around slinky rhythms and spacey production – both of which make familiar instruments sound really way-out! There's also a bit of darkness to the set too – which comes from Sheller's process of recasting a mass structure into a new sort of vision – and a few points feature vocalizations alongside the way-out instrumentation.
harpentier’s Médée is one of the glories of the Baroque. Medea’s betrayal by Jason, her comprehensive revenge and the plight of those caught up in this epic tragedy prompted Charpentier to compose music of devastating power. Transcending the constraints of the Lullian tragédie lyrique, he produced characterisations of astonishing complexity and invested vast stretches of music with a dramatic pace and a harmonic richness rivalled among contemporaries only by Purcell. The electrifying exchanges of the third act, mingling pathos with extreme violence, alone put Charpentier on the same imaginative level as Rameau and Berlioz. The machinations of the fourth act and the dénouement in the fifth maintain the same captivating impetus.