Arguably Pachelbel's masterpiece, "Apollo's Lyre" is a series of six arias, each of which consists of a set of highly contrasted variations on the initial theme. As a composer, Pachelbel was perhaps most interested in the variation principal, in direct contrast to his great successor, Bach, who used the form only rarely (but then typically wrote the greatest variation work ever–the "Goldberg Variations"). The musical argument is easy to follow, and the tunes themselves simple and memorable. John Butt frames the work with two mighty chaconnes. A chaconne is basically the same thing as a passacaglia, namely a series of variations over a constantly repeating bass line. Try this disc. You're in for a pleasant surprise.
Gramophone Classical Music Awards 2014 Choral category winner! Purely on grounds of performance alone, this is one of the finest Mozart Requiems of recent years. John Butt brings to Mozart the microscopic care and musicological acumen that have made his Bach and Handel recordings so thought-provoking and satisfying.
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Given the considerable number of recordings that have tried to place Renaissance compositions within the context for which they were written, it is odd that the same has so rarely been done for Bach. After all, most of Bach's output consists of Gebrauchsmusik, music written for daily use. This release by Scotland's historical-instrument Dunedin Consort and its leader John Butt shows the possibilities of this approach.
There is certainly no shortage of recordings of these popular Bach violin works, but this one by the Dunedin Consort with violinist Cecilia Bernardini has many aspects to recommend it. At the top of the list must be the soloist's flair of Bernardini herself, playing a bright-eyed 1743 Camillus Camilli violin. In her playing you get the virtuoso energy of the contemporary Italian school without the hard edge, and there is a sense of play in her music-making that one senses Bach would have loved.