Since 1979 Dominique Vellard has been the inspirational driving force behind the Ensemble Gilles Binchois : more than 35 years of research and performance that have led to the creation of some of the essential recordings, especially of music from the medieval and Renaissance periods. An outstanding catalogue of recordings devoted to the music of Machaut, the Notre-Dame School, the Burgundian repertoire, early french polyphony or the spanish Renaissance, on labels such as Virgin Classics, Harmonic Records, Ambroisie, Deutsche Harmonia Mundi, Glossa y Aparté, have met public, critical and musicological acclaim. The Ensemble Gilles Binchois performs regularly mostrly across Europe, but also in Morocco, India, Malaysia USA and South America.
Heitor Villa-Lobos' two numbered cello concerti come from the opposite ends of his output; the first Grande Concerto dates from 1915 and the second from 1953. In between there is another concertante work, the Fantasia for cello and orchestra, which is contemporaneous with the Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5 for soprano and eight cellos that remains Villa-Lobos' most popular work. In this MD&G issue, Heitor Villa-Lobos: Concertos for Violoncello and Orchestra, cellist Ulrich Schmid is heard with the Nordwestdeutsche Philharmonie under conductor Dominique Roggen in the numbered concertos only, although there easily would have been enough room on the 42-minute-long disc to accommodate the Fantasia as well.
Here is a package that satisfies intellectual curiosity and is musically delightful. This two-disc set begins with a precise, but still musical, harpsichord performance of Bach's Goldberg Variations by Céline Frisch. Her Aria is clean, with both the melody and the bass line countermelody clear and phrased so that everything comes together well. Her ornaments fit naturally into the melodies throughout the variations, without drawing attention away from the tune, and she always has a sense of direction and forward momentum. The second disc contains the 14 canons on the first eight notes of the bass of the Aria from the Goldberg Variations and the two songs that are contained in the quodlibet near the end of the Variations. The canons are rich and warm performed by Café Zimmermann, a string sextet that includes a double bass, with excellent contrasts in the feel of each canon. The song Cabbages and Turnips Have Driven Me Away is the highlight of the two discs. Period instruments accompany Dominique Visse as he sings about a hunter bringing a girl home to meet his mother. Visse switches from a jolly, idiomatic tenor voice for the hunter to a smooth alto for the girl, and a slightly grating alto for the mother, often in mid-verse.
Dominique Visse and his group Ensemble Clément Janequin have been involved in many outstanding projects over the years, but this 2002 Harmonia Mundi recording has to be one of the most spectacular; the Missa "Et ecce terrae motus" (aka, "The Earthquake Mass") of Antoine Brumel. Brumel is one of many mid-renaissance composers whose reputations are so far overshadowed by Josquin Desprez that – like Rodney Dangerfield – they "just don't get no respect." In Brumel's own time, however, he was considered one of Josquin's equals and his death in 1512 was widely observed in a number of "déplorations." Although the mass itself survives in only a single manuscript copy, it bears the signatures of singers who revived the work in Munich in 1570 – probably close to a century after it was first given – and among them is a bass named Orlandus Lassus.