I Fagiolinia, Lessandro Striggio: Mass in 40 Parts (Decca)

Reviewed by Andy Gill.

I Fagiolini here presents the premiere recording of Striggio’s recently discovered Mass composed for five choirs of eight parts apiece, which is presumed to be the inspiration for Thomas Tallis’s similarly monumental exercise in Renaissance polyphony, “Spem in alium”. Though Striggio’s more formal Italian harmonic decorum precludes the kind of harmonic complexities that make Tallis’s masterwork such a superb experience, it nonetheless inhabits a powerfully affecting landscape, and is arranged here for period orchestration featuring viols, cornetts, lutes and the like. It’s accompanied by an impressive “Ecce beatem lutem”, the piece believed to be the seed-corn for his Mass.

[via The Independent]

Visit the album web site here.

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Janine Jansen at Le Poisson Rouge in Greenwich Village

The recital celebrated the release of Ms. Jansen’s latest CD, “Beau Soir,” a mostly French program (on Decca), and included a few of the pieces from the disc, as well as Franck’s A major Sonata, which is not on it. Ms. Jansen and Mr. Barnatan began with Ravel’s Sonata in G, a piece ideally suited to a Greenwich Village club, given its central “Blues” movement. They played it, with its bent pitches and fluid tempos, as if the blues were — at least for the moment — their musical mother tongue.

Elsewhere in the Ravel, Ms. Jansen’s centered tone and rich vibrato and Mr. Barnatan’s precise, crystalline sound yielded a refined intensity that put the “Blues” movement in its Parisian perspective. That quality also served Messiaen’s “Thème et Variations” particularly well.

Read the full review in The New York Times here.

Boulez: Structures Books 1 and 2; Cage: Music for Piano 4-19, 42, 47, 53-68, 53-84

Pierre Boulez met John Cage for the first time in 1949. Though their approaches to composing were utterly different, each admired what the other had achieved and they struck up an unlikely friendship, which left an imprint on Boulez’s music when he introduced elements of controlled chance into his compositions. The works for two pianos on this disc from Pi-Hsien Chen and Ian Pace interweave pieces from Cage’s Music for Piano – his first keyboard work to rely upon chance operations to generate all the musical material, leaving the performers with decisions about what to play and for how long – with the two books of Boulez’s Structures. The first, from 1952, was Boulez’s last score to use serial techniques to determine every aspect of the composition – pitch, duration, dynamics, attacks – while the second book, composed nine years later, revisits the same material, but gives the players a limited choice in what to select and when. In comparison with the rigour and hard edges of its predecessor, the piano writing in Structures Book 2 is thrillingly brilliant, and it makes a wonderful contrast to the cool discontinuities of Cage’s pieces, with their plucked and strummed notes, percussive knockings and muffled chords.

[via The Guardian]

James Levine steps down from Boston Symphony

James Levine, music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, is to relinquish the role at the end of the current season. Dogged by ill health, he has had to cancel an increasing number of appearances with the orchestra. The search is now on for a successor, though the BSO are also considering a new role for Levine, who has led them since 2004.

Read the full article in Gramophone here.