Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

For the past five years or so I've posted reviews of classical music CDs, DVDs and Blu-rays, in various places on the web: Amazon.com, iTunes and other sites. I'll collect those earlier reviews, and add four or five new ones every month.

"Music, both vocall and instrumental, so good, so delectable, so rare, so admirable, so super excellent, that it did even ravish and stupifie all those strangers that never heard the like." - Thomas Coryat, after hearing 3 hours of music at the Scuola di San Rocco in Venice, 1608.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

My name is Nobody


The marvellous series Music From The Peterhouse Partbooks ends very much on a high note, with this fifth release from Scott Metcalfe and his choir Blue Heron. The Peterhouse Partbook brand has become a byword for excellence in English polyphony in a formerly ill-understood period, the first forty years or so of the 16th century. This is thanks almost entirely to this series on Blue Heron's own label, based on the scholarship of Nick Sandon, who rescued the music by restoring lost parts and creating a performing edition. It's the Anonymous Missa sine nomine that stands out here; talk about poor branding! After being ignored for centuries, this piece comes to life in this recording, grabs you and forces you to pay attention. It's obviously engaged the singers, who provide an outstanding example of power and precision in choral singing. Back in 2011 Alex Ross talked about how Blue Heron had "a way of propelling a phrase toward a goal—the music takes on narrative momentum, its moods dovetailing with the theme of the text." Missa sine nomine literally means Mass without a name, meaning it was freely composed rather than being based upon other music. The answer of Odysseus to Polyphemus the Cyclops' query was "My name is Nobody", but as always Homer had a great story to tell. And likewise this Mass without a name and without an author tells a compelling story of sin and redemption. In the entire 5-CD series Blue Heron brings these five hundred year old stories alive, here in the 21st century. It's a remarkable achievement.

The new disc drops on March 17, 2017.

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