al­bum re­views

Pasatiempo - - PASA TEMPOS - San Filippo de Neri. — J.M.K.

CHOIR OF CLARE COL­LEGE, CAM­BRIDGE Haec dies: Mu­sic for Easter (Har­mo­nia

Mundi) The Choir of Clare Col­lege, Cam­bridge, has been main­tain­ing con­sis­tently high qual­ity since Gra­ham Ross as­sumed its di­rec­tor­ship in 2010. Its lat­est re­lease is a smartly pro­grammed col­lec­tion of choral mu­sic re­lat­ing to Easter, all of it of top­most cal­iber. The 21 tracks (just short of an hour and a quar­ter of mu­sic) span the cen­turies, in­clud­ing early-to-late Re­nais­sance motets by the ob­scure Jean L’Héretier as well as more fa­mous fig­ures like Tav­erner, Las­sus, Palest­rina, and Byrd; ap­peal­ing — and some­times down­right sump­tu­ous — items from the 19th and early 20th cen­turies by Sa­muel Wes­ley, Charles Vil­liers Stan­ford, and Vaughan Wil­liams; and right on up to a brand-new piece the choir com­mis­sioned from Matthew Martin, a vig­or­ous, ex­u­ber­ant, yet ul­ti­mately enig­matic set­ting of the Easter text “Haec dies.” Tim­bres and tex­tures are care­fully bal­anced, and the pro­gram is cap­tured in a vivid but not overly re­ver­ber­ant acous­tic. (The ob­vi­ously ex­pert “ses­sions pro­ducer, record­ing en­gi­neer, and editor” is John Rut­ter, much ad­mired as a choral com­poser— and as one of Ross’ pre­de­ces­sors as di­rec­tor at Clare.) El­e­gantly ren­dered selections of Easter plain­chant weave through the recital, in­clud­ing the supremely beau­ti­ful Easter se­quence “Vic­ti­mae paschali laudes.” It’s hard to name fa­vorites in this col­lec­tion, but lis­ten­ers will doubt­less hit the re­play but­ton af­ter Byrd’s ju­bi­lant six- part “Haec dies” and Las­sus’ spa­cious, poly­choral “Aurora lu­cis ru­ti­lat.” — James M. Keller

L’ES­CADRON VOLANT DE LA REINE Not­turno (Ev­i­dence)

L’Es­cadron Volant de la Reine (The Queen’s Fly­ing Squadron) sounds like a World War I aerial reg­i­ment, but it was ac­tu­ally a group of lovely ladies-in-wait­ing who en­ter­tained and as­suaged di­plo­mats vis­it­ing the court of the 16th-cen­tury French queen Cather­ine de Médi­cis (and, some be­lieve, ex­tracted se­crets from them). The name has been adopted by a crack­er­jack in­stru­men­tal cham­ber en­sem­ble founded in 2012 to ex­plore over­looked Baroque mu­sic. In this in­au­gu­ral CD, the group brings pre­ci­sion, as­sur­ance, and in­ter­pre­ta­tive imag­i­na­tion to lit­tle-vis­ited mu­sic from late-17th-cen­tury Naples. The playlist fo­cuses on works writ­ten for Holy Week, set­tings of the La­men­ta­tions of the Prophet Jeremiah, works of some­what mys­ti­cal im­port that in each case be­gin with the decla­ma­tion of a let­ter from the He­brew al­pha­bet: Aleph, Beth, Ghimel, Daleth, and so on. The vo­cal soloist in th­ese set­tings is French so­prano Eugénie Lefebvre, whose clear but un­usual voice is ear­marked by ei­ther a com­pletely straight tone or flut­ter, with no gra­da­tion be­tween: not un­pleas­ant, but odd. Works by Cristo­faro Care­sana and Gae­tano Veneziano will de­light lis­ten­ers who revel in that which is ob­scure, but the finest pieces on the disc are those by the more fa­mous Alessan­dro Scar­latti, par­tic­u­larly a sin­fo­nia for four- part string en­sem­ble and (with the ad­di­tion of the­o­rbo and harp­si­chord) the highly dra­matic sin­fo­nia from his ora­to­rio

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