May/June 2009, "Fanfare" magazine, USA
Martynova: BACH English Suites on CARO MITIS
For many years prior to joining the staff of Fanfare , I was a loyal subscriber; I suspect the same holds true for most of my colleagues. For me, one of Fanfare ís best features every year was the eagerly awaited Want List. It was a perfect way to catch up on outstanding releases that I might have otherwise missed. Yet the name was puzzling, even illogical: How could these be titles that were ďwantedĒ by the reviewers? I mean, they already had them, right? How else would you be able to review said titles, let alone nominate them to the Want List, unless you actually possessed a copy? The implication, of course, is that these are titles for the readerís Want List, but it seemed to me that a clarification was in order. Perhaps itís the amateur lawyer in me, but I felt that publisher Joel Flegler was remiss for not spelling this out somewhere in fine print.
Now that Iíve gotten that off my chest, Iím happy to report that there have been so many terrific releases in the past year that itís necessary to group them in categories, something like the Academy Awards. (Who said the record industry was in a slump?) Like the motion-picture Oscars, the runners-up are often of equal or greater interest than the first-prizewinner, so I include a brief mention of the ones who got bumped from the top. The rules stipulate that you can only nominate five titles, but other Fanfare reviewers mention the also-rans and get away with it, so I feel fairly safe in this minor infraction.
Bachís harpsichord music is a class all by itself, and this yearís outstanding release in that category (the envelope, please) comes from Caro Mitis, featuring the superlative playing of Olga Martynova on a rich-sounding Blanchet copy. It beats out releases from Christophe Rousset on Aparte (Bach fantasias) and Pascal Dubreuil on Ramee ( Clavier-Ubung 2).
French harpsichord music very nearly equals Bach in importance, and Rebecca Pechefskyís recording (four CDs in all) of the complete music for harpsichord of Francois díAgincourt should not be missed for the fine playing and excellent recorded sound. Runners-up are Christophe Roussetís CD of Louis Couperin suites on Aparte, and Matthew Dirstís recital of Francois and Armand-Louis Couperin on Centaur.
Baroque instrumental music is another important category, and there were several notable new recordings from which to choose. The winner by a slight margin is the phenomenal Accent CD of music from Johann Adam Reinckenís Hortus musicus (canít wait for Volume 2). The award could have just as easily gone to the Ricercare disc titled Lustige Feld-Music with oboist Benoit Laurent, or the surprise Alba recording of Rameauís Pieces de clavecin en concerts from a trio of unknown Finnish musicians (see elsewhere in this issue).
During the Baroque, vocal music dwarfed all other genres in scope and importance. I would be shirking my duty if I didnít include a category devoted solely to the voice. For the sheer joy and exuberance of the performances, also for the novelty of the music, the winner is Jordi Savallís latest exploration of Baroque-era music of the New World. Almost as deserving is the two-CD set on the Carus label of the sacred music of Johann Christian Bach.
Outstanding recordings on fortepiano have been appearing with increased frequency. Head and shoulders above the rest is Penny Crawfordís magnificent recording of the three last sonatas of Beethoven, played on one of the best-sounding original Graf fortepianos on CD. It edged out excellent recorded performances by Ronald Brautigam on BIS (Mozart concertos) and Luca Guglielmi on Accent (Platti sonatas).