Musique d'Abord Series

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Image Histoire de la Nativite
René Jacobs invites you to rediscover this Christmas Story, probably the most popular work of Heinrich Schütz. In his twilight years, the greatest 17th-century German composer brilliantly combined Lutheran fervour with Italianate recitative. This title was released for the first time in 1990 and just look at the singers involved!

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Image Harpsichord Suites
Though much less well known than his music for the theatre and the church, Purcell's harpsichord works (which fit comfortably onto a single CD) nevertheless provide bear witness once more to the genius of 'Orpheus Britannicus'. These pieces achieve a perfect synthesis of the styles of the French, Italian, and English masters.

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Image Etudes-Tableaux
In these pieces composed by a Rachmaninoff soon to leave his homeland for ever, there are two key elements: 'étude' - a pianistic virtuosity rarely equalled - and 'tableau', a remarkable evocative power. The composer left only a few clues to the subjects that inspired him - a fair, the sea, a funeral march. But every listener can marvel at the mysterious and varied atmospheres of these miraculous miniatures.

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Image Canciones & Ensaladas

Ensemble Clement Janequin / Dominique Visse

This recording presents us with the finest chansons and instrumental pieces of the Spanish Renaissance - the Golden Age which, between the accession of Charles V (1516) to the end of the reign of Philip II (1598), saw the blossoming of an incredibly rich polyphonic output. Of the 'Ensalada' Cervantes tells us that it was 'a kind of song in different metres': it was thus called because it was like a culinary mixture: these 'salads' are an Iberian form of the quodlibet and the Parisian fricassées.

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Image Vespers for Whitsun
Huelgas Ensemble / Paul Van Nevel

An exact contemporary of Monteverdi (they were born and died in the same years), the Bohemian Christophorus Demantius was a prodigiously inventive composer. Like Gesualdo, he explored new musical avenues with extraordinary ingenuity while remaining attached to the polyphonic style of the Renaissance. In this respect these highly festive 'Whitsun Vespers' are something of a sumptuous transition from the 'old' counterpoint of Lassus and Praetorius to the imminent innovations of Schein and Schütz.

"Sung with such exquisite fluency, the Huelgas Ensemble under Van Nevel conveys the excitement of an epoch that yielded some of the most beautiful combinations of poetry and music."
Tarik O'Regan, The Observer

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Image French & English Suites
Céline Frisch plays a harpsichord by Anthony Sidey.
Johann Sebastian BACH (Compositeur)
Céline FRISCH (Interprète Principal)

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Image La Clarinette à l'Opéra
19th century Italian opera inspired any number of adaptations, arrangements and other kinds of 'paraphrase' (to use the contemporary term), whose raison d'être was the public's pressing desire to have available at home what it had so enjoyed on stage. At a time when the gramophone was not yet in existence, it was thanks to the piano and/or such instruments as violin, trumpet or clarinet that the ordinary music lover could relive the intensity of the great scenes of Cavalleria Rusticana, Tosca and Rigoletto. So Alessandro Carbonare has made a point of paying the most respectful of tributes to such forgotten craftsmen as Bassi, G. Salieri and Carlo della Giacoma: it is to them that the clarinet owes the finest works in this genre, as this CD of rarities will demonstrate.

This title was released for the first time in 2001.

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Image Requiem
Huelgas-Ensemble / Paul Van Nevel

We possess many works by Jean Richafort, but very little biographical information on the composer. In the 16th century he was the object of veneration and admiration. The great Ronsard himself spoke of him in the most enthusiastic terms, and most of his contemporaries - Mouton, Morales, Gombert, Palestrina - based Masses on his music.

"an astonishing work...Nobody with open ears and a reasonably functioning heart could possibly find such music solid and unexciting."

Stephen Pettitt, The Sunday Times, 14 April 2002 (***, Outstanding)

"Van Nevel's ensemble is on cracking form, and his programming deftly combines moods and registers." Fabrice Fitch, Gramophone, October 2002

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Image Sonata for cello and piano
Transcendental virtuosity.
The names of those two illustrious nineteenth-century pianists, Charles-Valentin Alkan and Franz Liszt, are generally associated with a style founded on transcendental virtuosity. Yet both the late works of Liszt, with their funereal and elegiac character, and the splendid Cello Sonata op.47 that Alkan wrote in the middle years of the century, reflect a shared ideal of purified expression and a poetic vision of instrumental music. Chamber music came to be the favoured vehicle for the manifestation of meditative, spiritual and experimental tendencies in the two artists, both of whom possessed a high degree of literary, musical and religious culture.

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Image Lieder
Korngold left around forty songs, composed between 1911 and 1952. This recording contains many first recordings, including songs transcribed from the manuscripts and performed here for the very first time. Although it belongs to the great German Romantic song tradition, Korngold's style is nonetheless distinguished by its freedom of form and of poetic interpretation.

This title was released for the first time in 2002.

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Image Symphonie No. 3
Performances of at least three of Bruckner's symphonies always raise the same problem: which version is one to choose? In the case of the Third Symphony, at least three versions exist. The differences between them affect the musical material, the formal conception, the balance of the work's proportions and its sonorities. It is the first version of 1873 - neither published nor performed during Bruckner's lifetime - that Kent Nagano presents here.

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Image Cello Sonatas
Emmanuelle Bertrand, cello
Pascal Amoyel, piano

"Reger's day may yet come, if the rewards of the clear and lucid playing of the French duo of Emmanuelle Bertrand and Pascal Amoyel is anything to go by."
Michael Dervan, The Irish Times, 18 February 2005

"From the first carefully turned phrase of the Strauss Romance it is clear that this is going to be an exceptional recording."
Janet Banks, The Strad, April 2005

"radiant from beginning to end."
Robin Stowell, International Piano, May/June 2005

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Image Symphonies Nos. 91 & 92
Bernarda Fink, mezzo-soprano
Freiburger Barockorchester / René Jacobs

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Image Overtures - Music for the Hamburg Opera
Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin

'Not the least ornament and embellishment of this city': it was in such terms that the Hamburg town council described the status of music in the city's public life in the year 1615. 40 years after the opening of the first public opera house (in Venice), the date of 1678 marked the inauguration of its German equivalent: this was the stamping ground of such masters as Keiser, Erlebach and Schürmann, but also of a certain (very!) young man named Georg Friedrich Handel. This CD contains a selection of the finest overtures and orchestral suites from the Hamburg Opera's first 40 years.

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Image Violin Concerto No 2
Long overshadowed by the reputation of his Bohemian compatriots Smetana, Dvorák and Janácek, Bohuslav Martinu is at last enjoying his fair share of the limelight. Commentators have so often confined themselves to describing his music in terms of multiple influences – Roussel, French music, the 18th-century concerto grosso – that they have tended to forget his own strong personality and his perfect assimilation of Baroque style. The three works presented on this recording display the Czech composer's endless creativity within the framework of a vivid concertante language.

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Image Lamentazione per la Settimana Santa
Music-lovers are by now familiar with the Tenebrae Lessons, the settings of the Lamentations of Jeremiah sung throughout Catholic Europe on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday evenings of Holy Week. The Renaissance had delighted in them, and France under Louis XIV was to cultivate the genre to excess. In Italy, the fashion for Lamentazioni belongs to the first half of the 17th century, as witness the 23 cycles of manuscript Q43 of the Museo musicale in Bologna, all by composers active in Rome at the time. Maria Cristina Kiehr and Concerto Soave revive the pleasures of sheer contrition to be had from singing words such as afflictio, dolor, and lamentatio . . .

This title was released for the first time in 2007.

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Image Victor Hugo en musique
Konstantin Wolff, baritone
Trung Sam, piano

Composers who dared to set the poetic works of Victor Hugo knew they had a challenge on their hands! Yet they managed to extract from this monument of literature the texts that would most benefit from their music, and between them created a multiple portrait: here is every facet of the poet, from the ethereal or sensual lover to the committed political figure, contemplating the world in verse of biting irony or Romantic lyricism.The young Konstantin Wolff has audibly taken great pleasure in tackling these subtly nuanced evocations.

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Image Traditional Polyphony in Murcia (El canto de Auror
Alia Musica / Miguel Sanchez

"...another compelling release from the excellent ensemble, Alia Musica. They are genuinely dedicated musicians, who continue to bring early music enthusiasts a rich repertoire of the rare and unusual, and with beautifully sympathetic engineering, this release has to be a top recommendation."
Hi-Fi+, 10/10 recording/10/10 music

A collection derived from ancient musical traditions where groups of men sing a variety of religious texts, including polyphonic greetings to the "Virgen de la Aurora", from vespers until dawn, first released in 1998.

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Image Reflections
Frederic Chiu, piano

Maurice Ravel: Miroirs
1 I. Noctuelles
2 II. Oiseaux tristes
3 III. Une barque sur l'océan
4 IV. Albadora del gracioso
5 V. La vallée des cloches

Abel Decaux: Clairs de lune
6 I. Clair de lune No.1 (Minuit passe)
7 II Clair de lune No.2 (La ruelle)
8 III. Clair de lune No.3 (Le cimetière)
9 IV. Clair de lune No.4 (La mer)

Arnold Schoenberg: Drei Klavierstücke, Op. 11
10 I. Mässig
11 II. Mässig
12 III. Bewegt

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Image Mass: O Crux lignum
The music of Antoine Busnois has inspired intense interest in recent times. With this survey of the different genres - sacred and secular - in which Busnois excelled, the Orlando Consort demonstrates the composer's supreme technical mastery, his melodic flair, and his rhythmic vitality. A comprehensive portrait of an early-Renaissance genius. "The Orlando Consort ranks with the finest vocal ensembles of the day." - Fanfare.

This title was released for the first time in 2005.

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Image Russian Songs
This title was released for the first time in 2006.

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Image Madrigals
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Image Lecons De Tenebres
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Image Improvisations Au Zarb Classical Traditions of Ira
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Image J.S. Bach - Violin Concertos
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Image Symphony No. 4 / Variations Op. 31
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Image Membra Jesu Nostri
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Image Divertimenti
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Image Invitation au Voyage
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Image J.S.Bach - Magnificat BWV 243a
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Image Le Violon Vagabond
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Image Le Chant de Virgile
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Image The Play of the Pilgrimage to Emmaus
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Image Symphony No 7
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Image Mozarabic Chant
Ensemble Organum
Marcel Pérès

This title was released for the first time in 1995.

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Image Horn Trio / Violin Sonata
Isabelle Faust, violin
Alexander Melnikov, piano
Teunis van der Zwart, natural horn

Brahms was especially fond of the sound of the natural horn, which he saw as the embodiment of Romantic lyricism. Although the valve horn had begun to replace it in the early 19th century, it was for the older instrument, the Waldhorn, that he wrote his Trio Op.40, today still the summit of the repertoire for its unusual forces. Here three young musicians attempted to reconstruct the trio's original sound as precisely as possible, with conspicuous success!

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Image Autant en emporte le vent
Ensemble Clément Janequin / Dominique Visse

"Dominique Visse and his superb ensemble offer a programme of his wonderful songs, veering from the sacred to the sublime to the downright bawdy"
Andrew Clarke, The Independent, 6-12 August 2005

"A joy from the first track to the last."
Geoff Brown, The Times, 12 August 2005

"The singers switch effortlessly between the styles, and this versatility, on the part of composer and performers alike, is the keynote of a most entertaining programme."
Elizabeth Roche, The Daily Telegraph, 10 September 2005

"Ensemble Clément Janequin recordings have long been blessed with superb sound quality and this disc is no exception...wholly delightful."
Andrew O'Connor, IRR, September 2005

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