For consistently amiable, if undemanding entertainment, Albinoni’s concertos, with or without oboe, or oboes, are hard to beat. Christopher Hogwood and the Academy of Ancient Music here perform the 12 concertos contained in the collection published in 1722 as the composer’s Op. 9.
Just ten or fifteen years ago, the idea that two pieces might be enough to fill an album of Howard Skemptons music would have seemed astonishing, but here are two works, each over 30 minutes long. Skempton takes on Coleridge's epic poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, and presents it sparsely for solo baritone (Roderick Williams) and small chamber ensemble (BCMG).
Nine cello sonatas by Vivaldi have survived. Six of them were published as a set in Paris in about 1740; that set, mistakenly known as the composer's Op. 14, contains the sonatas recorded in this release. The three remaining sonatas come from manuscript collections. All but one of the six works are cast in the slow-fast-slow-fast pattern of movements of the sonata da chiesa. The odd one out, RV46, in fact, retains the four movement sequence but inclines towards the sonata da camera in the use of dance titles. The music of these sonatas is almost consistently interesting, often reaching high points of expressive eloquence, as we find, for example, in the justifiably popular Sonata in E minor, RV40. Christophe Coin brings to life these details in the music with technical assurance and a spirit evidently responsive to its poetic content. Particularly affecting instances of this occur in the third movements of the A minor and the E minor Sonatas where Coin shapes each phrase, lovingly achieving at the same time a beautifully sustained cantabile.
Following his attractive performance of six of Vivaldi's cello sonatas, Christophe Coin has recorded six of the composer's 24 or so concertos for the instrument. Five of these, Michael Talbot tells us in an interesting accompanying note, probably belong to the 1720s while the sixth, the Concerto in G minor (RV416), is evidently a much earlier work. Coin has chosen, if I may use the expression somewhat out of its usual context, six of the best and plays them with virtuosity and an affecting awareness of their lyrical content. That quality, furthermore, is not confined to slow movements but occurs frequently in solo passages of faster ones, too. It would be difficult to single out any one work among the six for particular praise. My own favourite has long been the happily spirited Concerto in G major (RV413) with which Coin ends his programme. Strongly recommended. (Gramophone Magazine)
This is a wonderful collection of Byrd's keyboard music. Although he is better known for his polyphony, Byrd wrote a great deal of very fine music for harpsichord, virginal and other keyboard instruments of the time; this is some of the best of it, played on the harpsichord by a real master of the instrument.
This two-fer release from Varèse Sarabande pairs two of the more influential and interesting horror soundtracks of the slasher-film era. Charles Bernstein's score to Wes Craven's 1985 slasher cult classic A Nightmare on Elm Street is very much a product of its time, eschewing traditional orchestral approaches while employing state-of-the-art synthesizers and sound effects to convey the horror of Craven's suburban dreamscapes. Bernstein's unsettling cues utilize technology to strong effect, creating sinister atmospheres that effortlessly communicate the threat posed by the film's ghoulish antagonist, Freddy Krueger. The inorganic, dehumanized tones produced by the composer's synthesizers underscore the narrative's detachment from waking reality. That said, taken on its own terms the music is more than a little dated. While the best Hollywood scores boast a timelessness that transcends their origins, A Nightmare on Elm Street is immediately recognizable as a product of the mid-'80s, and whether that's a positive or a negative is left to the listener to determine.