Polish singer and songwriter Basia became prominent during the 1980s, first for her membership in the polished British pop-jazz vocal outfit Matt Bianco, and later as a solo artist. Her first three wildly successful recordings – which sold by the truckload in the U.S. and U.K. – made her something of a household name during the MTV era. Her Brazilian-influenced jazzy soul helped to create a standard of excellence in adult contemporary on par with peers Everything But the Girl, Swing Out Sister, Level 42, and Sade. She all but disappeared after the '90s, but did take part in a reunion with her former band for 2004's acclaimed Matt's Mood. In 2009, she returned to solo recording with It's That Girl Again. The album resonated with longtime fans, but failed to rival the large sales of her earlier outings, perhaps due to a transitioning industry landscape.
Among the young British instrumentalists vying to pick up the mantles of the great soloists of a generation ago, flutist Katherine Bryan seems among the most promising, and she takes a major step forward with this, her second release. Her startlingly clear, bright articulation in the upper register is pleasing on its own, yet the real attraction here is that she approaches a repertory intelligently and brings fresh perspectives to it. The Flute Concerto (1993) of Christopher Rouse only seems to be the odd item in the set; Rouse's instrumental writing, with its intricate grasp of texture and register, is truly a descendant of the French (and French-Swiss) music on the rest of the album, and it was an inspired choice in terms of showcasing Bryan's technique as well. The three central movements have a memorial tone, with flute solos woven into Rouse's characteristically spacious chords, and Bryan has the stamina to stick with the long line here. Ibert's delightful Concerto for flute and orchestra (1934) receives an absolutely crackling performance from Bryan.
English composer Thomas Tallis witnessed dramatic changes of religion under four monarchs, and his career accordingly represents the development of polyphonic church music in Renaissance England. Along with his student and fellow Roman Catholic, William Byrd, Tallis was one of the earliest composers to publish music under royal patent in England, and his works demonstrated the shifting doctrines and styles of liturgy in the reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary I, and Elizabeth I. This 2017 Obsidian release features one piece with a text by Henry VIII's sixth and last wife, Katherine Parr, which gives the album its title, though the mix of Roman Catholic and Anglican pieces on the program suggests that "songs of Reformation" may be seen as one-sided. In any case, the performances by the vocal ensemble Alamire and the viol consort Fretwork put the emphasis on Tallis and his varied output, rather than on the theological preferences of royalty. The result is a well-balanced portrait of Tallis, and his choral music is given transparent textures and clear diction by the 14-voice choir, which maintains independence of parts while offering an evenly blended tone.