COMPOSERS: Bach,Biber,Blow,Byrd,Holborne & Tallis,Johann Christoph Bach,Purcell,Schmelzer,Simpson
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Elegeia
WORKS: Works by Bach, Johann Christoph Bach, Biber, Blow, Schmelzer, Byrd, Simpson, Purcell, Holborne & Tallis
PERFORMER: Matthew White (countertenor); Les Voix Baroques
CATALOGUE NO: AN 2 9902
The Canadian countertenor Matthew White has chosen a wide selection of German and English works for Elegeia, embracing a century and a half of music. Vocal pieces by Byrd, Blow, Purcell, Johann Christoph Bach and his distant nephew Johann Sebastian rub shoulders with instrumental ones by Byrd, Tallis, Holborne, Purcell, Biber and Schmelzer. The leitmotif is, as the disc’s title implies, lamentation for the departed. White’s own contribution is mostly very good indeed. His singing of Bach’s cantata Ich habe genug (BWV 82) is more lyrical than many of its rivals, with well-chosen tempi and gracefully wrought phrasing. Only occasional insecurities in the solo oboe playing weaken an otherwise alluring performance. Bach prepared at least four versions of this work of which this, the third, was intended for an alto voice (though the most frequently encountered version is the one for bass).
The remaining vocal items further reveal White’s technical accomplishment, expressive sensibility and tonal warmth. A notable beneficiary is the earlier Bach’s beautiful lament Ach, dass ich Wassers genug hätte, a grief-stricken utterance of astonishing poignancy. The instrumental pieces are mostly scored for various string groupings, drawing upon members both of the viol and violin families; but a recorder and a cornett heighten the colour here and there. All is played with fervour and lively response to the rich stylistic diversity of the period. Nicholas Anderson