Harmonia Mundi: Musique D’abord

COMPOSERS: Various
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi: Musique D’abord

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The LP record famously expanded listeners’ knowledge of the repertoire of early music; and it also charted and encouraged the rise of the period performance movement. Now more and more CD reissues are revisiting those heady days; and while in some cases the excitement of discovery has worn off, in others it remains as potent as ever.  

The Musique d’Abord budget-price reissue series from French Harmonia Mundi – in neat slim-line cases, with mostly adequate documentation – also features some of the label’s stars of early music, past and present.

The plangent tones of the countertenor Alfred Deller are well suited to COUPERIN’s penitential Leçons de ténèbres (HMA 195210). The equally subtle vocal artistry of Sister Marie Keyrouz is heard to good advantage in a 1993 collection of ancient Melchite chants in honour of the Virgin, CHANTS SACRÉS DE L’ORIENT (HMA 1951497).

Dominique Visse’s Ensemble Clément Janequin puts across a selection of French chansons and Italian carnival songs by the prolific LASSUS with great panache and precise tuning, though here the absence of translations of the often obscure texts is a serious obstacle to enjoyment (HMA 1951391).

An all-Italian team offers LUZZASCO LUZZASCHI’s 1601 collection of madrigals for the famous ‘three ladies of Ferrara’ with fresh-voiced relish, but with a disappointingly monochrome accompaniment on harpsichord alone (HMA 1951136).

Again, encouragingly, some of the more recent recordings are among the most recommendable. London Baroque plays the Opp. 1 and 3 trio sonatas of CORELLI with fine teamwork and just the right string sound, shiny but not glossy (two discs, HMA 1951344-45).

The Dutch singer Peter Kooy is clear and wonderfully consoling in the three BACH cantatas for bass (Nos 82, 56 and 158), though a swimmy acoustic affects the tutti sound of Philippe Herreweghe’s Chapelle Royale (HMA 1951365).

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The harpsichordist Davitt Moroney leads an exemplary complete performance of BACH’s Musical Offering (HMA 1951260).