I don’t know about you, but I’ve been listening to music much more in lockdown than ever before, whether it is when I’m running or just trying to get some sun on a walk around the neighbourhood. Lately I’ve been listening to some old favourites in addition to tracking down the latest work of our colleagues in Europe and North America. I’ve put together a playlist of my top 5 albums on heavy rotation at the moment. It was hard to choose just 5—so stay tuned for more!
1. Buxtehude Abendmusiken (Ensemble Masques/Vox Luminis) 2018
Olivier Fortin and I were colleagues when I lived in Montréal and the great ex-pat violinist Sophie Gent often plays with their superb group, Ensemble Masques. This is an exquisitely rendered and delicately coloured reading of some of Buxtehude’s most beautiful works, featuring Vox Luminis, conducted by Lionel Meunier.
2. Various, The Paris Album (Ensemble Diderot) 2019
This is a really superb album. It goes to show just how expressive and artful and revealing and heartfelt a dedicated approach to historical performance practice can be. A collection of gorgeous French instrumental music from the late seventeenth-century. Their other album, The London Album, is equally inspiring.
3. Rameau, Le Grand Théâtre de l’amour (Sabine Devieilhe, Les Ambassadeurs) 2013
Devieilhe is really one of the great emerging sopranos of her generation. A formidable technique, a real dedication to theatricality, and a stunning chiaroscuro, Devieilhe really pulls out the stops here in an early recording: a glittering selection of some of Rameau’s greatest opera arias. Her performance of the great bravura aria from Platée, “Aux longueurs d’Apollon”, is quite simply the best and most expressive reading of this (surprisingly complex) aria I know.
4. Various, Nova Metamorfosi (La Poème Harmonique) 2003
This is almost twenty years old now, this recording, but it is definitely one of my desert island discs. A remarkable pioneering achievement, this album is a collection of intriguing repertoire from the seventeenth century. But the stand-out elements are the improvised ornaments, the stunning mean-tone tuning, and the added faux-bourdon, all impromptu techniques that are historically based. Absolutely stunning.
5. Various, Enfers (Stéphane Degout, Ensemble Pygmalion) 2018
Ensemble Pygmalion under Raphaël Pichon have really made a mark for themselves in France and Europe since they were founded in 2006. Solid, gutsy playing with plenty of fire in their belly, but capable of a silvery and nicely spun sound as well. And nowhere is this best expressed than in their award-winning album Enfers, with the stunning bass-baritone Stéphane Degout. A collection of crazy mad arias and solemn selections from religious works. This is a stand-out album: superbly curated.