Archive for Monica Huggett

Best of 2009

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 30, 2009 by Craig Zeichner

Lots of early music recordings came my way in 2009. Here are my favorites for the year.

CD of the year

More Divine Than Human, Music from the Eton Choirbook
The Choir of Christ Church, Oxford
Stephen Darlington, director
(Avie Records)
This is how the Eton Choirbook was intended to be heard.

J. S.Bach: Orchestral Suites for a Young Prince
Ensemble Sonnerie
Monica Huggett, violin and director
(Avie Records)
Refreshing new takes on old favorites.

J. S. Bach: Preludi ai corali
Quartetto Italiano di Viole da Gamba; Tölzer Knabenchor
(Winter & Winter GmbH)
Gorgeous strings blending with treble choir.

G.F. Handel: Clori, Tirsi e Fileno
Roberta Invernizzi, Yetzabel Arias Fernández, sopranos; Romina Basso, alto
La Risonanza
Fabio Bonizzoni, director
(Glossa Music)
The newest release in the brilliantly performed complete Handel cantata series.

Nicola Popora: Arias
Karina Gauvin, soprano
Il Complesso Barocco
Alan Curtis, director
(ATMA Classique)
Perhaps this is the recording that finally puts Gauvin at the top of the soprano heap.

Salomone Rossi: The Song of Solomon and Instrumental Music
Profeti Della Quinta
Ensemble Muscadin
(Pan Classics)
It’s about time an ensemble finally made a truly excellent recording of Rossi’s sacred music.

Alessandro Scarlatti: Messa per il santissimo natale
Giovanni Battista Pergolesi: Messa di s. emidio

Concerto Italiano
Rinaldo Alessandrini, director
Two major additions to the repertoire and nobody performs this music better than Alessandrini and crew.

Song of Songs
Stile Antico
(Harmonia Mundi)
All the buzz about Stile Antico is true—reminds of the records the Tallis Scholars used to make before all of their recordings started to sound the same.

Georg Philipp Telemann: Telemann and the Baroque Gypsies
Ensemble Caprice
Matthias Maute, recorder and director
Sensational performances by Maute and company in a lively program.

200 Years of Music at Versailles
Various artists
(Centre Musical de Baroque de Versailles)
A miraculous collection. Would have liked some music by the great clavecinists, but easily the greatest survey of the French Baroque available.

Shoot the flute player — Bach for our time

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 28, 2009 by Craig Zeichner



The Bach orchestral recordings I grew up with were anything but historically informed performances. I still own and enjoy LPs of the Brandenburg Concertos with Pablo Casals conducting the Marlboro Festival Orchestra and Otto Klemperer leading the Philharmonia Orchestra in the Bach Orchestral Suites. But now that the period instrument movement has won the day these recordings sound like they are from another planet. It’s a beautiful anachronistic planet, but still in another galaxy.  I worship Klemperer in Romantic repertoire, but must admit his slow tempi and vibrato-laden singers make his Saint Matthew Passion recording play like the Oberammergau Passion Play on a propofol binge.

Oberammergau Passion Play

Not the DeMille version













My Bach shelves are now filled with period instrument performances by such ensembles as the Leonhardt Consort, the Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin, I Barrochisti, the Academy of Ancient Music and Concerto Italian. But the 70s are over and a new Bach recording on period instruments, or as they used to call them “authentic instruments,” is not enough to merit attention.



Attention must be paid to Ensemble Sonnerie’s daring new take on the Orchestral Suites on the excellent Avie label. Ensemble directors Monica Huggett and Ruiz suggest the Suites were written in Köthen for Prince Leopold. The Prince’s orchestra at Köthen consisted of strings, oboes, bassoon and harpsichord (the scoring for the First Suite) so Huggett and Ruiz think this is the original scoring for the other three Suites. Following that logic what’s on the recording could be the original version of the four suites.

The shining centerpiece of the set is oboist Gonzalo X. Ruiz’s oboe and strings version of the Second Suite. Ruiz plays the solo part beautifully and with plenty of flash when needed. The oboe sounds better suited to the piece then the flute. Time for a confession I suppose. I am one early music guy who detests the sound of the flute and recorder as solo instruments. It works for me when joined by other instruments or voices, but when I hear it solo I reach for my gun. That being said, Ruiz’s performance has forever banished the memories of Jean-Pierre Rampal or James Galway tweeting their way through this music.

Galway and one of his musical peers

Galway and one of his musical peers













I miss the trumpet and drums in the Third Suite but Ensemble Sonnerie plays this music with such elegant lyricism that it is okay. I’m not ready to trash my Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin recording (Harmonia Mundi) but this fascinating reading by Ensemble Sonnerie is a must have and an essential for anyone who cares about Bach.

Café Zimmermann

The Bach performances I’m enjoying the most these days are coming from the cleverly named Café Zimmermann. They honor Gottfried Zimmermann’s Leipzig coffee house, where Bach’s concertos were performed, with their name.  Each of the four recordings Café Zimmermann they have released (on the super classy Alpha Production label) to date feature an orchestral suite, a concerto or two and one of the Brandenburg Concertos. I like this concert as album concept. Café Zimmermann is packed with some top-notch talent and is anchored by founders, violinist Pablo Valetti and the phenomenally talented harpsichordist Céline Frisch. Check out any volume in the series and enjoy the most thrilling Bach recordings currently available.



Who do you want serving your Bach?



Café Zimmermann's baristas

Café Zimmermann's baristas