Classical album reviews: Fires of Love, Fritz Hauser, Nikolaus Harnoncourt


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Fires Of Love, "Remember Me My Deir" (Delphian)

On Remember Me My Deir, Scottish early-music troubadours Fires of Love present a portrait of British court music at the time of James VI of Scotland’s ascension to the English throne. The greater sophistication of the early 17th- century English composers must have shocked the Scots musicians, but it’s to the quartet’s credit that the two strains blend seamlessly here. There’s an uplifting simplicity to “Go from my window”, a traditional folk number arranged by John Dowland for two lutes, while texts by Campion and Shakespeare are rendered to tunes employed by the Bard in his plays, most effectively Ophelia’s wan “And will he not come again”, sung by Frances Cooper over an almost subliminal drum pulse.


Download: And will he not come again; Adeu, O desie of delyt; The cypress curtain of the night; Go from my window

Fritz Hauser, "Pieces for Percussion" (Hat Art)

Fritz Hauser helps liberate percussion from its rhythmic straightjacket, using an intimate musical language focusing on  the tiniest details. Exquisitely performed by Ensemble XII, tracks such as “60” employ the subtlest of cymbal susurrus and scrape to create a quiet mystery. On “Die Welle”, a gong is gently addressed, taking several minutes to even register audibly, before dramatic drum-rolls shatter the delicate meniscus; and in “Bricco Lu”, the chatter of clicky metallic sounds gives way to passages of looming ambience. But Hauser can be forceful: the fizzing snare rolls of “Le Souvenir” evoke a train rattling along tracks, while the tom-tom tattoo of “Nothing Will Ever Change” irresistibly recalls Faust’s monotonal “It’s a Rainy Day, Sunshine Girl”.


Download: 60; Bricco Lu; Le Souvenir; Nothing Will Ever Change

Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Concentus Musicus Wien, "Mozart: Symphony No 35 “Haffner”; Posthorn-Serenade" (Sony Classical)

To commemorate the 60th anniversary of Nikolaus Harnoncourt’s association with the Concentus Musicus Wien, which he founded to pursue his Mozartian vision, the conductor offers a programme pairing the short, popular “Haffner” Symphony with the “Posthorn-Serenade”, one of his longer showcase pieces. Written to accompany Salzburg University’s graduation parade, it’s at once joyous and thoughtful, swinging smoothly between graceful string and wind figures and brash horns, and containing in the central Concertante a delightful stand-alone work for flutes, oboes and bassoons accompanied by horns and strings, deftly balanced here.

Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Concentus Musicus Wien, "Mozart: Symphony No 35 “Haffner”; Posthorn-Serenade" (Sony Classical)

Download: Posthorn-Serenade; Symphony No 35 “Haffner”; March No 1