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Daniel Johnson's Early Music Primer

By Robi Polgar, Fri., Jan. 25, 2002

Daniel Johnson's Early Music Primer

1. Emma Kirkby, Arie Antiche (Musicura Oscura): "Any disc with Emma Kirkby singing lute songs, because of the extreme human-ness of her voice and the expression of complete intimacy and complete openness without artifices. I know that her career alone has turned on so many people to early music. So many sopranos, especially, say, 'I want to sing like her. I want to sing the way she sings.'"

2. Anonymous 4, Portrait (Harmonia Mundi): "The Hildegard von Bingen CD. They're very straightforward in their approach to the music."

3. Heliotrope, The Fire & the Rose: Aquitanian Chant (Koch International Classics): "We need some unusual Medieval music, so this is a disc with Stephanie [Prewitt] and me. It's an Aquitanian chant CD that we did with a California group. As a clue into weird medieval music, it's a good clue."

4. Sequentia, Bingen: Symphoniae (BMG) [Import]: "A German group made up of Americans. They're people I've studied with and done some singing with. They're great. And the way they do Hildegard raised the bar in chant areas."

Daniel Johnson's Early Music Primer

5. Hilliard Ensemble/Josquin Desprez, Motets and Chansons (EMI Reflexe): "We need some Renaissance music. There are other groups that do it maybe a little bit better or a little bit differently, but theirs I thought was really well done and direct. Right to the point."

6. Taverner Consort, Una Stravaganza dei Medici: Intermedi (1589) per 'La Pellegrina' (EMI Reflexe): "Music from the wedding of Ferdinand di Medici and Cristina de Lorena. The planning of the wedding was years. They hired the best composers, the best instrumentalists, the best singers to come in for this huge, huge wedding -- huge festivity -- linking these two great, very powerful houses. And they put on this play called La Pellegrina. As time progressed, the play was completely lost. Nobody knows anything about the play. But the music remains, and it's just such an [insight] into their world view and the way that they celebrated. I think [conductor] Andrew [Parrott's] recording is probably the best."

7. Taverner Consort/Claudio Monteverdi, Selva Morale e Spirituale (EMI CDC): "A recording of the Monteverdi 1610 Vespers would be important. I don't want to be in a rut, but it's the Taverner ensemble again. [Monteverdi's music] ties together a variety of styles between late Renaissance and early Baroque."

8. Les Arts Florissant, William Christie, director/Lully, Hippolyte et Aricie (Harmonia Mundi): "We need a Baroque opera. This is one I just heard. This is a Parisian group -- they really raised the bar so high for performance practice and for Baroque opera."

9. Jordi Savall, Hesperion XX, Tous les Matins du Monde (Naïve Travelling) [French Import]: "It's the soundtrack to the movie with Gerard Depardieu. [Savall] is best known for his Spanish Renaissance work, but this is great."

10. Piffaro, Stadtpfeiffer (Dorian): "Renaissance dance music." This isn't Johnson's favorite genre, but pressured by the midinterview arrival of soprano Stephanie Prewitt and T.E.M.P. board member Wendy Brockett to his desert island, Johnson relented and agreed to "any recording" by this ensemble. This title is composed of German Renaissance dance music.

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