Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Spam Roundup, February 2017

There's spam, and then there's spam so oddly written it's somewhat amusing. Here's a roundup of some of the "best" comments I received this month from spambots around the world.

When your second language is a distant second

 - Use adjectives like gnawed, unhygienic, bad that would make a difference to you. [OK. "Your bad spambot comment gnawed at my unhygienic post." How's that?]

 - Thanks designed for sharing such a pleasant opinion, piece of writing is good. [Da. Writing good. Comment, not so much.]

That is fascinating. You are an excessively skilled blogger. [Not sure if "excessive" is a good thing.]

Fantastic goods from you, man. I've understand your stuff previous to and you are just extremely magnificent. ["Extremely magnificent." Now that's excessive.]
There it is. The 3" long friction truck that keeps bringing
in the spam.

"Lumbering along" surges ahead

My short post in an obscure series about vintage Japanese tin toys continues to attract the spambots. And, if you believe them, The Straco Express Layout, Part 23 - Lumbering Along is of worldwide importance.

 - I think this is one of the most vital information for me. [I think it is not.]

 - Mу family mеmberѕ all the time say that I am wasting my timе here at wеb, but I know I аm getting know-how everуday by reading these plеasant artіcles or rеviews. [You should listen to your family.]

 - Itѕ lіke yοu leaгn my minԁ! Υοu seem tο understand а lot аbout thiѕ, like уou wrote the e book in it or sоmething. [Or something. I have written an e-book, but definitely not about this.]

 - Fantastic put up, very informative. I wonder why the other specialists of this sector do not notice this. [Probably because there aren't any.]


And in conclusion...

No one used the word "fastidious" this month, but I'm not ready to say we've definitely seen the last of that misused word. So that's all for this month, save this last comment. May it inspire you as it did me. 

 - You can definitely see your expertise in the article you write. the world hopes for even more passionate writers such as you who are not afraid to say how they believe.

Always say how you believe. 

Monday, February 27, 2017

Diabelli Project 144 - Woodwind Quintet

The Diabelli Project is about offering my weekly flash-composition sketches freely to all. Like Antonio Diabelli's theme, these sketches aren't great music. But perhaps (as in Diabelli's case) there's a Beethoven out there who can do great things with them.

About a month ago I posted the first woodwind quintet to emerge from the Diabelli Project flash compositions sessions (see: Diabelli Project 140). This week a second one began to take shape.

It's possible that this might be a companion slow movement to the earlier sketch. The idea here is pretty simple: begin with simple block chords and gradually (and gently) have them break apart. The primary notes in the bassoon repeat. If I were to continue that pattern, this could very easily become a ground -- and perhaps it will.






As always, you can use any or all of the posted Diabelli Project sketches as you wish for free. Just be sure to share the results. I'm always curious to see what direction someone else can take this material.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Line Mar Match Box Construction 041 Flag Pole

I found a Line Mar Match Box Construction Set from the 1930s, complete and with instructions. The box claimed the set made 100 different toys. I decided to test that claim -- one toy at a time. You can read all the posts for the Line Mar construction project at 100 Toys.

041. Flag Pole

In the instruction sheet, this was mislabeled a "Fag Pole," but we'll stick with the correct version here. This was not a difficult build, although  the wooden collar holding the two dowels together isn't all that strong.

Even if you could, raising and lowering the flag would be too much for that single connector. The illustration isn't very clear. I wasn't sure if I was to use the fiberboard collars or the wooden discs at the top of the pole. I opted for the discs as it helped make a more secure connection for the rope (in this case, florist's wire). 


Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Georg Philipp Telemann: Ein' feste Burg ist unser Gott

This release features five cantatas that Georg Philipp Telemann wrote for Reformation Sunday (more or less).

October 31 wasn't officially fixed as Reformation Day until the 19th century. Nevertheless, as early as 1617 many German states were using the first Sunday after October 31st to commemorate Luther's establishment of the protestant church.

Whether celebrating Reformation Sunday or the Feast of St. Michael (also around the same time), these five cantatas are fine examples of Telemann's sacred writing. The works span about fifty years, and development of Telemann's style is dramatic.

The earliest work, "Jesu wirst Du bald ersheinen" is a relatively sparse and conservative work from 1711. The use of cornet and trombone harkens back to the renaissance, giving the cantata an air of ancient timelessness. The basis of the work is a tune by Martin Luther, "Es ist gewisslich an der Zelt." The soloists' material is tuneful but restrained.

What a contrast to the 1757 "Welch’Getümmel erschüttert den Himmel." If "Jesu wirst Du bald" was unassuming and introspective, "Welch' Getümmel" is unabashedly celebratory and triumphant. In this cantata, trumpets and tympani provide flourishes and fanfares. The bass soloist sings highly ornamented arias. The choral writing is a blend of imaginative counterpoint and full-bodied harmonies.

The other works also have their merits, not least of which are the performances of the soloists. Soprano Simone Schwark and bass Markus Flaig deliver a seamless duet in "Wertes Zion," their voices blending beautifully. And alto Johanna Krell's warm, intimate singing of "Kraft und Worte" I found especially charming.

The Kammerchor der Erlöserkirche Bad Homburg has a smooth, rich ensemble blend and sometimes sounds bigger than it is (a real plus for "Welch’Getümmel").

Four of the five works on this release are world premiere recordings, and I think they all deserve a hearing. Telemann's best known for writing a lot of music. This release, featuring works spanning his career, reminds us just how good most of it is.

Georg Philipp Telemann: Ein' feste Burg ist unser Gott
Festival Cantatas of the Reformation
Simone Schwark, soprano; Johanna Krell, alto; Hans Jörg Mammel, tenor; Wolfgang Weiß, Markus Flaig, bass
Kammerchor der Erlöserkirche Bad Homburg; Johann Rosenmüller Ensemble; Arno Paduch, director
Christophorus CHR 77405

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Unsinkable Mark Trail

Mark Trail's current artist/writer James Allen has not only made this vintage strip more exciting visually, he's vastly improved the quality of the story lines. And along the way, he's also having some fun with the character and the very nature of adventure strips.

Normally, adventure strips are pretty much self-contained. What happened in previous story arcs are seldom referred to in the current adventure (with the exception of a recurring villain cropping back up). Current comic strip creative teams, such as Mike Curtis/Joe Staton (Dick Tracy), and Tony DePaul/Mike Manley (The Phantom), seem more interested in world-building. Borrowing from comic books, the past shapes the present rather than having each episode take place in isolation.

Which leads us the beginning of Mark Trail's Hawaii adventure (see Mark Trail Heats Up for more about this fall 2016 storyline).

Mark Trail has been invited to check out an invasive species of ants on a small island. He checks in with his editor while going to rent a boat.


Of course, that's exactly who Mark Trail is -- a guy in a serial comic. But his editor does have a point. Trail's two previous adventures involved exploding boats.


What could possibly go wrong? Well, this. 


Fortunately, Cal found an abandoned rowboat on the beach. There was plenty of foreshadowing -- Allen shows it being by the yacht that originally landed on the island and inadvertently left the invasive fire ants back in the prolog to the story (see: Mark Trail: Suddenly in the Past).


Allen continued the subplot about Mark Trail's luck with transportation with these two sequences.

Great art, great storytelling, and a sense of fun -- that's why I keep reading Mark Trail. Plus, I want to see what he blows up next.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Duet for Violin and Percussion - Part 2

As part of my Diabelli Project flash composition series, I wrote five sketches for violin and percussion. They seemed to have potential, and so I'm expanding them into a larger five-movement composition. And I decided to document my progress on this Duet for Violin and Percussion (primarily to keep me on task).

First movement finished!

Below is the sketch score for the completed first movement. This duet is going to be a set of miniatures so the movements will be very short. Nevertheless, I felt the opening movement needed an introduction, which I created from the motives at A (which is also the beginning of the Diabelli sketch).



The original percussion part had timbales plus cymbal. I decided to stay with just timbales for a more consistent sound.


The overall structure for the movement is A-B-A'. The return of the opening material is modified to change its direction and point towards the final cadence.

The overall playing time should be about 2:45 or so. The next step is to play through the movement and make revisions, but I won't do that until I complete the other movements. That will give me an opportunity to look at this movement fresh, and be able to better assess how it fits into the overall work (since I'll have it all on paper at that point).

So the next immediate step is to start working on another movement. And so I have -- the fifth.

And for comparison, the original Diabelli Project sketch:





Friday, February 17, 2017

Line Mar Match Box Construction 040 - Stretcher

I found a Line Mar Match Box Construction Set from the 1930s, complete and with instructions. The box claimed the set made 100 different toys. I decided to test that claim -- one toy at a time. You can read all the posts for the Line Mar construction project at 100 Toys.

040. Stretcher

The stretcher was another simple build. It helped that the dowels that made the handles only just entered the metal piece. That left the short dowels clear to extend into the box and be flush with the top of the "pillow." 



Thursday, February 16, 2017

Reber Piano Trios - Refined Elegance

Napoléon-Henri Reber may be almost unknown today, but in the 1850s he was a well-respected pedagogue and composer (Jules Massenet studied with him at one time). Although he wrote four symphonies, and several comic operas, Reber had an affinity for chamber music, which constitutes the bulk of his catalog.

Three of his seven piano trios are presented in this recording, each one a modest but delightful gem.

Reber's Trio No. 2 in E-flat major from 1840 sounded to me like a successful blend of Haydn's classicism and Schubert's melodiousness. The music beautifully expressive, with a hint of playfulness at times that I found rather appealing.

Trio No. 4 was written 12 years later. There's still some classical restraint. The melodies sound more expansive, with richer harmonic support. I was reminded somewhat of Mendelssohn in places.

The 1876 Trio No. 6 is the most mature in style. Reber's language is more chromatic, more in keeping with the romantic ideal. While I heard echoes of Mendelssohn in the fourth trio, here I seemed to detect traces of Schumann. This work also contained some interesting counterpoint -- not unexpected from a composition professor thoroughly familiar with the technique. And not a note of it sounded learned or academic.

The Trio Élégiaque play with taste and élan, bringing out the essential Gallic nature of Reber's works. These are performances that are both engaging and charming.

This is the second release of Napoléon-Henri Reber trios from the Trio Élégiaque. The first volume covered trios nos. 3, 5, and 7. Only the first trio unrecorded (for now). Based on these performances, I'll be seeking out that first volume, and looking forward to the release of the third.

Napoléon-Henri Reber: Trios 2, 4, and 6
Trio Élégiaque
Timpani 1C1239

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Horacio Gutiérrez plays Chopin and Schumann

Sometimes liner notes can make a difference. In the booklet for this release, Stephen Wigler suggested that Chopin's Op. 28 Preludes might be considered a single cycle comprised of very short works, as opposed to a collection of 24 self-contained preludes.

While they certainly work as the former, the idea that each prelude was part of a larger whole gave me insight into Horacio Gutiérrez's performance. And what a performance!

Gutiérrez, as befitting an artist with such a long career, plays with a comfortable familiarity. Technical difficulties have been mastered long ago -- what's important is the underlying musicality, and that's what Gutiérrez brings to the fore.

Listening to the set as a single continuous work helped me understand some of his interpretive choices. Each prelude seemed to flow logically into the other. The "Raindrops" prelude is slow, but not too slow. It provides a satisfying balance between the allegro of the D-flat minor prelude before it, and the presto con fuoco outburst of the B-flat minor that follows.

The Schumann Fantasie, Op. 17 is played with the same mature sensitivity. It's a beautiful performance that I'll be returning to again and again.

Frederic Chopin: 24 Preludes, Op. 28; Robert Schumann, Fantasie, Op. 17 
Horacio Gutiérrez, piano
Bridge Records 9479

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Mark Trail Heats Up

James Allen has done something remarkable. He's taken the staid strip Mark Trail and revitalized it -- without changing its basic appeal. When Ed Dodd started the strip in 1946, the focus was on wildlife and conservation, always the settings for Mark Trail's adventures.

Edd Dodd -- and his successor Jack Elrod drew in a late 1940s commercial art style. Over time, the strip looked increasingly static and out-of-date. Although Allen kept the thick lines, he also introduced the dynamic camera angles and panel compositions of contemporary comics to make the action more fluid.

And he introduced an interesting subtext.

I already noted Mark's life-saving kiss of life almost became something more (see: Mark Trail goes with the Wind). At the end of his most recent adventure, we had this sequence. Mark and Abbey had just escaped an island destroyed by a volcano,


Allen ramps up the heat a little in the first sequence. Note the extreme closeups to Abbey's eyes, which seem to be somehow inviting. In the second sequence, she takes his hand. We're not sure quite what Abbey's going to say (or how Mark will take it).

And then, in the third sequence, it's all over. Everything's above board, they're just friends. But just like that sequence with Corinna in the cave, just for a moment there a hint of something more.

And it ends with Mark wanting to get back to his wife. At the beginning of the story, James Allen devoted a few panels to Cherry (like the one below).


No wonder he's never tempted. James Elrod never drew her like this!

Monday, February 13, 2017

Duet for Violin and Percussion - Part 1

The Diabelli Project had its desired effect.

I started the flash composition exercise as a way to loosen up the rust and get back to composing after too long an absence. If you've been following the series, you'll know that there were a number of the sketches that I wanted to revisit.

And now I've done so. Back in October 2016, I did a brief series of violin and percussion duets. Each sketch started a different movement of a presumably larger work. Those sketches continued to percolate long after I was finished with them. So last week I started work on the duet.

Here's the first page of the finished movement in manuscript, and below it the initial Diabelli Project version. 



In addition to expanding the opening, I also reconsidered what the main motifs were. 

And something else. The sketch went 9 measures and stopped with only a hint of what was to come. I now had to actually figure that out. Which meant deciding what the form would be, how the roles of the players would change (or if they needed to), the actual tempo of the movement, how long it needed to be, and a few other details.

As with the initial sketch, for the most part, it all seemed to just... flow. The Diabelli Project had indeed loosened my creative muscles.

When I have a fair copy ready, I'll post it. I'll also provide occasional updates about the progress of the work. I'm pretty sure I'll have at least one more movement finished by next Monday.

Once the work is finished, then the real challenge begins -- finding performers who are willing take a look at the score (let alone actually playing it). But that's a project for another day.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Line Mar Match Box Construction 039 - Bucket

I found a Line Mar Match Box Construction Set from the 1930s, complete and with instructions. The box claimed the set made 100 different toys. I decided to test that claim -- one toy at a time. You can read all the posts for the Line Mar construction project at 100 Toys.

039. Bucket

The bucket was a very simple toy to build. It's also one of the few that's completely clear about how it is put together. The angle is such that you can see the dowel going through the body.

You can also see that reality fell a little short of the conception. In the drawing, the edges of the dowels are flush with the collars. Not so in real life. Still, it's a minor quibble -- like the name of this thing. This looks more like a basket than a bucket. But that's just my opinion.


Thursday, February 09, 2017

Henry Cotter Nixon - Rescued from Obscurity

Count on Toccata Classics to bring another obscure composer to light. And count on that composer's music being worthy of our attention.

Henry Cotter Nixon spent most of his career at the fringes of the British musical scene and was considered to be a provincial composer. Most of his compositions are melodies (simple songs), but there are some orchestral works, including what may be the earliest British symphonic poem, Palamon and Arcite.

This album is the first installment in a traversal of Nixon's orchestral compositions. His catalog includes three concert overtures, three works for violin and orchestra, and an assortment of single-movement works for orchestra, so I anticipate another two or three installments in this series.

The Concert Overture No.3, Jacta est Alea was written sometime in the 1880s. Stylistically, I heard the influence of Brahms and Mendelssohn -- not uncommon for British composers of the late Victorian period. And yet, there's something else there that made this overture more than just a pale imitation of its influences. Nixon had a finely developed sense of the dramatic. The overture doesn't neatly fall into a traditional sonata-allegro form, but it works. And that's what counts.

To me, the 1889 Romance for Violin and Orchestra sounded a little too much of its time, especially with its sweetly delicate melody. Solo violinist Ana Török brought out all the emotion written into the music without letting it veer too far into late Victorian sentimentality -- a performance I truly admire.

So what of Palamon and Arcite, perhaps Britain's first symphonic poem? This 1882 five-part composition is the strongest work of the three, and definitely worth the price of admission. Nixon's 47-minute piece is a beautifully composed drama that is both imaginative and inventive. The melodies are finely drawn, without a hint of Victoriana. Nixon seems inspired by Beethoven, creating musical gestures of real emotional power. His use of brass throughout the work is especially effective.

Quite frankly, I don't really care if Palamon and Arcite is the first British symphonic poem or not. That may prompt one to listen once out of curiosity, but I think this work deserves more. Palamon and Arcite is a substantial work that stands up under repeated listening, especially with the strong, committed performance Paul Mann and the Kodály Philharmonic Orchestra deliver.

Palamon and Arcite is more than just a historical curiosity. This is music that can -- and should -- be enjoyed on its own terms.

Henry Cotter Nixon: Complete Orchestral Music, Volume One
Concert Overture No. 3, Jacta est Alea; Palamon ad Arcite, Symphonic Poem; Romance for Violin and Orchestra
Ana Török, violin; Kodály Philharmonic Orchestra; Paul Mann, conductor
Toccata Classics
World Premiere Recordings

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Louis Spohr's Singular Mass in C minor

Louis Spohr's Mass in C minor is something of a curiosity. Finished in 1821, it's the only such work in Spohr's catalog of over 230 compositions. And it's also an a capella work, written for two choirs plus SATB soloists.

Stylistically, the mass reminded me a little of Mendelssohn. There's a clarity of line throughout the movements.

The melodies have a simple elegance to them, with harmonies that look forward to the Romantic. And there are skillfully written polyphonic passages clearly inspired by Bach.

The Kammerchor Stuttgart, directed by Frieder Bernius, have a warm, full sound that fits the music stylistically. My only complaint is that the sopranos sometimes sounded a little too bright to completely blend into the ensemble.

Works such as this may have been written for worship services, but they're often performed in a concert setting. The four soloists, Maria Bernius, soprano, Carolina große Darrelmann, alto, Tobias Mäthger, tenor, and Felix Rathgeber, bass have a seamless vocal blend and collectively sing in a straight-forward, unadorned fashion. The performance places this work in the sanctuary (where it was heard originally), rather than the concert hall. I think it's a good call.

When I listen to Spohr's symphonies and string quartets, I hear the influence of Beethoven (who was a colleague). This recording I hear more of a resemblance to Schubert and Mendelssohn -- and some darned good choral writing.

Louis Spohr: Mass, Op. 54; Psalms, Op. 85
Maria Bernius, soprano; Julia Diefenbach, mezzo-soprano;
Carolina große Darrelmann, alto; Tobias Mäthger, tenor;
Simon Tischler, bass (op. 85); Felix Rathgeber, bass (op. 54)
Kammerchor Stuttgart; Frieder Bernius
Carus 83.291

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Distilling Distler Info

I didn't plan on it, but somehow I ended up with a Distler Santa Fe box car. And, as always, it came with as many questions as it does answers.

Distler was a German toy firm who manufactured H0 scale tinplate trains from about 1953-1960. Their postwar history is intertwined with Trix, another German firm, but that's beyond the scope of this post.

I knew that Distler had made a Santa Fe passenger set in 1957 for the American importer Cragstan (see: Distler vs. Nomura, parts 1 & 2). I was only aware of two Distler sets imported by Cragstan - the 1957 tinplate passenger set, and an early 1960s plastic freight set. Both were battery powered.

The seller billed this box car as coming from a "department store set."

But where?

I did find some references to an H0 tinplate train set made a German department store by Grötsch, another toy manufacturer. Grötsch rolling stock is similar to Distler's but they're based on European prototype (including a German-style goods wagon with New Haven markings!)

Fortunately, the German site Spur00 had the answer. In 1957 Distler offered both a freight and passenger train set.

Was the freight set ever imported? That I don't know.

Comparing the box car with the Cragstan/Distler passenger cars proved interesting. Both had the same "Made in Western Germany" markings. The frame, wheels, and trucks are identical, although they're painted black on the box car.



There is one difference. The box car has an angled roof, while the passenger car has a rounded roof. That's an additional manufacturing expense.

The comparable box car and passenger car from Japan's Nomura company (also imported by Cragstan) don't have this distinction. Both have a rounded roof, requiring only a change in lithography. But that's not surprising since Nomura was all about keeping costs down.

According to Spur00, the 504 Freight Set had three cars; an orange Santa Fe box car, a brown NYC gondola car, and a black flat car with two plastic vehicles.

So one down, and two to go. Although I'm not optimistic about finding that flat car with the vehicles still with it...

I know, the box car never came with the passenger set. But they're all
Santa Fe rolling stock, and I think it makes a great photo.



Monday, February 06, 2017

Diabelli Project 143 - Flute and Clarinet Duet

The Diabelli Project is about offering my weekly flash-composition sketches freely to all. Like Antonio Diabelli's theme, these sketches aren't great music. But perhaps (as in Diabelli's case) there's a Beethoven out there who can do great things with them.

This week's flash composition is a duet for flute and clarinet. This is the second time I've sketched one out in the Diabelli Project series (see: Diabelli Project 122). The previous sketch was a study in polytonality. This time, I was interested in various ways to transform my initial motif as it went along. Although, it might not be out of place in a larger work with that other sketch...



As always, you can use any or all of the posted Diabelli Project sketches as you wish for free. Just be sure to share the results. I'm always curious to see what direction someone else can take this material.

Friday, February 03, 2017

Line Mar Match Box Construction 038 - Machine Gun

I found a Line Mar Match Box Construction Set from the 1930s, complete and with instructions. The box claimed the set made 100 different toys. I decided to test that claim -- one toy at a time. You can read all the posts for the Line Mar construction project at 100 Toys.


038. Machine Gun

It seems like every time I have a problem building one of these toys, it has to do with the dowel rods. And that's exactly what happened here.

The dowel that supports the legs prevents the dowel that represents the machine gun barrel from moving into the body of the gun as much as it needs to (per the instructions). The dowel representing the ammo clip in the back can't go any lower without sticking through the bottom of the gun. 

I think this is one where the artist fudged things a little. Not that I put the correct number of washers on the barrel -- but they're not nearly as thick as the artist thinks they are. The thickness would be correct for the wooden discs, but there are only two of those.



Thursday, February 02, 2017

John Rutter: Visions

If you like John Rutter, then you'll enjoy his latest release. Although the two works featured are separated by three decades, there's a stylistic consistency that's pure Rutter.

I found the newest work, "Visions," (2016), more satisfying than 1985's "Requiem," which is paired with it here. Rutter's music always seems to have a sunny, easy-going spirit to it regardless of the subject matter.

For me, "Visions" was both uplifting and inspirational. Rutter effectively sets his mystical texts in a cloud of impressionist harmonies. The obbligato solo violin flitting through the work reminded me strongly of Ralph Vaughan William's "A Lark Ascending" (even though RVW used a viola). The music had a more expansive quality to it than most Rutter extended works, and the harmonies were a little more adventuresome.

When compared to the 1985 "Requiem," one can hear maturation in Rutter's style. It's not a dramatic change, but rather a subtle refinement of skill.

Speaking of the "Requiem," this is the second time Rutter's recorded it. I'm not sure I heard a marked difference in the interpretation between this and the original 1980s version. The advances in digital recording and mastering, though, work to the benefit of the music, making gorgeous sounds even more so.

Rutter's "Requiem" is full of rich harmonies and well-crafted melodies that are unapologetically beautiful. Rutter's style is too upbeat to create a work that mourns the loss of a life. Instead, his "Requiem" is a celebration of the soul's transition from the church militant to the church triumphant (that is, from this world to the next).

If you're a Rutter fan, then you're probably already in. If not, this may be the place to start your exploration.

John Rutter: Visions, Requiem
Visions: Kerson Leong, solo violin; The Temple Church Boy's Choir; Aurora Orchestra
Requiem: Alice Halstead, soprano; The Cambridge Singers; Aurora Orchestra
John Rutter, conductor
Collegium Records COLCD 139

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Musical Treasures from the Cardinal King

Henry Benedict Stuart, the younger brother of "Bonnie Prince Charlie," was a lover of music and frequenter of the opera before taking his orders. After becoming a cardinal, Henry forsook the secular and became a strong patron of sacred music composers. This release presents a sampling of the Cardinal King' patronage, with music ranging from the 1740s through 1791.

Stylistically, most of the compositions walk a fine line between sacred and secular. Their polyphony harkens back to the late renaissance. The a capella pieces especially have an older 17th-century sound to them.

And yet when instruments are added, the accompanying patterns seem to have more in common with mid-Baroque Italian opera (albeit with an organ, rather than a harpsichord filling in the harmonies).

Relatively well-known Italian composers such as Niccolo Jommelli and violinist Carlo Tessarini are represented, but the most interesting works (to me, anyway) come from lesser lights. Sebastiano Bolis was Henry's maestro di Cappella for almost twenty years. And while he composed a large body of work, he remains obscure and his music mostly unheard. His works presented here are masterworks of choral writing. While seemingly simple and unadorned, they nevertheless use some very piquant dissonances to emphasize words and lead voices to a proper resolution.

Even more obscure is Giovanni Zamboni, who may or may not be the son of a famous lutenist by the same name. Zamboni's music seems to draw on Monteverdi for inspiration. His works are contemporary takes on the art of the madrigal. Like Monteverdi, Zamboni starts with the text and uses it to shape the direction of the music. Knowing these works were written in the 1750s, I can only describe their sound as retro -- and beautiful.

The Cappella Fede and Harmonia Sacra, directed by Peter Leech have a smooth vocal blend. Each line is clearly articulated, making the contrapuntal passages especially effective. This is a recording I enjoyed very much, both for its artistry and its spiritual authenticity.

The Cardinal-King
Music for Henry Benedict Stuart in Rome, 1740-91
world premiere recordings
Giovanni Battista Costanzi, Niccolo Jommelli, Giovanni Zaboni, Sebastiano Bolis, Carlo Tessarini
Cappella Fede; Harmonia Sacra; Peter Leech, director
Toccata Classics