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GRAMOPHONE (02/2022)
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Reviewer: Mark Seow

The emotional core of this album is Dieterich Buxtehude’s Klag-Lied. It’s a sublime performance from Arcangelo under Jonathan Cohen, in particular the purring palpitations from viol players Kinga Gábojáni and Reiko Ichise. It’s a passme-the-tissues performance from Iestyn Davies, too: through Buxtehude’s seven verses, Davies charts a remarkable way through this elegy for a father’s passing. Most remarkable is his use of repetition to generate an emotional narrative; that is, the verse structure does not control or contain Davies but he steers his way through it like some master kayaker. And of course, there’s Davies’s bewilderingly unblemished tone, otherworldly at times. In the generous confluence of sounds – breath of organ, Davies’s azure vowels, the melancholic openness of the gambas and the occasional pluck from theorbist Sergio Bucheli – it’s a blend that is enticingly confusing.


The Bach performances are almost as good. The first aria from Cantata No 169, Gott soll allein mein Herze haben, includes extremely fine continuo-playing from cellist Jonathan Byers. Loving but decisive cello strokes underlie the fabulously oxygenated fingers of organist Tom Foster. And it’s this pair again that make the Sinfonia to Part 2 of Cantata No 35, Geist und Seele wird verwirret, so exciting. Foster’s playing is vibrant, articulation like rattling dice, while Byers pilots a continuo team through lovely harmonic sequences. It’s a performance that sends electricity straight from bow and gut to the coccyx of the listener. However, there are some movements in which the band is uneven in its intensity. Cohen sets up a deliciously angsty siciliano for ‘Stirb in mir’ from No 169 but his violins do not quite serve up the lushness to meet the continuo’s blend of bite and provocation. A similar story plays out in the aria ‘Geist und Seele wird verwirret’ from No 35: there isn’t quite the sway or direction I desire from the violins. But these are creases in an altogether wonderful album entirely deserving of your time and money.


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