Pachelbel: Canon and Other Baroque Favorites (CD review)

Andrew Parrott, Taverner Players and Choir; Boston Early Music Festival Orchestra. Virgin Classics 7243-5-57876-2 (2-disc set).

The 1980's saw a huge upswing in the popularity of the period-instruments movement, and conductor Andrew Parrott and his Taverner Players and Chorus were right there in the forefront of the action. Today, we tend to take period instruments for granted, even if with the downturn in classical music recording in the 1990's and beyond, we don't hear about them so often anymore. One result of that situation is this 2004, two-disc, budget rerelease of Baroque favorites by Parrott and his players, plus a few by him and the Boston Early Music Festival Orchestra.

EMI originally issued all of the pieces on the discs in the late Eighties and early Nineties, the company recording all of them digitally. In 2004 they assembled the current program and issued them under the Virgin label. Frankly, there isn't a weak link among them.

Andrew Parrott
The Pachelbel Canon of the album's title is among the best I've heard (and there must be 800 recordings available). Like the other works in the collection, the interpretation sounds a little brisk, but it never sounds rushed, never breathless as some period-instrument ensembles play early music.

Likewise, Parrott presents the other works in the set with a vigorous refinement: Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 2; excerpts from his Orchestral Suites Nos. 2 and 3; Vivaldi's "Spring" and "Summer" concertos from The Four Seasons; Purcell's Funeral Music for Queen Mary; and others by Gabrieli, Allegri, and Monteverde. Perhaps my personal favorite, however, is Parrott and company's rendering of Handel's Harp Concerto in B-flat major, with Andrew Lawrence-King on harp. It's simply gorgeous.

The sound is also remarkably good throughout most of the music, perhaps a tad less vibrant in the two selections with the Boston orchestra than with the Taverner Players. Still, nothing is ever overly bright or edgy, so one need not worry about any period-instrument fatigue setting in, a condition common to such recordings early on, especially those recorded digitally. At a price new of only a few bucks or so for the two-disc set, it's a bargain, indeed.


To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click here:

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John J. Puccio

John J. Puccio

About the Author

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.

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It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.

When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job.

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa