One of my loving Swedish aunts gave me an elegant wall-hanging for my wedding years ago, an embroidered spice chart showing the uses of cardamon, allspice, cinnamon, cumin -- all the Swedish delights. After staring at the chart dozens of times, I found I could summarize it in one kitchen rubric: don't use cumin in desserts.
My somewhat oblique point is that some combinations don't work. Musically, some ensembles don't come together, at least not always. I hate to contradict "Ariel" about vocal technique -- he is a voice teacher -- but to my ears this performance of wonderful music by a great composer sounds like strawberry shortcake with cumin. The problem is the utter lack of blending between soprano Emma Kirkby and alto Michael Chance. Both of them are 'immortals' of the Early Music world, and I'm sure they've sung together often over the years, but on this CD from 2005 they seem hardly to notice each other. Ms. Kirkby's voice has lost some of its springtide loveliness yet it still pleases; however, she has begun to sing consistently just at the lower threshold of absolute pitch -- not out of tune, certainly, but bringing a certain 'color' to her consort work. Mr. Chance's voice has always had something of a hollow tubular quality, an 'alpenhorn' forthrightness that critics of counter-tenor singing have called "hooty." In this performance, his style and his unsupple timbre combine to dominate the ensemble in a way that I hear as disruptive. The two lower voices are shadowed, and the whole quartet lacks integration.
There are excellent tracks on this CD, but as a whole I can't recommend it strongly. On the other hand, the earlier volume 1 of Buxtehude's Sacred Cantatas, also with Emma Kirkby, is superlative.
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