Howard Goodall is central to this disc. His name should
be recognised by any listeners who know the BBCTV's Blackadder series.
He wrote the introductory music and songs.
His UK Channel 4 TV music series have shown him
to be a beguiling presenter and educator. From this angle he can be
viewed as something of a Previn or Bernstein both of whom were popularisers
of classical music.
The 'Big Bangs' of the headline title, by the way,
are the 'five seismic inventions in western classical music - notation,
opera, equal temperament, the piano and recording.'
The stratospheric solos in the Allegri work (Winchester/Martin
Neary) do not rise and cascade with the frictionless facility you hear
in other versions but all the same this a very open and lively 'tactile'
recording. Going by the hiss the Allegri must be from an analogue original.
Almost ten minutes of Monteverdi from Christ Church
Cathedral is, by contrast, in DDD sound but the acoustic seems rather
enclosed. The five tracks mix the intimate (tracks 5-7) with grand-scale
brass-lofted fanfares. The 7'23" of Mozart deploys the fresh sounding
talents of Sumi Jo and Cecilia Bartoli and a hardly less impressive
circle of male singers. There is then a disconcerting time-switch to
John Dunstaple's Veni with three male solo voices.
Goodall uses his contemporary talents to create a 42
second arrangement of the Agincourt Song - rather a mix of styles from
the musical Blondel to Ulster-style drums.
Pischner's puissant sonorous style in the Bach is very
forward. Goodall demystifies Schubert by providing a pop ballad style
translation of Gute Nacht which is then followed by the unabridged
original from Siegfried Lorenz with Norman Shetler (not Sheiler, Metronome).
Then comes another gear-crashing transition to a flighty
Maple Leaf Rag from David Blumental. Next, Caruso reaches sonorously
across the century.
Fanshawe's African Sanctus is an ikonic work
of the 1960s and 1970s. The fusion of world music with classical has
enriched both streams. Fanshawe's populist approach uses plenty of drum-goaded
rhythmic material to speak to new audiences. Neville Creed and the Bournemouth
and Windsor Castle forces handle this with abandon: the African equivalent
of Carmina Burana.
Goodall is here as a composer as well. The Big Bangs
titles deliver the promised impacts in a pop-grips-classical confection.
I have already commented on the Agincourt Song. His Sanctus
from the Missa Aedis Christi was written in 1992 while Goodall
was staying in the hilltop village of Embrun in France. The Sanctus
vibrates with the sounds of the village's evening bells and does
so with a sort of chaotic ecstatic abandon. This glorious effect is
also drawn on in the towering choral finale of Hilding Rosenberg's Fourth
Symphony Johannes Uppenbarelse. The complete Mass would be well
worth hearing ... at least on this evidence.
The Strauss is nicely enough handled by Hanne-Lore
Kuhse with the Gewandhaus conducted by Vaclav Neumann even if the balance
seems very forward. The interpretation tends towards the earthbound
when it should soar freely.
The CD is a very miscellaneous assemblage which probably
works well as a reminder of the original series but which does not stand
happily by itself. For me the discovery was Goodall's Sanctus.