the past few years CDs have increasingly found their way into
the gift shops of museums to accompany major exhibitions as
a struggling classical music industry seeks an ever wider market.
This series clearly aims to fit such a niche and also address
other potential audiences. So, what then is the target audience
for such a CD? Art lovers wanting to discover music, or vice
versa? Someone with a non-specialist interest in both areas?
Your kids? Granny at Christmas?
questions led me to consider the points from another angle –
what actually is more important here – the art or the music?
The work of the artist, Vermeer, is more widely known and his
work more easily identifiable than that of Nauwach, Scheidemann
or Hammerschmidt, to name but three composers included here.
In this respect Naxos have approached the selection of artists
in this series with a degree of good judgement and market awareness.
booklet note is a little short on substance to be as educational
as Naxos might wish, but it does try within the confines of eight pages to
outline the nature of reality and painting – you could fill
the space with this alone – and provide something about Vermeer,
the associated composers and their music. There are also five
decently reproduced Vermeer paintings that show the concern
with depicting amateur musicians and keyboard instruments in
his work. The chronology and sung texts / translations are useful
additions to assist in getting your bearings.
of the recordings themselves? Well, they are extracts for the
most part, which leads to the inevitable frustrations inherent
with hearing ‘bleeding chunks’ out of context. Composers of
this era (1632-1675: Vermeer’s lifespan) tend to be occasional
rather than essential listening for me. I was prepared for decent
performances but on the whole not much more.
how having low expectations can lead to some rich rewards. A
highlight for me was Heinrich Scheidemann’s ‘Praeambulum in
C’, played on a rich-toned and nicely voiced organ. Martin Hummel’s
baritone is well suited to the music sung. He is an artist I
would like to hear more of now but perhaps in more diversified
repertoire. The choral works, although well performed with pleasing
solo voices, merely confirmed the fact that Byrd, Charpentier
and Buxtehude are not exactly for me. I am sure others will
warm to the works more than I did.
two sets of harpsichord music by Louis Couperin illustrate the
difference that can be made by matching an appropriate instrument
to the music. Glen Wilson’s harpsichord, although of decent
sound, shows up a slight lack of crispness in his playing, compared
to that of Laurence Cummings. His instrument, recorded slightly
more forward and brighter of tone is also more appealing.
interesting release if you want a taster of mid-seventeenth
century music, but the knowledgeable should go straight to the