Shape of my heart (Sting) [4:02]
Hush, no more (Purcell) [2:49]
If Love's a sweet passion (Purcell) [2:52]
Dance me to the end of love (Leonard Cohen) [4:08]
Remember the time (Michael Jackson) [3:42]
Bella Olimpia (Banchieri) [2:10]
Le Chant des oyseaux (Janequin) [5:36]
Crazy little thing called love (Freddy Mercury) [2:50]
Your song (Elton John) [4:22]
If Music must be the food of love (Purcell) [2:33]
Dindirindin (Anonymous) [2:39]
Love of my life (Freddy Mercury) [3:22]
Ain't no sunshine when she's gone (Bill Withers) [3:06]
Lasciatemi morire (Monteverdi) [2:20]
Always look on the bright side of life (Eric Idle) [2:42]
Feritevi, ferite (Schütz) [3:16]
(Arrangements by Ludwig Böhme, Mia Makaroff, Sebastian Krause and Matthias Becker)
Calmus Ensemble
rec. May 2012, Echolux Tonstudio Leipzig
CARUS 83.379 [55:05]
This is very much outside my usual experience of Carus discs. The label has earned a good reputation for German vocal music of the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries in particular, and many have been reviewed on this site. Here, however, I see the names Mercury, John and Withers and append the forenames Freddie, Elton and Bill, and I think to myself: a baroque cantata by the Academy trained Elton John? Seems unlikely.
What we do have is a recital by the Calmus Ensemble of music across the centuries presented to ‘transport’ the listener and persuade him that madrigals, pop songs and baroque classical pieces lie ‘so close to each other’. Looking at their interests shows a group keen on Renaissance polyphony and 1920s chanson: a flexible group, then, but how successful are they in persuading one that Leonard Cohen can lie down - musically speaking - with Claudio Monteverdi?
Not very, I’m afraid. There’s no point taking a work of ambiguous erotic intensity like Cohen’s Dance Me to the End of Love and convert it to Weimar parlando. A greater sin is to ruin Cohen’s rhythm, his intricate verbal dexterity, and to impose wordless curlicues.
Elton John’s Your Song gets a cutesy reading courtesy of Ludwig Böhme who is credited with most of the arrangements. Soprano Anja Pöche has by far the best English but the men mangle the words so that ‘some of the werses gat me kvite kroz’. Love of My Life is a nice Freddie Mercury song that survives neither arrangement nor performance. The worst is yet to come, so stand back for Eric Idle’s Always Look on the Bright Side of Life, which you need to do when you hear what the Calmus Ensemble does with it. I took a near-terminal breath.
The classical things are much better; decent, sensitive Purcell, OK bird imitations in Janequin, predictably effective Schütz. There are little ‘interludes’ between some of the tracks - modulating moments where they go vocally from one track to another to establish a new mood, much as nineteenth century pianists use to modulate between pieces, especially to establish keys.
I’m afraid this just didn’t work for me. I was indeed transported but not, I fear, in the way intended.  The vocal quintet - soprano, counter-tenor, tenor, baritone and bass - just need far better arrangements, far more musical discretion, and a much more acute sense of self-criticism.
Jonathan Woolf 

I’m afraid this just didn’t work for me.