MusicWeb reviews three recent Alto releases

Our friends over at MusicWeb International have just reviewed three of our recent releases on our Alto imprint (US/Canada street date 3/26). Below we have excerpts of these reviews, as well as links to the full articles. Please click on the cover images above to go to each title’s catalogue page for more information, including more reviews, track listings, and links to find these great albums on iTunes and Amazon.

Click here to read the whole article, with excepts from the reviews and links.


American Brass!
London Symphony Brass · Eric Crees

Fanfare for the Common Man is as thrilling as ever, the heraldic brass nicely distanced from the thudding bass drum and shimmering tam-tam centre-stage…  Most impressive, though, is the ensemble’s rock-solid intonation and impeccable blend. They are from the LSO after all. We can add to this the hyper-alert and idiomatic direction of Eric Crees… [who] leads a high-octane performance of Bernstein’s West Side Story suite

This CD is sensibly programmed, with inwardness likely to follow ebullience. Just sample the gravely beautiful [Samuel] Barber Mutations, which has a hushed, superbly etched quality. If proof were needed of the ensemble’s professionalism and skill this is it. What extraordinary playing, and how well recorded to boot… The concert ends on a high note, with a jazzy, smoke-hazed version of Bernstein’s Prelude, Fugue and Riffs. The band play as if to the manner born. They seem to strike sparks off each other at times. One senses that the players are letting their hair down at last…  Brass fans need not dally.

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Click here to visit the American Brass! catalogue page


Palestrina: Lamentations of Jeremiah, Book IV
Pro Cantion Antiqua · Bruno Turner

For all that the singing style with which Renaissance choral polyphony is performed these days has changed, Pro Cantione Antiqua does a great job. Their articulation could hardly be cleaner: every syllable is audible. Yet at no time does their care and studied enunciation substitute for expression and gentle love of the texts and their religious import…  Neither are they overblown beyond the need to allow these luscious polyphonic textures to bloom. The phrasing, the long lambent lines of the text, are approached this way: with regret, true lament, with sorrow…

You’re likely to come away from listening to the performance of this beautiful music on this CD both refreshed and with a sense of calm. [Bruno] Turner‘s understanding, and that of his singers, of Palestrina’s purpose in setting these texts is sound, perceptive and rich in insight. The recording [from 1988], perhaps surprisingly, hardly shows its age…  If you respond to Palestrina for the highpoint that he represents in choral singing, you should look very carefully at this CD; it’s the only one in the current catalogue with the Fourth Book – and well deserves to keep its place now that it has been reissued.

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Click here to visit the Lamentations of Jeremiah catalogue page


De Lalande: Choral Music for Versailles
Ex Cathedra · Jeffrey Skidmore

Here’s a lively, energetic and utterly enjoyable CD… They’re all lively, sprightly – yet substantial – compositions with Latin texts: motets for use in the daily religious services at the Court [of Kings Louis XIV and XV]…

The singing and playing allude to the universality of the appeals which the music makes – to sorrow, regret, a sense of doom, lament and elation. Yet at the same time there’s a confidence that comes from knowing how far the poignancy and uplift of the music itself can counter the pure feelings: balm, equilibrium, hope. The final ‘Requiem aeternam’ [track 13] movement of the De profundis is a splendid example. It’s as generous in feeling and expression as anything else on this wonderful CD.

The members of Ex Cathedra Chamber Choir… evince a precision and projection that makes the text easy to follow; and hence easy to relate to. Nothing is over-florid or unnecessarily elaborate. At the same time, expression and a sense of how the music was used in those particular circumstances are nicely blended with its longer-lasting communicative virtues.  Lalande ought to be better known than he is. If you want to spread the word, or just respond to his wonderful senses of pace, emotivity and technical brilliance both orchestrally and textually, this is a very good CD to help.

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Click here to visit the Choral Music for Versailles catalogue page