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REVIEWS

We are delighted to have received excellent reviews of all our productions to date.

Some are shown below:

 

 

 

"Adventures with Alkan"

This latest CD has now received great reviews from around Europe, including from the Alkan Society itself, and wide acclaim across the world from those who have heard it.from around Europe.

Here is a selection of comments, with the first being the official review by Peter Grove for the Alkan Society:

“Adventures with Alkan” is a well-chosen title for this enterprising collection... Several of the works have appeared very rarely on CD, and at least two are receiving their first recording.  There is a good sequence of longer and shorter pieces whose contrasts in style and technical difficulty make a programme which is easy to hear without pause from start to finish.

 

Quasi Caccia makes a good upbeat start, with effective alternation of highly active passages and more restful sections.  I have not heard this piece on record before.  It may not be as melodically inspired as some of Alkan’s other pieces, but it has a satisfying structure and an impressive number of technical challenges which Lloyd Buck meets in commanding style.  What I particularly liked was his ability to cope with the hurdles without resorting to an all-purpose loud dynamic.  Listeners may be reminded of some of the textures found in the Sonatine.  It has some of Alkan’s more advanced uses of harmony as well as whole-tone scales rare for the time.

 

Palpitamento is a short work which we have heard at a Society meeting, taken from an unpublished manuscript, and this might well be a first recording too, although the booklet does not claim it.  The Impromptu in F sharp is a single piece from 1845 which again is unfamiliar to me, as the score is quite hard to find.  [...] Fantasticheria is the first of two pieces with that name:  the second carries the sub-title Chapeau bas! and is in print, but the first is another rarity to be welcomed on CD.

 

Bourrée d’Auvergne, dating from 1846, is a challenging piece which needs good playing to avoid a sense of monotony in some of the textures.  Alkan’s typical multiple grace-notes are played in good style, and the quieter, lyrical sections are well contrasted.  The octave passages towards the end are well sustained, and this is another performance of a work which will not be familiar to many who think they know most of Alkan’s output.

 

There is so much variety among the Esquisses that a brief selection can never be fully representative, but the five here will certainly encourage further investigation.  No.20 – Morituri te salutant – is the darkest and most familiar of the five, and Lloyd Buck’s interpretation is a convincing one.  The other four – Les cloches, Quasi-coro, Pseudo-Naïveté and Innocenza – make a good contrast with the Bourrée and with the next four tracks.

 

The three Andantes Romantiques are fine pieces, especially the middle one with its “hidden melody”, and receive some particularly sensitive performances.  A recording session of No.2 can be seen on YouTube, using either the usual search or a link from the Amemptos website and shows Lloyd Buck to be a calm player with no unnecessary movement or mannerisms.

 

The Scherzo Focoso has long been a notorious piece, very rarely performed and never recorded for CD.  Here the producers have made a daring decision:  instead of using the studio recording, which was thought to lack spontaneity, they have used a live recording from the pianist’s recital at the Royal Northern College of Music.  The result is a less good recorded sound and a sprinkling of inaccuracies, especially towards the end as fatigue sets in.  Whether the gain in excitement is worth it must be decided by each listener.  I have listened to the track a few times and I can tolerate the imperfections, but I am not sure yet whether it will stand the test of time.  However, it is excellent to hear this frighteningly difficult piece at last.

 

[...]  I can recommend [the CD] both to seasoned Alkanians and to those less familiar with his music.  Lloyd Buck is said to favour long takes in his recordings, as did Ronald Smith, and while some of the more difficult passages in the CD have the occasional slip, most of them will not be too disturbing.  The eight-page booklet has some good notes by Buck and the producer, Jon Bell.

 

Amemptos may have released only six discs so far, but their one other piano recording, also by Lloyd Buck, is of music by Sergei Bortkiewicz, played on the piano owned by Rachmaninov which is now in the Holborne Museum, Bath.  It is clear that they have some bold ambitions, and I hope that the reviews and sales of their CDs will justify their enterprise. 

 

Peter Grove

 

 

"... this CD by the young pianist Lloyd Buck, issued by the enterprising Amemptos Music does much to portray Alkan "in the round". Not that Buck ignores the Frenchman's more virtuoso repertoire as the disc ends with the thrusting "Scherzo Focoso", a first recording and made originally while Buck was an advanced student at RNCM in a single "take" and as such (even not as such) quite stunning.

[...] A fascinating disc, then, giving the listener ... in secure and affectionate performances, many facets of Alkan's output and musical personality. Strongly recommended, not least as the recording is so natural.

Philip Scowcroft

 

"... the Piece-de-resistance, the Scherzo Focoso! What an incredible "tour-de-force" this is - I think the publishers were right to use your own copy as it screams "superb" at you and leaves you breathless. I first heard it whilst driving back from work, and I had to park up to continue listening as it distracted me from driving. The goose bumps were all there, and it pervaded my senses for several minutes after it had finished, and I found myself feeling totally exhausted, as though I had been trying to play it!! "

Chris Corbin

 

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"The Forgotten Romantic"

"The Forgotten Romantic" has been reviewed by none other than dutch conductor David Porcelijn, who recently conducted and realeased the first recordings of Bortkiewicz's works for piano and orchestra.  We think one short comment says it all...

"Wonderful playing ... listening to this CD makes it very clear that it is time to put this composer back onto the 'must be played' list" David Porcelijn

 

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"Excelsior"

"Excelsior" has now been reviewed by Simon Mold, well-known for his past reviews in such publications as Choir and Organ, The Organist's Review, Musical Times etc.

Below are Mr Mold's comments:

EXCELSIOR

New sacred vocal and choral works.

Soloists/Concordia/Michael Smith (org)/ Timothy Noon (dir). 

AMEMPTOS MUSIC  AM-C2  TT 58’39”.

Recorded in All Saints’ Church, Stand, Whitefield, Manchester.

 

There are many worthy pieces of British church music locally respected but not otherwise widely known, and Amemptos have successfully brought twenty-three of them together on this warmly considered CD. The majority have been composed in that accessible choral idiom that is familiar in – and, indeed, eminently suitable for – our cathedrals and parish churches, with the emphasis largely on tunefulness and a feel for what most members of most congregations usually find appealing. Some of the fourteen composers represented are professional musicians, others are amateur in the best sense of the word, but all know what good singers can do and have provided the 18-strong choir Concordia with ample opportunity to perform professionally and attractively, which they unfailingly do. They produce a bright, clear and clean sound, sing with musicality and sensitivity, bring a richness where appropriate and offer an impressive dynamic range. The engineers have favoured the soprano line slightly, sometimes at the expense of the lower parts, but this is mostly justifiable given the former’s melodic prominence. The choir is nicely matched to an acoustic that allows pianissimos to be savoured and fortissimos, indeed, to thrill.

 

The music itself is an eclectic mix: there’s a an Ave Maria, an Adam Lay Ybounden, a Pie Jesu and several other settings of familiar texts that sit well beside the famous versions we all know. There’s a measure of pastiche, it has to be said, although the most effervescent example, Simon Slater’s Handelian Gaudent in coelis complete with Baroque-style trumpetings, is nevertheless enjoyably effective! For me the most striking pieces are the rich and contemplative O vos omnes (Chris Hutchings), Sing a new song (David Meacock) with its brash organ part, and a modern take on I wonder as I wander by Paul Freeman.

 

Various soloists equip themselves well, including the current Head Chorister of Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral, James Orrell, whose excellent treble is particularly attractive in several high, soaring passages. Underpinning all is the knowledgeable organ-playing of Michael Smith.

 

After a particularly poor breakfast one might be inclined to quibble about the odd bobbly choral entry here and there and the mildly over-audible breathing, on occasions, of one or two singers; overwhelmingly, however, I am very pleased to recommend this CD to lovers of well-crafted choral music. All the pieces are, moreover, available in sheet music form from Amemptos.

 

Simon Mold

4th January 2009

 

 

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"350 Years of Organ Masterworks"

 

We are privileged to have received a review of this CD by one of the country's leading concert organists, and former Director of Music at Chester Cathedral, Roger Fisher.

 

Below are some excerpts from Mr Fisher's review:

 

AMEMPTOS MUSIC is a name which is new to me and this issue [...] breaks new ground in an interesting and considerate way.  In addition to an excellent recording of Simon Bell playing two fine instruments, we have a second CD containing an interview with Paul Hale [Southwell's Director of Music - ed.] about the instruments and the music.

 

The idea behind it is that there are many who would gain pleasure from the music, but who are visually impaired, or even blind and unable to read the titles on the back of the jewel case, or to gain information from the insert booklet.  This additional CD will be issued free, on request, to anyone buying the music CD who has problems with sight.  Others who would like to have it are asked to donate £1 to help cover costs - as the interview is interesting in its own right, this seems a bargain.

 

The recording of both organs is excellent and, in the case of the Nave Organ, introduces a new microphone technique to great effect.  Southwell Minster is a very narrow building, and the Nave Organ is placed in the South Triforium. At the eastern end of this site, is the Swell, then the Great and at the westernmost end, the Tubas.  This introduces a fundamental difficulty, as the organ is thus very wide indeed for a facing microphone, and, even if a stereo microphone is placed in the North Triforium, it is bound to be very close to the organ on the opposite side.   To overcome this, the producer, Jon Bell, has worked on the inspired idea that more atmosphere would be created if the microphones could be placed to pick up reflected sound.  This is an extension of the technique favoured by many engineers when recording the organ in Chester Cathedral, where the best microphone placement always seems to be when microphones are placed some way down the Nave.  [...]  In this instance Jon has placed his microphones in the South Transept, picking up reflected sound only [and] the idea is a triumphant success – the sound has clarity, balance and warmth.

 

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On this evidence,  SIMON BELL  is a very promising player indeed and his recording starts quite undemonstratively on the Quire Organ, with Sweelinck’s  Onder een linde groen – stylish, it has virtuosic brilliance and clarity. Buxtehude’s Prelude & Fugue in F sharp minor  is surely one of his greatest works and here receives a lively and coherent performance – notable for an absence of the affectations which can mar so many performances of baroque music these days! 

 

Similarly, Bach’s Fantasia and Fugue in C minor is convincingly free of silly mannerisms, although the ending of the fugue, seems a little brusque. In BWV nos 537, 543, 547 & 564 Bach sets the player considerable problems by writing a very short final chord. In very resonant buildings this is highly effective, as the listener can appreciate the abrupt ending of direct sound and listen to a glorious echo. In less resonant buildings, it seems appropriate for the player to cushion the sudden ending by allowing the tempo to relax  slightly, and even to round the final chord off by making a graded release of the treble notes first and allowing the bass to linger by a tiny fraction of a second. This technique is hinted at by Bach in BWV 541, where some chords are held for a quaver by the hands and a crotchet by the feet. My own teacher, Harold Darke was so skilful at this sort of thing that nobody noticed the technique he was using!

 

A highlight of this disc for me is Two Fantasias by Krebs (one for organ and trumpet and one for organ and oboe). The combination of instruments here is magical and the music portrays this composer at his very best – the effect is most moving!

 

In his interview, Paul Hale suggests that Best's arrangement of Mendelssohn's St. Paul overture is as good as Mendelssohn's original orchestral version, if not better! On the evidence of Simon Bell's brilliant performance, this is a view that I can readily support, while Franck's Fantaisie in A receives and idiomatic and fiery performance in which music, performer and the Nicholson organ seem totally at one.

 

Whitlock’s Fanfare, and Howells’ Master Tallis’s Testament sound very convincing indeed on the very English Binns Nave Organ and  Amemptos's  recording technique pays off splendidly. [...]

 

For a brilliant finale, we are back with the Nicholson organ in the Quire and here Vierne’s Carillon de Westminster is given a performance which is a triumph of tonal richness, rhythmic vitality and keyboard virtuosity.

 

[...] on the evidence of this most enjoyable recording, both [Amemptos Music and Simon Bell] deserve to flourish exceedingly.

 

Roger Fisher: 27-10-07

 

 

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"Words of Comfort, Music of Peace" 

Some independent reviews of "Words of Comfort, Music of Peace"...

"A lovely gift..."     Margaret Duggan in "Church Times"

"Brilliantly executed...destined to be a perennial favourite."     The Church of England Newspaper

"A lovely CD"    Rev. Martyn Atkins, President of the Methodist Conference

"..a delightful production, skilfully weaving together a mix of choral and organ music and readings from St. John's gospel."

"The production quality is excellent...the music tracks particularly benefit from the clarity of singing and authority in the playing."

"The CD is designed for personal meditation and devotion at home and as such is an excellent resource... It would also make an excellent resource for use in cell or small group worship."     Rev. David Rhodes

 
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