Desert Island Discs
I'm a keen armchair musician, although sadly (despite taking lessons in the Highland Bagpipes as a teenager) I play no musical instrument. As we approach Christmas, I thought I might provide my shortlist of some of my favourite recordings at the moment. Any of these would make a fine present for family or friends.
Charpentier, Music for Christmas
A beautiful disc of seasonal music from the French baroque composer, Charpentier, played by Canada's Aradia Ensemble and at a bargain price. The selection includes ten charming Noels (capturing the mystery of Christmas night) and the extensive In Nativitatem D(omini) N(ostri) J(esu) C(hristi).
Handel, Messiah (2 CDs)
Monteverdi, Vespro della Beata Vergine (2 CDs)
This is a much recorded piece - and deservedly so - but the new recording from Paul McCreesh's Gabrieli Consort has already become a favourite of mine.
Another popular piece which I love listening to at this time of year. This new release from Naxos is the first modern reconstruction of the Handel's London performances of 1751. It's inexpensive and features the famous choir of New College, Oxford, and the rising countertenor star, Iestyn Davies.
I love early music and over the last few years there have been many lively and imaginative recordings, especially in the world of Spanish American Baroque. I'm a big fan of Christina Pluhar's L'Arpeggiata group and their 'fusion' of different musical genres (early music, jazz, folk), using authentic instruments (Pluhar herself is a noted theorbo player). Their latest CD, on the Naive label, is called Los Impossibles (featuring the King's Singers and coming with a free DVD) but Amazon have no links to it. So, to get you started, try All'Improvviso. Andrew McGregor of the BBC referred to its 'toe-tapping continuo on baroque guitars, harp, lute and theorbo, some sparkling cornet-playing and lively strings, and you have crossover of the highest quality, from performers who recognise no boundaries in 400 years of music. Magical results, from the meanest ingredients, and it ought to be available on prescription to the clinically depressed.'
Le Voeu de Louis XIII
Many early music and baroque CDs have great interest for the Catholic. This fine recording from the Centre de Musique Baroque de Versailles provides a musical reconstruction of Louis XIII's consecration of France to Our Lady on 10 February 1638.
Hang On Little Tomato
And just to show you that I do listen to music composed after the French Revolution, here is a stylish and mellow album from Pink Martini. According to the band's founder, Thomas Lauderdale, 'we’re kind of like musical archaeologists, bringing melodies and rhythms from different parts of the world together to create something which is modern.' This is the perfect CD to put on at the end of a busy day: