Tag Archives: Period Performance Practice

Between Heaven and Earth

Sandrine Piau (soprano)

Accademia Bizantina

Stefano Montanari (conductor)

Naïve OP 30484Pau

reviewed by Neville Cohn

If you have not yet heard of Sandrine Piau before, I urge you to hurry to the nearest CD store to purchase a copy of this all-Handel compilation.

French-born Sandrine Piau is a sensationally fine soprano. Her singing doe not so much engage the attention as seize it in a vice-like grip. Much of the singing on this CD could fairly be described as electrifying; her singing inflames the imagination and quickens the pulse.

Listen to Disserratevi, o porte d’Averno from La Resurrezione and the brilliance with which she stamps her authority on the music. The suppleness and agility of her voice are phenomenal and she brings fearless attack and follow-through to the phrase.

Piau’s account of  With darkness deep from Theodora is given a deeply meaningful reading although the pronunciation of the English text is not always entirely convincing. An admirable ecstatic edge is brought to the singing of Rejoice greatly from Messiah.

In As steals the morn upon the night, Piau is joined by Australian-born, Paris-based  tenor Topi Lehtipuu; it’s a pleasing blend of vocal timbres.

Piau is hardly less convincing in Let the bright seraphim from Samson to which she brings immense authority and superb breath control. Luca Marzana’s trumpet obbligato is first rate, too.

There are a number of instrumental interludes of which I particularly admired the Largo from the Concerto Grosso opus 3 no 2, made memorable by Molly Walsh’s beautifully controlled oboe line. And even that most hackneyed of orchestral interludes – Arrival of the Queen of Sheba – sounds newly minted. Throughout, the accompaniments provided by Accademia Bizantina under the direction of Stefano Montanari are a model of period performance practice.

The Musicians’ Table


Ensemble Battistin

ABC Classics 476 6996

TPT: 49’49”

reviewed by Neville Cohn


The Musicians Table

The Musicians Table

Suite for flute, violin and continuo: Pierre-Danican Philidor  9’13”

Sonata for cello and cello continuo: Joseph Bodin Boismortier  12’35” 

Sonata for two violins in A minor: Louis Gabriel Guillemain  8’02”

Sonata No 2 for flute, violin and continuo: Jean Fery Rebel  8’13”

Trio Sonata in D Boismortier opus 50 No 6:  11’31”


There is no other place in Australia quite like New Norcia: a quaint monastic town north of Perth, Western Australia. Founded by Spanish Benedictine monks in the 1840s primarily as a religious and education mission to local Aborigines, it is now known as well for its fine olive oil and bakery.


With its first rate acoustics, the Chapel of St. Ildephonsus is an ideal venue for recordings. And this compilation is yet another in a series devoted to music of the French baroque, recorded by musicians steeped – and expert – in the tradition of period performance practice. This, though, is not for a moment to suggest that the performances are drably academic or tedious. On the contrary, recorded under the benevolent gaze of emeritus David Tunley, that pre-eminent authority on the French baroque, the performers wear their scholarship lightly; there is nothing remotely dry about these performances.


This recording is a cornucopia of musical delights, not least Boismortier’s Sonata for cello and cello continuo. Recorded sound quality is first rate with the most agreeable tonal bloom, an impression enhanced by phrasing of undeviating finesse. Moods are impressively evoked; the grave pace of the Sarabande could hardly have been  bettered and the Giga is most sensitively presented. An account of Guillemain’s Sonata for two violins makes for no less agreeable listening; it is a model of stylistic integrity, as are all the items of this CD. They come across as fresh as the morning, readings to return to again and again.


How fortunate we are in Western Australia to have in our midst musicians of such high order who routinely scale Olympus. Indeed, recordings such as these will remind listeners everywhere that, although Western Australia is very far away from the main routes of the international concert circuit, there are high-calibre musicians among us who are better than most and second to few. And that is abundantly evident in this fifth volume of recordings in the Perfection of Music series.