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Ludwig Van
Toronto Montreal

Daily album review 34: Quadriga Consort's seasonal offering endearingly low-key

By John Terauds on December 9, 2013

cold

Early Music is, when all is listened, and said, and analysed, just a big game of sleight-of-hand as each musician tries to imagine performance practices from the wrong end of a centuries-long game of telephone.

John Terauds

John Terauds

John Terauds, Editor-Emeritus of Ludwig van Toronto, is currently a Divinity student at the University of Toronto and a church music director. He joined the Toronto Star in 1988, was the classical music critic from 2005 to 2012, and continues as a freelance critic for the paper. He is the co-author of Roy Thomson Hall: A Portrait, a book written with Toronto Star Colleague, William Littler.
John Terauds

It means there are really only two standards we can apply to judge Early Music performers: How they fit into current practices and whether we personally enjoy the result — or not.

A 12-year-old Austrian band, the Quadriga Consort, has decided to look way west, to the other side of the English Channel (and even the Atlantic) for musical inspiration in 18 Christmas carols with pre-18th century roots in the English and Celtic folk traditions.

Like the cover on this album (mine was marked Deutsche Harmonia Mundi, but distributor Naxos is selling it under the Carpe Diem label) which shows a completely incongruous photo of a Swedish country gentleman circa 1890, the subtitle is equally misleading, claiming that the music is from the British Isles. There’s Canadian (Huron Carol) as well as French (Pat-a-pan) content here, too.

Niholaus Newerkla, the Quadriga’s harpsichord player and leader, has supplied all the arrangements which, fortunately, are tasteful and nicely executed by the six instrumentalists and soprano Elisabeth Kaplan.

The consort’s work slots perfectly into the current tradition of offering musically transparent, rhythmically lively and interestingly coloured work. The carols are familiar, yet there is something original in Newerkla’s vision for each one. Kaplan’s light voice is exactly what we expect for Early Music. And the ensemble plays with obvious pleasure in the music they are making.

An album like this — and there are many, including some very nice seasonal fare by the Toronto Consort — works very nicely as a quieter, lower-key antidote to the glitz and fuss of the season.

You’ll find details here.

John Terauds

John Terauds

John Terauds

John Terauds, Editor-Emeritus of Ludwig van Toronto, is currently a Divinity student at the University of Toronto and a church music director. He joined the Toronto Star in 1988, was the classical music critic from 2005 to 2012, and continues as a freelance critic for the paper. He is the co-author of Roy Thomson Hall: A Portrait, a book written with Toronto Star Colleague, William Littler.
John Terauds
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