The songs of late Renaissance and early Baroque England have been sliced and diced in various ways in concert and recorded programming, but the configuration here seems to be unique. The tenor Nicholas Phan, from Ann Arbor, Michigan, devised the program himself: pointing out "how little human experience has changed over the centuries" and that Dowland's melancholia had much in common with the Romantics' veneration of the lovesick solitary hero (both debatable ideas, but both stimulating), he assembles what he calls a pastiche song cycle from compositions by Purcell, Dowland, John Blow, and other lesser-known lights.
Bohemian composer Leopold Kozeluch earned himself a negative historical reputation by putting himself forth as a rival to Haydn and Mozart; badmouthing the former to the latter, he received the retort that "even if you were to put the two of us together, you would still not produce a Haydn!" German clarinetist Dieter Klöcker, an indefatigable investigator of the context that surrounded the mighty Viennese trinity, sets out here to rescue Kozeluch from obscurity with performances of a trio of highly idiomatic clarinet pieces. It's hard to disagree with a newspaper critic of the day, quoted in Klöcker's excellent notes, who wrote that Kozeluch showed "great imaginative boldness" but too often offered "mere copies of ordinary life" that were "prettily dressed up like a young woman trying to please her admirers by means of flowers and ribbons."
The arrangement of Bach's Goldberg Variations, BWV 988, for string trio by Russian violinist and composer Dmitry Sitkovetsky has taken on a life of its town, with multiple performances and even a sort of electronic remix by Karlheinz Essl. The appeal for string chamber groups longing to share in Bach's riches is obvious, and for audiences it appears to be another case of Bach's music standing up to whatever you do to it. Like most other annotators, Hyperion's Nigel Simeone tries to claim that the arrangement is on a par with the numerous transcriptions Bach made of his own works. It is no such thing; the string chamber texture by its nature adds expressive devices that were not of Bach's world, and he would have found Sitkovetsky's version bizarre.
Not much happens in "It's All So Quiet," a tender portrait of middle-aged frustrations set on a desolate farm, but nearly every moment is steeped in deep sadness. Dutch filmmaker Nanouk Leopold's adaptation of Gerbrand Bakker's bestselling novel moves with such extreme patience that it's borderline experimental, but the atmosphere ultimately provides a vessel for the tragic backstory only revealed once the feelings takes shape.