Thursday, 31 October 2019

CD Reviews - October 2019

Lutenist Alex McCartneyhas brought to life the music of a composer who was new to him until recently, and will certainly be new to most of us too. Jean Paul Paladin (c.1500-1565) was originally from Milan, but moved to France around 1516 and worked for the courts of Francois I, Charles III of Lorraine, and even Queen Mary of Scotland whilst she was living in France. The music presented here consists of a selection of delightful Fantasias by Paladin, all of which have an emphasis on contrapuntal writing – that’s to say, a number of melodic lines working through the pieces at the same time, not at all easy to write, or indeed play successfully on the lute. Yet McCartney hides any difficulties that these present, and the results are full of remarkably smooth lines and subtle delicacy. He also includes various anonymous stately Praeludiums, taken from Hortus Musicalis Novus, as well as two ‘intabulations’ (i.e. transcriptions into tabular notation for the instrument) by Paladin of madrigals by other composers, Quand’io penso al martir by Jacques Arcadelt, and Anchor che col partir by Cipriano de Rore, followed by Paladin’s Fantasias on these works. These fantasias, particularly the one drawing on the Rore madrigal are full of beautiful lines and invention, and placing the relatively ‘true’ transcription next to Paladin’s imitation fantasias allows McCartney to demonstrate the fluidity of Paladin’s own writing for the instrument, as well as his own deft touch and ability to bring out the singing lines of this delicate music. Another delightful disc from McCartney, well worth exploring.

Back in April I reviewed Oli Spleen’s collaboration with Birdeatsbaby, Gaslight Illuminations. He’s now released his third single from the album, ‘Furnace’, with the B-side being a version of Brahms' ‘Hungarian Dance No. 5’. Furnace is the final track on the album, and it describes a psychological rebirth after the spiritual and emotional decline and death of the preceding songs. You can see the music video to Furnace, directed by Steve Johnson on YouTube (below), and you can download the single and album at

(Edited versions of these reviews first appeared in GScene, October 2019)