“The music of the distant past continues to cast its captivating spell on young musicians. This is more apparent than ever as Houston Baroque releases a superb debut CD on the Raven label featuring the works of Buxtehude and Handel. Established in 2014 by Artistic Director and keyboardist, Patrick Parker, this ensemble lends its youthful ingenuity and spirit to the works of the old masters in a compelling collection of Baroque delicacies.
Parker steals the show by demonstrating his formidable prowess as an organist on the magnificent and newly rebuilt pipe organ at First Evangelical Lutheran Church in Houston. Buxtehude’s dense and complex counterpoint glitters with clarity over dexterous pedal work in the Toccata in G major and Ciacona in E minor, which respectively bookend the CD.
The seemingly tenuous connection between Buxtehude and Handel becomes clear when placed in context of the musical traditions of Hamburg, which influenced both composers. By alternating selections of each composer, the program successfully connects the dots between the various styles of music that existed at the time. Handel’s Italianate lyricism dances and laughs among the majestic pillars of Buxtehude’s structural profundity. Soprano Megan Stapleton deftly navigates Handel’s sprightly praise of nature in “Meine Seele hört im Sehen” with youthful agility and the pure, sweet timbre of springtime. Julia Fox delivers an energetic rendition of Buxtehude’s “Singet dem Herrn” with clear, penetrating tone and a confident stylistic approach. An unmistakable highlight of the CD is Handel’s four-movement Violin Sonata in D major, which showcases some of his most beautiful affects with haunting lyricism and exuberant melismas. Violinist Nadia Lesinska portrays each one with integrity of emotion and sumptuous tone. Here, Parker takes an opportunity to exhibit his remarkable skill as a harpsichordist in a collaborative role.
All in all, the selections are too diverse to mention in this space. Suffice it to say that Houston Baroque has provided its listeners with a diverse and delectable menu of selections, each brimming with enthusiasm and vigor. The excitement and talent of this young group is palpable as they take us on a musical adventure. The concise and informative booklet of program notes is an effective travel guide. We can only hope to hear much more from them in the near future.”
Clara O'Brien Assoc. Prof. of Voice University of North Carolina at Greensboro
“This CD of delicious Baroque music is an excellent introduction, a juicy best-foot-forward offering from the three-year-old group Houston Baroque. Every piece is a superb little gem...This CD is scrumptious Baroque easy listening. But a totally focused hearing reveals the very high level of music making these players bring to their music. Parker's playing [of the Martin Pasi organ] is precise and clean. His sense of phrasing and tempo is delightful. He makes a clear case that he should undertake a recording of all of Buxtehude. A handsome 12-page booklet is rich with photographs, performer biographies, and program notes.The sound quality is superb on both the instrumental tracks and the solo organ tracks...the music, taken as a whole, is marvelous...sopranos Fox and Stapleton, with voices of different timbre, have splendid intonation, excellent articulation, acceptable pronunciation, and lyric style. Violinist Lesinska plays the Handel sonata like a dream, along with Parker's stylish accompaniment on the virginal...Austin's playing in the Buxtehude cantata is clever and informed; Brogdon is facile on his instrument, as well. This is a sparkling CD, one deserving of your purchase, one that it is hoped is only the first in a strong series."
-Richard Parsons, Classical Voice of North Carolina
“A surprising recording, with an attractive program, showing the quality of each member of the ensemble. Stylish music making. Very good sound. The organ is splendid. I’m looking forward to more recordings and I’m sure that this ensemble will make it.”
-Max van Egmond, Bass-baritone and Early Music pioneer
“Patrick Parker is an innovative, imaginative, inspired, and bold young organist and harpsichordist. Through his musicality and leadership he has brought an important new ensemble, Houston Baroque, into being as well as a brilliant new recording."
-Jon Gillock, concert organist and retired faculty, The Juilliard School