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Mahan Esfahani, Peter Watchorn - Dr. John Bull: Complete Works for Keyboard, Vol. 1 (2009) 2 CDs

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Mahan Esfahani, Peter Watchorn - Dr. John Bull: Complete Works for Keyboard, Vol. 1 (2009) 2 CDs

Mahan Esfahani, Peter Watchorn - Dr. John Bull: Complete Works for Keyboard, Vol. 1 (2009)
EAC | FLAC | Image (Cue&Log) ~ 608 Mb | Mp3 (CBR320) ~ 212 Mb | Scans ~ 108 Mb
Genre: Classical | Label: Musica Omnia | # MO0301 | Time: 01:32:48

The portrait of John Bull on the cover of this two-CD U.S. release gives an idea for the uninitiated of what to expect from the composer's music: it's intense, single-minded, and even a bit demonic (although the hourglass topped with a skull with a bone in its mouth is apparently an alchemical symbol). Bull was, in the words of an unidentified writer quoted by harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani, "the Liszt of the virginals." The most immediately apparent feature of his music is extreme virtuosity, on display especially in the mind-boggling set of variations entitled Walsingham (CD 1, track 8) and in the galliards of the pavan-galliard pairs. But the opposite pole in Bull's style exerts just as strong a pull: he is fascinated by strict polyphony by what would be called harmonic progressions, and by the close study of the implications contained within small musical units. As spectacular in their way as the keyboard fireworks are, the three separate settings of a tune called Why Ask You? on CD 2 are marvelous explorations of compressed musical gestures. Although the chromatic element in his music is only moderate (it is most thoroughly deployed in a sad pavan-galliard pair memorializing Elizabeth I), you might think of Bull as an English counterpart in extremity to Italy's Carlo Gesualdo. Indeed, his life is nearly as colorful as Gesualdo's was; among other episodes, he was forced to flee England for the Netherlands after charges later summarized this way: "The man hath more music than honesty and is as famous for marring of virginity as he is for fingering organs and virginals." Bull, for his part, maintained plausibly that the charges were trumped up, with the real motivation being to harass him for his Catholic faith. Annotator and harpsichordist Peter Watchorn provides detailed accounts of Bull's life, including an investigation of the elusive Walsingham, and also discusses the three Dutch-style harpsichords used on the album in detail. The pair of harpsichordists named on the cover do not perform together; instead, Esfahani is Watchorn's student, invited to participate in the project. It would take an immersed specialist to tell them apart and perhaps specialists are the intended audience for this first installment in an eventual complete recorded edition of Bull's keyboard music. An hour and a half of Bull may be a lot for general listeners, but even many of them will find fascinating items here.

Review by James Manheim, Allmusic.com

Peter Watchorn and Mahan Esfahani have a delightful lightness of touch on this, the first, volume of the complete keyboard music of the very English composer, John Bull. (His name in England is still that used to personify the English spirit – after its creation John Arbuthnot in 1712.) Our John Bull lived from 1562 to 1628 and was thus a close contemporary of Shakespeare and Byrd. But he's a composer too often overlooked in surveys of the period. The events of Bull's life are not well known; indeed, in some ways he's a bit of an enigma. His career (divided initially between Hereford and London) was not that atypical of a thoughtful musician in times of religious and political upheaval… cathedral, university and the Chapel Royal. After a somewhat tempestuous relationship with successive English establishments, Bull was probably obliged to leave England for good in 1613 as a Roman Catholic recusant. He spent the last 15 years of his life in exile. His existence in Antwerp is known to have been precarious and involved somewhat contentious episodes in relation to his employers. But – like many Catholics in exile in the more tolerant Netherlands – he survived to write profound and beautiful (keyboard) music, something (one senses) that he continued to want to do regardless of circumstances.

Indeed, these CDs are remarkable and thoroughly to be recommended (even if there were not almost nothing in the current catalog dedicated to Bull's keyboard works) because Watchorn and Esfahani (whose playing styles are very similar) successfully and convincingly blend Bull's dry but at times passionate drive to communicate and express pain, loyalty, resentment, attachment and an inevitable sense of exclusion. Their playing suggests a confidence born of being in the minority. On the one hand theirs is a technically "quiet" and unassuming (though never deferential or tentative) touch. On the other it's forthright and open, conveying conviction and faith – which must mirror how Bull saw his world.

The result is that we respond to the very essence of what was evidently important to Bull. We know he did compose vocal music, and can assume that some of his keyboard works (for which he usually failed to specify an instrument… organ, virginal, harpsichord) were lost in his flight to the Low Countries at the age of 50. The achievement of the two players we hear on these two CDs is to convey clearly, yet without undue interpolation, not just the strength of Bull's personality; but much of that personality itself. Repeated and careful reference to the works presented here (each one is illuminatingly described in the liner notes) suggests that Bull was indeed a forceful and self-assured character. He was rarely content to develop a musical idea for anything other than principled and sincere reasons, yet not in ways that their extra-musical significances could confuse or distract. On the other hand, it's plain that his music served his religious beliefs in ways with which nowadays it's hard to empathize. Watchorn and Esfahani bring out that certainty without suggesting arrogance through intelligent use of tempi, phrasing and a superb awareness of the structure of each piece.

In other words, Watchorn and Esfahani present more than a collection of pavans and fantasias as a serendipitous taste of a lesser-known composer. Nor a "portrait" effectively looking in at its subject. Their collection of almost two dozen pieces ranging in length from barely one minute to well over seventeen succeeds first in situating each… as a heart-felt tribute to someone whom Bull admired (not owed something!); or as a reflection on the composer's own grief (where it's quietly justified, and not indulged); or full of resonances like "Walsingham" suggesting more to contemporaries than we can imagine now.

This is an insight into Bull and of his works. But one that more than incidentally brings his world into sharp relief; it unselfconsciously knits together background (bells and folk song, for example) context and the highly individual inspiration of Bull. The pace and dynamic variation employed by the harpsichordists does more than support and suggest this richness; it illuminates and somehow authenticates it. Exemplary.

The recording is close, intimate and present; there is little reverberation: the recording was made in St. Mary of the Hills church, Milton Massachusetts using a ¼ Comma Meantone of Watchorn's own. This adds to the immediacy of the impact of the music and allows us to treat it as a recital and not a spectacle. To appreciate, in other words, the music on its own terms without interfering effect. Three harpsichords (reproductions of a Hans Moermans of 1642, and after the same maker in 1584; and rebuilt [in 1756 by Blanchet] Ruckers of 1646) are employed. There is a very informative booklet that comes with the CDs. This is a high standard of music making, well focused and affording great pleasure to listeners. More than merely worthy of being the only current survey of the repertoire, these CDs represent a very welcome start to what promises to be a highly desirable series.

Review by Mark Sealey, Classical Net


Mahan Esfahani, Peter Watchorn - Dr. John Bull: Complete Works for Keyboard, Vol. 1 (2009) 2 CDs



Mahan Esfahani, Peter Watchorn - Dr. John Bull: Complete Works for Keyboard, Vol. 1 (2009) 2 CDs



Mahan Esfahani, Peter Watchorn - Dr. John Bull: Complete Works for Keyboard, Vol. 1 (2009) 2 CDs



Peter Watchorn: CD1, tracks 1-3, 9-10; CD2, tracks 6-7, 9-12
Mahan Esfahani: CD1, tracks 4-8; CD2, tracks 1-5, 8

Instruments:
1. Zuckermann Harpsichords International (2007), after Hans Moermans II, 1642:
CD1, tracks № 1, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10; CD2, tracks № 6, 7, 10, 11, 12.
2. Hubbard & Broekman (1990), after Andreas Ruckers, 1646:
CD1, tracks № 2, 3; CD2, tracks № 3, 4, 9.
3. Hubbard & Watchorn (1990), after Hans Moermans I, 1584:
CD1, tracks № 5; CD2, tracks № 1, 2, 5, 8.

Tracklist:

CD1:

01. Prelude, MB 117 (01:10)
02. Lord Lumley’s Pavan, MB 129a (05:22)
03. Lord Lumley’s Galliard, MB 129b (02:13)
04. The King’s Hunt, MB 125 (03:55)
05. My Grief, MB 139 (02:00)
06. My Selfe, MB 138 (02:07)
07. Prelude, MB 84 (00:35)
08. Walsingham, MB 85 (17:22)
09. Fantastic Pavan, MB 86a (07:01)
10. Fantastic Galliard, MB 86b (02:06)

CD2:

01. Bonny Sweet Robin, MB 65 (03:43)
02. Why ask you? (I), MB 62 (04:48)
03. Pavan, MB 66a (05:08)
04. Galliard, MB 66b (01:50)
05. Why ask you? (II), MB 63 (02:01)
06. Melancholy Pavan, MB 67a (05:40)
07. Melancholy Galliard, MB 67b (02:23)
08. Why ask you? (III), MB 64 (02:40)
09. Chromatic Pavan, MB 87a (06:30)
10. Chromatic Galliard, MB 87b (03:31)
11. Fantasia, MB 12 (06:51)
12. Bull’s Goodnight, MB 143 (03:41)


Exact Audio Copy V1.0 beta 3 from 29. August 2011

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Additional command line options : -V -8 -T "Date=%year%" -T "Genre=%genre%" -T "Composer=%composer%" %source%


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==== Log checksum 652E71DE0F4A6B32487D5D97855EDABFA891156B7E04300C6A3A91AC4382E84B ====

foobar2000 1.2 / Dynamic Range Meter 1.1.1
log date: 2016-09-14 15:58:48

––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
Analyzed: Mahan Esfahani / Complete Works for Keyboard, Volume I: CD1
––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

DR Peak RMS Duration Track
––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
DR12 -6.17 dB -19.68 dB 3:55 04-The King’s Hunt, MB 125
DR13 -7.80 dB -23.30 dB 2:00 05-My Grief, MB 139
DR13 -4.41 dB -19.04 dB 2:07 06-My Selfe, MB 138
DR11 -4.48 dB -19.85 dB 0:35 07-Prelude, MB 84
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––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

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================================================================================

––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
Analyzed: Peter Watchorn / Complete Works for Keyboard, Volume I: CD1
––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

DR Peak RMS Duration Track
––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
DR11 -8.74 dB -22.10 dB 1:11 01-Prelude, MB 117
DR13 -7.52 dB -21.95 dB 5:23 02-Lord Lumley’s Pavan, MB 129a
DR12 -3.18 dB -17.07 dB 2:14 03-Lord Lumley’s Galliard, MB 129b
DR13 -5.76 dB -21.69 dB 7:01 09-Fantastic Pavan, MB 86a
DR12 -4.16 dB -18.09 dB 2:07 10-Fantastic Galliard, MB 86b
––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

Number of tracks: 5
Official DR value: DR12

Samplerate: 44100 Hz
Channels: 2
Bits per sample: 16
Bitrate: 932 kbps
Codec: FLAC
================================================================================


Exact Audio Copy V1.0 beta 3 from 29. August 2011

EAC extraction logfile from 16. April 2014, 5:15

Peter Watchorn & Mahan Esfahani / Complete Works for Keyboard, Volume I: CD2

Used drive : ASUS DRW-22B2L b Adapter: 3 ID: 5

Read mode : Secure
Utilize accurate stream : Yes
Defeat audio cache : Yes
Make use of C2 pointers : No

Read offset correction : 6
Overread into Lead-In and Lead-Out : No
Fill up missing offset samples with silence : Yes
Delete leading and trailing silent blocks : No
Null samples used in CRC calculations : Yes
Used interface : Native Win32 interface for Win NT & 2000

Used output format : User Defined Encoder
Selected bitrate : 128 kBit/s
Quality : High
Add ID3 tag : No
Command line compressor : C:\Program Files\Exact Audio Copy\Flac\flac.exe
Additional command line options : -V -8 -T "Date=%year%" -T "Genre=%genre%" -T "Composer=%composer%" %source%


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Range status and errors

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Filename C:\1st0m1n\!!! Dedykuję Najpiękniejszej Polce na Całym Bezbrzeżnym Świecie !!!\Peter Watchorn & Mahan Esfahani - Complete Works for Keyboard, Volume I- CD2.wav

Peak level 67.3 %
Extraction speed 8.1 X
Range quality 100.0 %
Test CRC B262CF32
Copy CRC B262CF32
Copy OK

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==== Log checksum 35D276D26951ED9F74E7FF5CCA3261E4DF0909D3323F9448E129E4B451BDD482 ====

foobar2000 1.2 / Dynamic Range Meter 1.1.1
log date: 2016-09-14 15:59:04

––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
Analyzed: Mahan Esfahani / Complete Works for Keyboard, Volume I: CD2
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DR Peak RMS Duration Track
––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
DR12 -7.18 dB -21.48 dB 3:44 01-Bonny Sweet Robin, MB 65
DR13 -6.93 dB -22.14 dB 4:48 02-Why ask you? (I), MB 62
DR12 -7.57 dB -22.01 dB 5:08 03-Pavan, MB 66a
DR12 -5.30 dB -19.75 dB 1:50 04-Galliard, MB 66b
DR12 -7.20 dB -22.08 dB 2:02 05-Why ask you? (II), MB 63
DR12 -8.70 dB -22.89 dB 2:41 08-Why ask you? (III), MB 64
––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

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Official DR value: DR12

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Codec: FLAC
================================================================================

––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
Analyzed: Peter Watchorn / Complete Works for Keyboard, Volume I: CD2
––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

DR Peak RMS Duration Track
––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
DR14 -3.96 dB -20.39 dB 5:40 06-Melancholy Pavan, MB 67a
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DR13 -5.85 dB -21.94 dB 6:31 09-Chromatic Pavan, MB 87a
DR13 -5.33 dB -20.33 dB 3:32 10-Chromatic Galliard, MB 87b
DR13 -3.43 dB -20.89 dB 6:52 11-Fantasia, MB 12
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––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

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Official DR value: DR13

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Codec: FLAC
================================================================================

Mahan Esfahani, Peter Watchorn - Dr. John Bull: Complete Works for Keyboard, Vol. 1 (2009) 2 CDs

Mahan Esfahani, Peter Watchorn - Dr. John Bull: Complete Works for Keyboard, Vol. 1 (2009) 2 CDs

All thanks to original releaser - 1st0m1n

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