Thursday, November 23, 2017

Maggalena Lombardini String Quartets deserve a second hearing

Maddalena Lombardini lived quite a life. Born in Venice in 1735, she was a renowned violinist by the age of 14. Guiseppi Tartini took her under his wing, and soon she had a thriving career as a performer and an instructor at the Mendicanti of Venice. At 31 she married violinist Ludovico Sirmen and the two toured France and England, playing jointly written concertos and works by Lombardini alone.

By the 1770s Lombardini had published several volumes of music, including violin concertos, violin duets, a violin sonata, and the six quartets features on this album.

The set was published in Paris in 1769, and they're very much in the gallant style of their day. Five of the quartets are simple, two-movement works, with clear, appealing melodies and elegantly simple harmonies.

The fifth quartet is something of a puzzle. It's a far more substantial work, with four fully-developed movements. This quartet reminded me of the Op. 2 quartets of Haydn. Lombardini's Quartet No. 5 is lighter and a little shorter than those examples, but it's the same character.

Lombardini was a first-rate violinist, and her writing for strings shows it. Every quartet is well-crafted, with plenty of opportunities for the players to express themselves.

The Accademia della Magnifica Comunitá performs these works with zest, adding a liveliness that just adds to the enjoyment. Why aren't these works better known? It's easy to cite prejudice against women composers, but there may be another reason.

Lombardini's career as a violinist peaked in the 1770s. By 1785 her playing was considered old-fashioned by Parisian audiences. She transitioned from violinist to singer for the latter part of her career. Lombardini retired from the stage and died in Venice in 1799. So her eclipse may have had more to do with changing fashion than gender bias.

Only recently has her music been revived. I'm glad it has. Do Lombardini's quartets rival those of Mozart and Haydn? Not quite. But they're finely crafted works that charm the ear. And sometimes, that's enough.

Maddalena Lombardini: Six String Quartets, Paris 1769
Accademia della Magnifica Comunitá

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Alla Piffaresca - La Rossignol masters of the dance

La Rossignol puts together an engaging collection of Renaissance secular music. If you're a fan of early music, many of their selections will be familiar.

There are dances from Tielman Susato's 1551 "Danserye" and Michael Praetorius' 1621 "Terpsichore." The selections from Thoinot Arbeau, Adrian Le Roy and Pierre Phalèse are also found on many releases.

So what makes this collection different? The instrumental line up varies from track to track. A full ensemble, dominated by winds, is followed by another for lute and single percussion. A few of the selections even feature vocalists.

And of course, the performances of La Rossignol itself makes this an album worthy of attention. La Rossignol is not only concerned with renaissance music but renaissance dance as well. They perform in costume and strive for authenticity in dress, movement, and sound.

There's a ragged quality to their playing that (to my ears) sounds perfectly convincing. This isn't art music they're performing -- just tunes for an evening's entertainment. The performances are loose but full of energy. It's the kind of sound I like to think would get a 16th Century crowd out on the dance floor.

If you enjoy early music, I recommend adding All Piffaresca to your collection.

Alla Piffaresca
Mische del Rinascimento per alta e bassa capella
La Rossignol
III Millenio CDA 1046

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Straco Express Layout, Part 59 - Rising Above One's Station

I don't often find things for the Straco Express layout at the York Train Meet. But every now and then something turns up. This time, I found a new -- well, newer -- train station.

I've had the previous train station since 2012 (see Part 17). The one I bought at the meet was in much better shape.

The graphics were different, but that wasn't surprising. I knew that Bandai changed them for different train sets.

What was a surprise was the actual shape. I had assumed that this new station would be the same as my old one. Not so.

Getting a rise

The two stations were similar, and served similar functions. Both were battery packs that served as power sources for their trains.

Both had basic on/off/reverse lever controllers. The differences were in the details.

My Aero station had the switch added to the front of the station (above). The new one had a lever attached to the side (below).

Different, yet the same

The new station also had a thicker base. Both use the same canopy shelter, though. And what I found most interesting is that both kept the same general graphic design. Both suggest that there's an arch for passengers in the middle of the building.

I like the way height of the new station. It lines up nicely with the Nomura passenger cars. I don't know yet which Bandai set this station came with. Yet.

Layout construction:
  • Pegboard: $4.95
  • Flathead Screws: $0.40
  • Molding: $2.49
  • SilClear: borrowed from a friend
  • Green Paint: leftover  from another project
  • Wood Screws: $3.60
  • Felt Pads: $1.99
Power Pack: $5.90
Small Houses: $3.00
Testor's Gray Paint for road: $1.29

Bandai Areo Station: $8.99
Bandai Station: $10.00
2 tinplate signs: $1.00
4 tinplate signs (with train) $5.99
Cragstan HO Light Tower $20.49
4 nesting houses $4.99
Tinplate gas station: $5.00

  • Two Japanese toy cars: $2.00
  • A.W. Livestock truck: $4.99
  • Taxi: $2.99
  • Ambulance: $2.99
  • Two Japanese patriotic cars: $6.99
  • Haji three-wheel sedan $3.00
  • Haji three-wheel tanker $5.00
  • 1950's sedan $2.99
  • LineMar Police Car $9.00
  • LineMar Pepco Truck $8.50
  • LineMar Bond Bread Van $8.00
  • LineMar Fire Engine $4.95
  • LineMar Dump Truck $12.99
  • LineMar GE Courier Car $10.98
  • LineMar County School Bus $9.99
  • Nomura Red Sedan $5.00
  • Nomura Police Car $2.52
  • Nomura lumber truck $3.48
  • 6 Nomura vehicles $16.99
  • Shioji Express Truck $10.00
  • Shioji Covered Truck $12.50
  • Shioji Dump Truck $9.95
  • Shioji Shell Tanker $10.50
  • Orange Sedan $10.99
  • King Sedan $9.95
  • Indian Head logo sedan $4.99
  • Indian Head (?) convertible $18.00
  • Yellow/red Express truck $9.99
  • Red limousine FREE
Total Project Cost: $300.30