Swingle Singers: Going baroque – de Bach aux baroques. Philips 546 746-2 (2001, digipak), barcode 731454674621
Compiled (with Philips 548 538-2 “Swinging Mozart”) in 586 154-2 (2001), barcode 731458615422
Compiled (with 10 other digipak-CDs of the Paris Swingles) in Swingle Singers. (11 CDs) Philips 982 632-5 (2005)
Who’d want it ?
Originally posted on Amazon.com, 19 November 2012
“Going Baroque”, the Swingle Singers’ second album, from 1964, is lovely. It was originally issued in France on Philips 840.555 PY, and in the US on PHS 600-126 with a different cover (there was also a Dutch release, label number 840.555 BY but same cover as US). The repertoire mixes the great hits and a few more obscure pieces, like Carl Philipp Emmanuel Bach’s Solfegietto and Wilhelm Friedmann Bach’s Der Frühling, and all those pieces are marvelous, especially in the Swingle Singers renditions. This was their first recording of Bach’s Badinerie (from his Orchestral Suite No. 2, track 1), which became one of the ensemble’s abiding standards, their latest recording of it being an extraordinary version with vocal percussion in the 2007 album Beauty and the Beatbox on Signum Classics SIGCD104. In the Largo from Bach’s Harpsichord Concerto (track 4), the sensuous abandon of soprano Christiane Legrand’s voice will make you swoon, and the rest combines the dazzling and the enrapturing.
So far, so good. But then, who’d want this CD? In the early 2000s, Universal, who held the rights to the early, Paris-based Swingle Singers’ recordings, released eleven of the LP albums recorded by the ensemble for Philips between 1963 and 1972 on as many digipak-CDs (they also released them grouped in pairs), which they compiled in 2005 in a box, “Swingle Singers”, Philips 982 632-5 (link and review soon to be posted here – in the meanwhile, see my review on Amazon.com), and this is one of them. But what was accepted in the LP days is infuriating in the CD era: all these albums but one time 30 minutes or under (and the odd-CD out times a mere 32). And Going Baroque is one of the worst: 24:37!
This would have been infuriating enough if it had been the only way to get this marvelous music (which is the case with some of the other instalments in the series). But not so: in the early days of the CD Phonogram Germany did the right thing, and reissued the Swingle’s two Bach albums (from 1963 and 1968) on one CD, Jazz Sébastien Bach, Philips 824 703-2 , and did the same with this one, pairing it with the contents of their third album from 1965, “Swinging Mozart”. That CD, Philips 826 948-2, “Anyone For Mozart, Bach, Handel, Vivaldi?”, sells for so cheap at the time of writing that it is tantamount to a steal.
However, Phongram obviously didn’t want us dairy cows to get too much of a good thing, since they managed to leave out one track from Going Baroque from their reissue: Handel’s Allegro from Concerto Grosso op. 6 No. 4 (track 8 here). Not that the CD was too generous in timing: at 50 minutes, it wasn’t the 3:17 from Handel that was going to make your CD player explode! WHY DO THESE PEOPLE DO THAT????
So, fans of the Swingle Singers might feel tempted to get Going Baroque anyway, just for that track. Don’t. I did (found it cheap enough, so I thought I’d give it a go). First, the Handel isn’t so great that it makes it indispensable for you to break your kid’s piggy bank. Second, the transfers are HORRENDOUS. Comparison with the earlier Phonogram reissue shows that this one is cut at a volume that is painfully loud, and with the stereo spread artificially widened, so that it becomes, well, totally artificial.
Now, if you still want to buy this CD, I don’t know, it’s probably because you buy CDs for their cover art and not for their music. For the music, go to “Anyone… “.