Songs of Love and Death

Not content with championing Britain’s post-punk movement, Britain’s Factory Records now wants to make classical music attractive to pop-oriented listeners. The Factory Classical label presents a repertory of serious works old and new, vocal and instrumental, marketed like rock, with such populist touches as artsy photomontages on the covers. All this would pass as gimmickry except that at least a couple of Factory Classical’s first 10 releases happen to be terrific. A group called Red Byrd (singers John Potter and Richard Wistreich, with friends on guitar and keyboards) runs through a wide range of material on Songs of Love and Death — from baroque madrigals to an evocative song cycle by ex-Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones — with exhilarating zest. The vocal group I Fagiolini (translation: the Stringbeans) sings Monteverdi with a vitality that forges links between Italy’s great baroque iconoclast and today’s adventurous ears. These two albums show a masterful planning of repertory, with performances to match, suggesting that when it comes to wooing audiences of any age, the best gimmick of all is quality. A

Songs of Love and Death
  • Music