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  • Jonathan Woolf, MusicWeb International

"take a listen to this rather wacky (but not too wacky) disc"

"Venerem is an ensemble that takes what it terms ‘European art music’ by the scruff of its neck. When you realise that the group consists of soprano Laureen Stoulig-Thinnes and her accompanying trio of Marlo Thinnes (piano, Fender Rhodes and arrangements), Simon Zauels on electric bass and percussionist Elmar Federkeil you will realise that this represents an exchange between aesthetics that is not for everyone. If you like Purcell, Vivaldi and the like on original instruments I think you should take to your parachute now as this is an album of what one should perhaps call Baroque Now.

Laureen Stoulig-Thinnes largely sings quite straight throughout. The group’s take on Greensleeves is to stress its folksiness in a way that isn’t too disruptive; you can imagine Fairport Convention not finding it too unattractive. The trio of Purcell pieces that follows gives greater exploratory opportunities. The jazzy bass and Fender intro to Music for a While (roll over, Alfred Deller) offers a cover version of the original as Stoulig-Thinnes alternates straight singing, with appropriate decorations, with a surfeit of inflexions and line-coiling. Marlo Thinnes is an elegant and often refined pianist and offers fine support. What power art Thou from King Arthur generates increasingly ardent responses, to the extent that the soprano tends to shriek her way along but much better is Strike the Viol where the accompanying instrumental trio sets up a jazz groove and Stoulig-Thinnes’s voice sounds much more comfortable and naturally deployed in a kind of inter-zone between the classical and jazz-inflected.

The combination of a Pavane played with Fender and bass and sung with refinement is a feature of the performance of Thoinot Arbeau’s Belle qui tiens ma vie and a soulful Strozzi Che si puo fare swings harder as it develops. You should know by now if this is your kind of thing and your view won’t be swayed by the deliberately sentimentalised piano musing (I think it’s deliberate) on Lascia ch’io pianga or the ruminative drone and Fender wash on Mariam Matrem Virginem, which I happen to like and think is probably the best thing on the album. As a bonus the ensemble is joined by violinist Kiril Tsanevski for their take on an old traditional French song from Normandy called Quand je menai mes cheveaux boire which is warmly textured and most attractive.

This is a decidedly personalised album though it’s not the first classical-jazz-folk album to come my way of late. If you want Vivaldi to be jazzed with tempestuous singing over athletic drums with a B section sung more temperately over Fender Rhodes, then take a listen to this rather wacky (but not too wacky) disc.


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