Three Baroque Instrumental Journeys

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Program: #21-05   Air Date: Jan 25, 2021

Dances from France, Italian double harp music, and “bizzarie” from 17th century England.

I. The Mad Lover (Théotime Langlois de Swarte, v./Thomas Dunford, lute). Harmonia Mundi CD HMM902305.

The Mad Lover Product Image
Violinist Théotime Langlois de Swarte and lutist Thomas Dunford illuminate aspects of the elusive amalgamation that is the 17th-century English notion of melancholy. The inconsolable 'Mad Lover' of the album title is reimagined as a character from the reign of Charles II. This tale is told through music from the pen of such violin virtuosos as the prodigiously gifted Nicola Matteis. Heightened by the exuberance and abandon common to those musicians transplanted from Italy, the beguiling nuances of this language of yearning and loss continue to echo in the popular music of our time.
From BBC Classical Music: Taking its name from John Fletcher’s Jacobean tragicomedy, The Mad Lover offers a taste of England’s sensual, passionate, sometimes wild, often eccentric musical soundscape in the years around 1700. Ornate and refined sonatas rub shoulders here with popular, foot-tapping numbers, many of them founded on ground basses that recur, like an obsessional memory, throughout the programme.

The two young protagonists in this mesmerising performance are violinist Théotime Langlois de Swarte (here in his debut recording as a soloist) and lutenist Thomas Dunford. Approaching the repertoire with a shared musical vision, they produce ravishingly expressive accounts from curtain up to lights down. They’re aptly ebullient in the felicitous G major Suite by Italian émigré composer-violinist Nicola Matteis the Elder, and swagger their way through his zany Variations on the ‘mad’ theme, La Folìa. De Swarte plays a noble Jacob Stainer violin from 1665 (formerly Reinhard Goebel’s), wielding its bow with chivalric flair in the elaborate Fantasia by the younger Nicola Matteis. His vocally-inspired playing is particularly effective in Henry Eccles’s G minor Sonata, with its pleading operatic melodies and dramatic outbursts.These exuberant and virtuosic works give way to broodingly introspective pieces, like Purcell’s G minor Prelude, with its lonely chromaticisms, the yearning Sarabanda amorosa by papa Matteis, or Dunford’s own solo improvisation – a hauntingly ruminative piece in which he coaxes prismatic shades and timbres from his sonorous lute. Harmonia Mundi’s resonant recording and expert balance contribute to a truly outstanding disc.

 John Eccles (1668 - 1735): The Mad Lover Suite:

1. The Mad Lover Suite: Ground. Aire V [03:41]

Daniel Purcell (1664 - 1717): Sonata sesta for violino solo:

2. Sonata sesta for violino solo: I. Adagio [01:57]

3. Sonata sesta for violino solo: II. Allegro  (1) [00:59]

4. Sonata sesta for violino solo: III. Adagio [02:22]

5. Sonata sesta for violino solo: VI. Allegro  (2) [01:08]

Thomas Dunford (b. 1988):

6. Improvisation for solo lute [05:34]

Nicola Matteis (1650 - 1714):

7. Variations on La Folia [05:15]

Nicola Matteis Jr. (1670 - 1737):

8. Fantasia in A Minor 'Alia Fantasia' [04:05]

Nicola Matteis:

9. Suite in A Minor: V. Sarabanda amorosa (Adagio) [02:28]

10. Diverse bizzarrie sopra la vecchia sarabanda o pur Ciaccona [05:08]

Henry Purcell (1659 - 1695):

11. Prelude in G Minor, ZN. 773 [01:44]

Henry Eccles (1680 - 1740): Violin Sonata in G Minor:

12. Violin Sonata in G Minor: I. Grave [03:19]

13. Violin Sonata in G Minor: II. Courante [01:41]

14. Violin Sonata in G Minor: III. Adagio [02:08]

15. Violin Sonata in G Minor: IV. Vivace [01:03]

Nicola Matteis: Suite in G Major:

16. Suite in G Major: I. Preludio [01:27]

17. Suite in G Major: II. Grave [01:54]

18. Suite in G Major: III. Sarabanda [03:57]

19. Suite in G Major: IV. Aria Burlesca [02:21]

20. Suite in G Major: V. Capriccio [01:51]

21. Suite in G Major: VI. Giga Al Genio Turchesco [00:48]

Henry Eccles: Sonata Quinta in E Minor:

22. Sonata Quinta in E Minor: I. Andante [03:29]

23. Sonata Quinta in E Minor: II. Courente [02:14]

24. Sonata Quinta in E Minor: III. Largo [05:31]

25. Sonata Quinta in E Minor: IV. Presto [02:25]

Nicola Matteis Jr.:

26. Fantasia in C Minor, "con discretione” [04:47]

Henry Eccles:

27. A new division upon the ground bass of "John come and kiss me” [04:51]

John Eccles:

28. The Mad Lover Suite: Ground. Aire III [02:01]

II. Un’Arpa Straordinaria (Das Kleine Kollektiv). Ars Produktion CD ARS 38-568.


Un'Arpa Straordinaria Product Image

In the development of the double harp, the addition of chromatic strings made the refined music of the late 16th century easier to play. In combination with the 'Clavemusicum omnitonum' from 1609, a polyphonic harpsichord for chromatic music, which is also used here, Das kleine Kollektiv opens new insights into the relevant repertoire. Vera Schnider is the featured harpist in this ensemble. Born in 1986 in Lucerne, she studied harp at the Lucerne Conservatory of Music with Xenia Schindler and in Detmold with Godelieve Schrama. She has appeared as soloist at KKL and the Lucerne Festival. She performs regularly with the Chamber Orchestra of Zurich and the Lucerne Symphony Orchestra. She is a founding member of ensemble proton bern as well as alumnus of the international ensemble academies run by Ensemble Modern and Ensemble Boswil. 

From Music Web International:  The harp has played an important role throughout music history. It was especially revered in Italy in the first half of the 17th century, where it was used not only as a solo instrument, but also for the realisation of the basso continuo. This was all made possible by technical developments in the previous century, especially the invention of the arpa doppia, a harp with two parallel rows of strings, which made the previously diatonic instrument fully chromatic. The present disc explores the repertoire for the harp and the various roles it played at the music scene in 17th-century Italy.

We need to precise the wording of "repertoire for the harp". Relatively few music was specifically written for the instrument. Some composers mentioned it expressis verbis, such as Giovanni Maria Trabaci, in his Ancidetemi pur, Per l'Arpa. However, harpists usually played music that was also suitable for performances at keyboard and plucked instruments. The harp was sometimes specifically mentioned as one of the alternatives in the titles of printed editions. Collections of vocal music frequently mentioned the harp as one of the instruments that could be used to support a singer.

The introduction of chromatic strings went along with experiments in the field of harmony, which resulted in the construction of the chromatic harpsichord, which had split sharp keys. It reflected the ideal of pure thirds. For this recording, Johannes Keller plays the reconstruction of such an instrument, called clavemusicum omnitonum, after an instrument built in 1609 by Vito Trasuntino, and preserved in Bologna.

Vera Schnider, in her liner-notes, points out the possibilities of the use of the harp in combination with this keyboard. "The Arpa Doppia has 21 strings per octave, consisting of a central row of seven strings tuned to the chromatic scale and two outer rows tuned to the diatonic scale. If the fundamental concept of the two equally tuned outer rows of strings is broken, it is then possible to experiment with different tunings in accordance with the music at hand. It also opens up a range of possibilities whose exploration of particularly interesting in connection with the Clavemusicum".

Although some pieces of instrumental music seem to be about the exploration of harmonic possibilities as such, harmony was in the first place a tool of expression, certainly in vocal music. The ideal of the time, propagated first by Giulio Caccini, was the expression of affetti, the emotions which the text aimed at communicating to the audience. The emotions of a protagonist could ideally be depicted by the use of dissonances and chromaticism. The present disc includes several fine examples, such as Domenico Mazzocchi's Lagrime amare, with the subtitle "Magdalene appeals to her tears". It opens with these words: "You bitter tears, take pity and come to the aid of a languishing soul". Composers had a strong preference for texts of a lamenting or languishing nature. Sigismondo d'India's Piange Madonna says: "My angel weeps and I take pleasure in her weeping as if it were my own". Giovanni Valentini's Ti lascio anima mia includes the phrase: "[With] my parting your pain hurts me more than death".

Some instrumental pieces specifically refer to their use of harmony, such as Ascanio Mayone's Toccata IV per il Cimbalo Cromatico, here played at the harp. A frequently used term was stravaganza, which generally refers to a piece with an uncommon character, mostly in harmonic matters. Michael Tilmouth, in his description of this word in New Grove, refers to "harmonic mannerisms" with regard to a piece by Giovanni de Macque, who is here represented with a similar piece, Seconda stravaganza, which is full of dissonances. He is one of the professional harpists included in the programme. The others are Francesco Lambardo and Ippolito Tartaglino; it is telling that they were also organists, which further underlines the connection between the harp and the keyboard and their repertoire.

Not all the music is played as it was probably intended in the first place by the composer. Two canzonas by Girolamo Frescobaldi for a treble part and a bass are performed here in different ways: in one of them, the violin takes the upper part, whereas the harp plays the bass. In the other it is the harp which plays the treble, and the violone takes +care of the bass part. Gregorio Strozzi's highly experimental Toccata I is shared by harp and clavemusicum. Giovanni Valentini's Ti lascio anima mia is a duet for two voices. Here one part is sung, the other played at the violin.

Valentini is also the composer of the intriguing Sonata enharmonica, a basically rather simple piece, with a "seemingly monotonous compositional structure", as Vera Schnider writes. However, "[due] to the extended meantone temperament, micro-intervals (B flat and A sharp, E flat and D sharp etc.) collide at the end of each phrase".

This is indicative of the many surprises one is going to meet while listening to this disc. This programme is a perfect illustration of what happens in a time of change in musical aethetics. Composers like to leave the well-trodden paths and discover news grounds, not only technically, but also in the field of expression. The harp, with its harmonic possibilities, but also its range of colours and dynamics, is the perfect instrument to bring the world of the early 17th century to life. The result is a highly fascinating recital, performed by experts on their respective instruments. The performances are brilliant, without exception, and Lina Lopez deserves praise for her expressive performances of the vocal pieces.

The liner-notes are very informative and help the reader to put this music into its historical context. The booklet also includes details about the instruments, as well as the lyrics with translations. The production standard is exemplary.

Johan van Veen

Francesco LAMBARDO (c1587-1642)
Toccata [2:19]

Biagio MARINI (1594-1663)
Sonata IV per sonar con due corde [op. 8] [7:32]
Le Rugiade [3:10]

Giovanni DE MACQUE (1548/50-1614)
Seconda Stravaganza [2:03]

Invito all'Amoroso riposo [2:38]

Girolamo FRESCOBALDI (1583-1643)
Canzon IV à 2. Canto e Basso [3:08]

Ascanio MAYONE (c1565-1627)
Recercar sopra il Canto Fermo di Costantio Festa [3:18]

Canzon I à 2. Canto e Basso [3:18]

Ippolito TARTAGLINO (c1587-1642)
Canzon sopra Susanna [4:03]

Sigismondo D'INDIA (c1582-1629)
Piange Madonna [2:34]

Ascanio MAYONE
Toccata IV per il Cimbalo Cromatico [3:05]

Domenico MAZZOCCHI (1592-1665)
Lagrime amare [4:48]

Giovanni VALENTINI (c1582-1649)
Sonata enharmonica [4:43]
Ti lascio anima mia [6:06]

Gregorio STROZZI (c1615-after 1687)
Toccata I [7:21]

Sigismondo D'INDIA
Musica a due voci sopra l'aria di Ruggiero [4:34] 

III. Barricades (Thomas Dunford, archlute/Jean Rondeau, harpsichord). Erato CD 

Jean Rondeau - Barricades

Jean Rondeau, harpsichord
Thomas Dunford, archlute
Lea Desandre, mezzo-soprano
Marc Mauillon, baritone
Myriam Rignol, viola da gamba

The repertoire on the album features music from the court at Versailles during the reigns of Louis XIV and Louis XV: François Couperin (1668 - 1733), Robert De Visée (v. 1650-1665 - after 1732), Michel Lambert (1610-1696), Marin Marais (1656 - 1728) Marc-Antoine Charpentier (1643-1704), Jean-Henry D’Anglebert (1629- 1691) Antoine Forqueray (1672-1745) Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683-1764).

“Both of us have grown up with this music from the cradle of our earliest infancy; […] It is music that allowed us to become what we are, while at the same time encouraging us to question things constantly. […] Now, playing the music – because, as we all know, we play rather than make music – has become a part that each of us plays, played here as a double act. Each one for himself, with his instrument as a crucible, and at the same time each of us for the other, since after all we are engaged in a performance. We don’t know how to play alone. This is the paradox of the game of music: a cross between extremely precise rules for how to play – how to read this cryptic language we spend our life deciphering, like hieroglyphs – and the magic to which it leads us – its at once organic and dreamlike dimension. This is where we find our shared expression: in a shared ordeal, we still don’t fully understand. […] Our playing goes far beyond dialogue: for us, it is not about responding to each other so much as it is about questioning and inviting our listeners to join us in this exploration with no answer or resolution. […] So we brood over this music, we play it endlessly, and we play endlessly. That is precisely what we do in this programme composed almost exclusively of rondos (refrain–verse–refrain–verse), and pieces with repeats in binary form.” - Jean Rondeau

From Listeners may be puzzled to see this release of French Baroque pieces by lutenist Thomas Dunford (a Frenchman despite his English Renaissance-ready name) and harpsichordist Jean Rondeau, for the combination of lute and harpsichord did not exist as such during the period. The pair has taken a stab at an argument for authenticity, telling the New York Times that "[w]hen you think of Lully’s orchestra at Versailles, there was MaraisRobert de ViséeCouperin. These guys would play together. And it must have sounded amazing. Couperin and de Visée must have heard each other’s music." Perhaps, but it doesn't really matter either way. This is an entirely fresh approach to the music of CouperinCharpentierde Visée, and various lesser-known composers. It would be wrong to say that the pieces are "arranged" for lute and harpsichord (and sometimes voice), for the creation of the sound is a bit more spontaneous than that. It is not quite improvised, either, although it had its roots in improvisation.

Instead, Dunford and Rondeau take lute pieces or keyboard pieces, and a few that originated with neither instrument (hear the gorgeous selection from Marais' Pièces de viole), assigning the melody to the intended instrument and allowing the other players to add harmonies and ornamented lines. It's not alien to the concept of continuo accompaniment, but the effect is unique and often haunting. Dunford and Rondeau are deliberate and pleasantly rambling, but the dance rhythms of the pieces are not lost. The players may or may not convince listeners that their reading is in keeping with the historical spirit of the music, but even the unconvinced may well find beauty in this recording.              

François Couperin

01. Second Livre de pièces de clavecin, Sixième Ordre: Les baricades mïstérieuses [3:20]

Robert de Visée
Pièces de théorbe et de luth, Suite No. 7 en ré mineur
02. I. Allemande “La Royale” [2:23]
03. II. Courante I [1:36]
04. III. Sarabande [2:33]
05. IV. Gavotte [0:51]
06. V. Chaconne [3:32]
07. VI. Mascarade, rondeau [1:13]

Michel Lambert
08. Mes jours s’en vont finir [3:44]

Marin Marais
09. Pièces de viole, Livre II, Suite No. 3 en ré majeur: Les voix humaines [4:05]

François Couperin
10. L’Art de toucher le clavecin: Premier Prélude [1:24)
11. Second Livre de pièces de clavecin, Septième Ordre: I. La Ménetou. Rondeau, gracieusement, sans lenteur [3:35]

Marin Marais
12. Pièces de viole, Livre IV, Suite d’un goût étranger: La Rêveuse [4:58]

François Couperin
13. Troisième Livre de pièces de clavecin, Quinzième Ordre: II. Le Dodo ou L’Amour au berceau. Rondeau, sur le mouvement des berçeuses [6:09]

Marc-Antoine Charpentier
14. Sans frayeur dans ce bois, H. 467 [2:56]

Jean-Henry d’Anglebert
Suite No. 3 en ré mineur
15. I. Prélude [6:07]
16. VI. Sarabande Grave. Lentement [4:01]

Antoine Forqueray
Pèces de viole, Suite No. 1 en ré mineur
17. V. La Portugaise. Marqué et d’aplomb [3:46]
18. VI. La Sylva. Très tendrement [5:48]
19. VII. Jupiter. Modérément [4:40]

Jean-Philippe Rameau
20. Les Fêtes d’Hébé, Act I: “Je vous revois” (Le Ruisseau, La Naïade) [2:51]


Composer Info

John Eccles (1668 - 1735), Daniel Purcell (1664 - 1717), Thomas Dunford (b. 1988), Nicola Matteis (1650 - 1714). Nicola Matteis Jr. (1670 - 1737), Henry Purcell (1659 - 1695), Henry Eccles (1680 - 1740), Francesco LAMBARDO (c1587-1642), Biagio MARINI (1594-1663), Giovanni DE MACQUE (1548/50-1614), Girolamo FRESCOBALDI (1583-1643), Ascanio MAYONE (c1565-1627), Ippolito TARTAGLINO (c1587-1642), Sigismondo D'INDIA (c1582-1629), Domenico MAZZOCCHI (1592-1665), Giovanni VALENTINI (c1582-1649), Gregorio STROZZI (c1615-after 1687), François Couperin (1668 - 1733), Robert De Visée (v. 1650-1665 - after 1732), Michel Lambert (1610-1696), Marin Marais (1656 - 1728), Marc-Antoine Charpentier (1643-1704), Jean-Henry D’Anglebert (1629- 1691), Antoine Forqueray (1672-1745), Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683-1764).

CD Info

Harmonia Mundi CD HMM902305, Ars Produktion CD ARS 38-568,