Collection: Music for Three Violins

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COMPOSERS: Pachelbel,Purcell
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi Suite
WORKS: Canon & Gigue
PERFORMER: John Holloway, Stanley Ritchie, Andrew Manze (violin), John Toll (harpsichord, organ), Nigel North (theorbo), Mary Springfels (viola da gamba)
CATALOGUE NO: HMT 7907091 Reissue (1993)

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This programme of 17th-century music for three violins and continuo reflects the rapid rise in instrumental music which took place in Italy in the early to mid-17th century and the influence felt by it. A framework is provided by two much-loved pieces from the latter half of the century: Purcell’s Three Parts Upon a Ground and the German composer Pachelbel’s Canon – in the original version and not the one you heard the other day in your local department store – and Gigue.

The texture of three violins is a rewarding one, and the writing by various composers for such a combination reveals many moments of gracefully fluent counterpoint. Neither the music’s caprice nor its more expressive moments are lost on these three tonally well-matched players; and at every turn they are supported and given additional colour by an imaginative and experienced continuo group consisting of harpsichord or organ, theorbo and bass viol.

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There are colourful effects and plenty of formal variety in the musical structure of the chosen pieces and, consequently, few if any dull moments in store for the attentive listener. Nicholas Anderson