The Contest of Apollo and Pan

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COMPOSERS: Castello and his contemporaries
LABELS: Chaconne
WORKS: Works by Castello and his contemporaries
PERFORMER: Tassilo Erhardt (violin), Ben Samson (violin), Sally Holman (dulcian), Steven Devine (harpsichord and organ)


When a trio of ‘Apollo and Pan’ won the EMN International Young Artists’ Competition in 2001, no one in the audience at York questioned their superb technical skill, ensemble, and musical flair. But a niggling concern was the limited repertoire – for violin, dulcian and keyboard. This debut disc shows the ensemble expanding its horizons, here adding a second violinist and unearthing some delightful music.

Five Sonatas from 1629 by Dario Castello, some not otherwise recorded, provide the core to their programme. They alternate between three equal parts, with two violins duetting above bass, and passages highlighting the delightful buzz of the dulcian. Ensemble here, as throughout, is very taut, even when pathos demands a flexing tempo.

Pieces built upon recurring ‘ground’ basses create a sense of hypnotic inevitability – a bright major-key Chiacona by Merulo and a poignant minor Passacaglia by Marini.

Within a bare 35-year span, the music offers remarkable variety of mood, and of textures from four parts to solo keyboard for which three different instruments – harpsichord, chamber-organ, and spinet – are mean-tone tuned, warming sustained harmony and bending melodic lines. The plummy Italian-style spinet made by Colin Booth is particularly arresting.


Helped by excellent recording, clean and alive, this is a first-rate introduction to Apollo and Pan on disc. George Pratt