LABELS: Chandos Chaconne
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Capriccio Stravagante, Vol. 1
PERFORMER: Purcell Quartet; His Majestys Sagbutts & Cornetts, Robert Woolley (harpsichord, organ)
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 0651
Seldom can performance be so indebted to scholarly investigation as here, and scholarship so rewarded, in turn, by inspired performance. After the stylistic revolution in northern Italy, the Mecca of string instruments, around 1600, most solo violin music remained handwritten. Peter Allsop’s booklet notes explain that Venetian publishing houses were technologically ill-equipped to reproduce complex idiomatic violin notation, and their commercial initiative was devastated by war and plague. But as this disc reveals, the relatively little music exhumed is extraordinary – intensely passionate, light-footed and frolicsome by turn. Farini’s extended Capriccio stravagante is a potpourri of remarkable string effects – the pattering of the wood of the bow on the string, forceful playing near the bridge creating dog-barks, whining glissandi imitating cats, and moments of excruciatingly dissonant harmony sending tingles up the spine.
Subsequent shorter pieces include glorious melodic contours in trio sonatas by Turini and Merula and, in a canzona by Picchi, the august sonority of four trombones first alternating, then joining, with string quartet. Three organ toccatas, ‘touch pieces’ which again rely heavily on the interpretative imagination of the performer, capitalise too on the sonorities and strange melodic intervals of mean-tone tuning.
The playing is infectiously uninhibited and technically immaculate – a programme of unqualified pleasure.