Il genio inglese

Alice Julien-Laferrière (violin); Ground Floor (Harmonia Mundi)

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HMN916117_Matteis

Il genio inglese
Matteis: Ground in D ‘per far la mano’; Suite in B flat major; Suite for Guitar; Suite in A minor; Suite in D minor; Locke: Suite in E minor; Finger: Suite in D minor, etc
Alice Julien-Laferrière (violin); Ground Floor
Harmonia Mundi HMN916117   59:17 mins

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This delightful disc paints a portrait of the ‘Baroque Paganini’, Nicola Matteis, the ‘spiritato’d’ Neapolitan violinist who left his native Italy for England during the culturally fertile years of the Restoration. In London, according to John Evelyn, he ‘played such ravishing things as astonished us all.’ It’s easy to imagine how the Italian’s ‘fantastic style’ struck English audiences dumb, with its felicitous mix of tuneful melodies, foot-tapping dances, dashing variations, folk-like colours, playful burlesques and theatrical confections dashed off with brazen virtuosity.

Matteis’s sunlit works are contrasted here with Dowland’s famously dolorous Lachrimae Pavan in a flowery violin version by Hamburg composer Johann Schop, and with the darker soundworld of Matthew Locke’s Suite in E minor, with its broodingly chromatic Pavan and knotty textures. A dramatic Suite by Moravian émigré Gottfried Finger transports us to the London playhouses via a theatrical Ouverture and lyrical violin airs. Bringing the curtain down is John Banister’s hypnotic set of variations on a popular ground bass. It all makes for a deliciously varied feast.

The musical world of Restoration England is brought vividly to life by the charismatic and joyful playing of violinist Alice Julien-Laferrière and the ensemble Ground Floor who weave beguiling continuo textures on harpsichord, theorbo, harp and cello. They’re highly responsive to the music’s vacillating emotions, and evoke a colourful soundscape where mirth certainly triumphs over melancholy. Accompanied by Jonathan Keates’s eloquent liner notes, this disc will warm the spirits with Italianate sun in an English clime.

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Kate Bolton-Porciatti