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JJ Walther: Scherzi da violino

Bojan Čičić (violin); The Illyria Consort (Delphian)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

JJ Walther
Scherzi da violino
Bojan Čičić (violin); The Illyria Consort
Delphian DCD34294   100:48 mins (2 discs)

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Giovanni Giornovich to Giovanni Stefano Carbonelli, Bojan Čičić and The Illyria Consort have made a point of championing the under-sung. Now their attention shifts to Johann Jakob Walther – not to be confused with JS Bach’s cousin the lexicographer-composer Johann Gottfried Walther, but rather a virtuoso violinist from the previous generation. Ironically what little is known of him comes from his namesake’s Lexicon of 1732 where it transpires that Johann Jakob spent three years in Florence polishing his Italian credentials, led the court orchestra in Dresden and ended his days in Mainz. That he was dubbed the Paganini of his age during the 19th century speaks to the considerable technical challenges he embedded within two published collections of instrumental music; and it’s the first of these, the Scherzi da violino of 1676 that is here recorded in full for the first time.

The 12 scherzos are variously designated Suite, Sonata and Aria, while the tenth is an intricately-reasoned ‘Imitatione del cuccu’ whose insistent cuckoo-ing is stitched exuberantly into one of the highlights of a set never less than well-crafted if occasionally a touch workaday. Čičić makes light work of Walther’s virtuosic gauntlet, audaciously secure in the triple and quadruple stopping that punctuates passages drawing on elaborate bowing and left-hand techniques. And he enjoys a close rapport with his continuo of bass viol, theorbo and keyboards. The ‘phantasticus’ flights of fancy could sometimes sound a touch more fantastical perhaps, but Čičić’s clean, clearly-articulated playing reveals a composer who has languished in the shadow of Biber and Schmelzer for too long.

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Paul Riley