Mattheson

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Mattheson
LABELS: Alpha
WORKS: Der brauchbare Virtuoso
PERFORMER: Diana Baroni (flute), Pablo Valetti (violin), Petr Skalka (cello), Dirk Börner (harpsichord)
CATALOGUE NO: 035
Johannes Mattheson’s writings on musical taste and fashion are universally quoted by historians of the Baroque, yet his own music is very little known and even less recorded. The 12 sonatas of Der brauchbare Virtuoso are an ear-opener. They’re advertised as for flute or violin, a common sales technique. Most are in four movements – slow-fast-slow-fast – and they are very good indeed. Mattheson ardently advocated the primacy of melody, and his slow movements float beguilingly past the ear, sometimes delaying moments of repose with Corellian skill, elsewhere shaping phrases like the singing of a human voice. Fast movements are driven by impeccable harmonic logic.

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The performances are a sheer delight. Diana Baroni and Pablo Valetti create a remarkable range of colours. They play to the limits of expressiveness, yet with great persuasion – the ‘honest virtuosi’ of the title. Their sparkling ornaments decorate but never distort, lyrical lines while fast movements have an élan, even nonchalance, which only absolute technical mastery can deliver. Börner and Skalka complete the picture with a remarkable range of continuo colours and textures.

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The inventiveness of the playing spills over into imaginative editing – improvisatory introductions, and an added obbligato and flute-violin dialogue to allow everyone to join in the final sonata. Commended unreservedly.