Muffat: Armonico tributo

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LABELS: Symphonia
WORKS: Armonico tributo
PERFORMER: Ars Antiqua Austria/Gunar Letzbor
Georg Muffat published his Armonico tributo in 1682. The collection, which he later revised for inclusion in his last work, Ausserlesene Instrumental-Musik, consists of five sonatas. These are, in effect, concertos which were inspired by Corelli’s models, and which feature alternating passages of concertino and tutti in the Corellian manner. Corelli’s presence can be felt elsewhere, too, as in the absence of a set movement pattern, the little fugues and the ‘walking’ bass parts. And, as Muffat pointed out in his preface to the Ausserlesene Instrumental-Musik, the sonatas could be played either on single strings or by a larger, mixed ensemble. Gunar Letzbor has opted for a middle course with two instruments sustaining each of the upper strands, a cello or violone, harpsichord or organ and archlute. The playing is supple and lively with incisive rhythmic gestures which keep the music buoyant. But if your taste is for a larger band, then the version by Ensemble 415 (Harmonia Mundi), with its modest woodwind presence may afford greater pleasure. The new issue, though, has greater expressive refinement, heard to advantage in the beautiful Passacaglia of the Fifth Sonata. Handel recognised a good idea when he saw one, as you may recall when listening to track 12. Nicholas Anderson