Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Piccinini
LABELS: Zig-Zag Territoires
WORKS: Qui comincia la intavolatura di chitarrone…; Toccatas
PERFORMER: Les Libertins
Don’t be put off by 32 brief tracks for chitarrone: this is a surprisingly enjoyable and enlightening disc. Alessandro Piccinini was an early 17th-century pioneer of techniques for this giant of the plucked strings – the theorbo or chitarrone. One striking effect produces a slurred, legato melody over rhythmically plucked bass; another has a loud melody above a contrastingly quiet accompaniment. In both, Pascal Monteilhet is master of his instrument. Piccinini’s musical invention, too, is arresting. He lived in important centres of musical development – Ferrara, Rome, Bologna – and embraced the new thinking wherein tonally purposeful harmony supports intense dissonance above: a chromatic toccata is splendidly daring. His melodic invention is fertile, with figures and textures constantly evolving through streams of variations. In the dance movements Les Libertins add the pulsing energy of renaissance guitar which expands the compass dramatically, from its sparkling treble to the deep-throated free-bass chitarrone strings. One further added colour is of chamber organ, introducing a set of variations and then lurking subtly in the background as they are worked out on the chitarrone. The recorded sound is outstanding, immediate and close yet free of the scrapes and scratches of slithering fingers. It creates an entrancing ambience, while original paintings enhance the packaging. Highly commended. George Pratt