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LABELS: Chandos Chaconne
WORKS: Hortus musicus (excerpts); Toccata in G; Suite in G; Ballet: Partite diverse in E minor
PERFORMER: Purcell Quartet
The north-German composer and organist Johann Adam Reincken lived to be almost 100 years old. He is remembered in history books in connection with Bach’s visit to Hamburg in 1720, when the 97-year-old Reincken famously remarked to the younger musician, on hearing him play the organ, ‘I thought the art of improvisation was dead, but I see that it still lives in you’, but his music receives scant attention. In fact, compared with his great contemporary Buxtehude, Reincken’s musical legacy is very small, so this disc from the Purcell Quartet is all the more welcome. Its focal point is Reincken’s only known chamber music collection, Hortus musicus, which he published at his own expense in 1687. It consists of six suites, or ‘Partite’, from each of which the Quartet has chosen a selection of pieces. The remainder of its programme consists of three well-contrasted keyboard pieces – a toccata, a suite and a set of variations – played with vitality and technical brilliance by Robert Woolley. Listening to the suites of Hortus musicus, I am at a loss to know why they are not played more often. The Italianate part-writing is elegantly crafted, well-sustained and plentifully endowed with harmonic interest. They are qualities to which the Quartet responds with insight and evident warmth of sentiment. My only regret is that these lovely suites are not performed complete; Bach thought well enough of them to arrange several of the pieces for solo keyboard – I rest my case. A rewarding release. Nicholas Anderson