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Sonatas for Three Violins

Ensemble Diderot (Audax)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Sonatas for Three Violins
Works by Buonamente, Fux, G Gabrieli, Hacquart, Pachelbel, Purcell, Torelli etc
Ensemble Diderot
Audax ADX 13729   76:26 mins

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This survey of 17th-century sonatas and related forms scored for three violins and continuo embraces Austria, England, France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands, and features several pieces likely to be unfamiliar. What every reader will probably know, however, are the Canon and Gigue by south German Johann Pachelbel. The especially popular Canon demonstrates a skilful exercise of the art of variation, as we find again, further into this well thought out menu, with Purcell’s Three parts upon a ground. Ensemble Diderot’s invigorating approach has considerable appeal.

A different kind of exuberance enlivens Giovanni Battista Buonamente’s Sonata, and Giuseppe Torelli’s Sonata a Quattro where, in the earlier instance, a degree of showmanship is called for while in the latter the formula points to the incipient solo violin concerto of which Torelli was a pioneer. Among the musical highlights is a sonata by Austrian Johann Heinrich Schmelzer. Best known for his string writing, his music is generously seasoned with local colour from the folk traditions of central and eastern Europe.

From the Netherlands, Carolus Hacquart’s Sonata combines elements of chamber sonata and dance suite with the more serious apparel of church sonata. Italian and French influences are strong but perhaps we can occasionally sense a more northerly climate. This work, together with a notably unusual piece by Bremen composer Johann Sommer, which contains a chorale melody to be sung or played, provides the framework of an excellent recital.

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Nicholas Anderson