COMPOSERS: A Scarlatti,Cima,Frescobaldi,Marcello,Monteverdi,Pasquini & Vivaldi,Riccio
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Scherzi Musicali
PERFORMER: Borromini Ensemble
CATALOGUE NO: OXCD 91 (distr. 01865 300347; www.oxrecs.com)
Although all four of the Borromini’s musicians have Birmingham connections, their collective name honours an early Baroque Italian architect and their specialism is in music of his era and country. Their programme is an imaginative mix of solo and ensemble pieces, some not recorded elsewhere, and all relatively little known. Alan Davies plays recorder music by Cima and Riccio with fluent ease, and a Marcello sonata with tasteful decorations. Cello and harpsichord continuo sound rather distant from each other, creating some uneasy tuning and not wholly cohesive tone. The ensemble is best in two cantatas, by Scarlatti and Vivaldi, in which Sarah Westwood sings with real charm, if her lovely tone is at the expense of clear words. Her first group of songs consists of all the solo items from Monteverdi’s 1632 Scherzi musicali, not otherwise currently available as a set on CD.
One total surprise is the appearance of an unheralded organ, for two pieces by Frescobaldi, a Canzona (with recorder) and a Toccata, both listed as being for harpsichord. Frescobaldi’s preface explains that the toccatas are like ‘modern madrigals’, imitating their ‘songlike affections’ and fluidity of tempo. Richard Silk’s playing, like that of the ensemble in general, tends to caution rather than exuberance. George Pratt