The Ensemble Diderot perform Meister’s Il giardino del piacere

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COMPOSERS: Meister
LABELS: Audax Records
ALBUM TITLE: Meister
WORKS: Il giardino del piacere
PERFORMER: Ensemble Diderot
CATALOGUE NO: ADX 13705  

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JS Bach isn’t the only musical jailbird to have served time thanks to the whim of a disgruntled aristocratic employer. Ending his days as organist of the Marienkirke in Flensburg, JF Meister had previously endured a similar fate. He’s not a name much encountered these days, but six of the 12 trio sonatas assembled in his 1695 collection Il giardino del piacere constituted the recorded ‘last will and testament’ of much-missed Musica Antiqua Köln; just over a decade on, Ensemble Diderot corrals the remaining half dozen to complete the project. 

The title nods to Reincken’s influential Hortus Musicus of 1687, and the suites follow no pre-ordained groundplan. There’s a pinch of Corelli here, a generous helping of Buxtehude there, while the French lace up their dance shoes to complete the polyglot seasoning. In places you might even be reminded of Purcell – particularly in the G minor Sonata whose dark dramas draw playing of deeply empathetic intensity from the Diderots – neatly counterbalanced by the debonair cut of the G major Sarabande’s jib and a beautifully delineated Passacaglia in the concluding E flat Sonata. 

Enriched by Philippe Grisvard’s fluid harpsichord realisations, ravishingly recorded, this is classy, fulsome, engagingly urbane playing. And as befits an ensemble named after the French ‘philosophe’, pre-eminently thoughtful too. 

Paul Riley

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