De Macque/Salvatore

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: De Macque/Salvatore
LABELS: Arion
WORKS: Harpsichord pieces
PERFORMER: Michèle Dévérité (harpsichord)
CATALOGUE NO: ARN 68476
These two discs paint a valuable picture of Neapolitan keyboard music from de Macque (d1614) to Salvatore (d1688), with Trabaci (d1647) filling the gap. De Macque, discovering a new musical language, is the most interesting. He was the first to entitle pieces Durezze e ligature, ‘Dissonances and suspensions’; here a two-minute stream of harmony sidesteps every potential cadence until the last (played with a relieved thump). Consonanze stravaganti, ‘Strange concords’, is an extraordinary skein of unpredictable, often corrosive, dissonance. De Macque can dance haughtily, too, in prancing Gagliards, create improvisatory reflections in a Capriccio, and test technique in sparkling variations. All these are scattered, in seemingly random order, among attractive pieces by Salvatore, in one of which, a ‘Canzona francese’, chromatic scales display strikingly different-sized semitones, testing to the limit the harpsichord’s unequally tempered tuning.

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The recording here is uncomfortably close, every final chord released with a clatter of falling harpsichord jacks. The Trabaci disc is more sensitively recorded and introduces two contrasting harpsichords – single-manual instruments – the smaller of which is meltingly sweet. Another experiment with ‘strange concords’ (Trabaci was taught by de Macque) creates virtually static harmony, while a set of 20 variations (rather disjunct in performance) shows his remarkably fertile invention. George Pratt