Frescobaldi: Il primo libro di capricci

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COMPOSERS: Frescobaldi
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: Il primo libro di capricci
PERFORMER: John Butt (organ), Neal Rogers (tenor)
Unless you combine rare intellectual prowess with still rarer understanding of arcane musical devices, read Anthony Newcomb’s notes before hearing this disc. These alert us to an astonishing range of concealed ‘caprices’ within Frescobaldi’s wit and craftsmanship; he intended to tease and question the ear. How many descending hexachords can you identify, on and off the beat, chromatically decorated – particularly violent in the unequally tempered tuning (No. 2)? How many cuckoos inhabit Capriccio 3? Whence comes Neal Rogers’s un-notated fifth part, sung to sol-fa over four more played on the organ (No. 11). Butt delights with sparkling virtuosity and rhythmic expressiveness, occasionally risking metrical stability. The sound is intimate, heightening the tonal presence of the delightful 18th-century instrument. George Pratt