ALBUM TITLE: Cornet
WORKS: Salve Regina
PERFORMER: James Johnstone (harsichord, organ); Cardinall’s Musick/Andrew Carwood
CATALOGUE NO: CD GAU 335
Cornet (c1570-1633) is an elusive figure, whose slim legacy of roughly a dozen works belies his significance. Rooted in Brussels, neither he nor his music travelled; instead, pioneering keyboardists came to him, including Peter Philips and John Bull. Cornet’s strength was in synthesising foreign with local traditions during the efflorescence of the fantasia in the Netherlands. Not only are most of his extant compositions fantasias, but he was generally preoccupied with the demands of the genre – finding melodically memorable and harmonically suggestive themes, dazzling with figuration and register changes, and above all uniting the rigour of the stile antico with the fantasy of variation.
Johnstone’s enthusiasm for Cornet’s gifts radiates from both the programming and the playing of this disc. Opening with Cornet’s toccata, Johnstone immediately establishes the extravagance of the composer’s gestures. In the fantasias, Johnstone firmly guides the listener through their often sprawling architecture; in particular, his judicious paragraphing – communicated through agogic notes, or well-timed pauses – illuminates Cornet’s logic. The Salve Regina is restored to its original form by having The Cardinall’s Musick perform plainsong verses ‘in alternatim’ with those set by Cornet, an approach enhanced by the recording’s warmth. For keyboard enthusiasts especially, this disc is a delight. Berta Joncus