Notes and Editorial Reviews
Trio Settecento--Rachel Barton Pine, John Mark Rozendaal, and David Schrader--is back, and this time the focus is music of the French baroque (previous releases covered baroque Italy and Germany; next comes music of 17th-century England). The rap on French baroque music is that it's fussy, heavily accessorized with chichis and swirls and pouff-y ornaments, preciously formal and stylized for the formal and stylized court of Louis XIV. This perception, while certainly understandable, undoubtedly has resulted in the music's relegation to a sort of members-only underground fringe of the period-instrument/early music revival movement of the last 20 years. Outside of a few backrooms of the recital
circuit, or a handful of rare, novelty opera-house reconstructions, the general public doesn't get to hear many live performances of this music--not so different from when it was originally performed--so when we do get a recording, it's gratifying that, as it is here, it's done with such respect for the clever compositional devices, pointedly emotional expressions, and the special nuances of the various dances and sonata movements. Ornaments? Yes, scads of them; but they aren't gratuitous frills. These three players know how to integrate them into the melodic and harmonic context as they should be, so they're an enhancement rather than a distraction.
Which brings us to this superb trio, experienced not only in the genre but as ensemble partners, who play on a very special set of instruments: Rozendaal leaves his cello aside in favor of his other instrument, a viola da gamba--a 1743 French bass viola da gamba to be exact; Schrader employs a copy of an 18th-century French harpsichord whose full-bodied resonance is very nicely balanced with the ensemble; and Barton Pine plays her "original, unaltered" 1770 Gagliano violin. The presence of these instruments is not insignificant: as Barton Pine explains in the very informative liner notes, "French baroque music is highly idiomatic to the instruments for which it was written." To this end the trio went so far as to set the pitch at A=392, as much for historical authenticity as for its decided effect on the instruments' resonance and resulting collective sound. The result is a celebration of the tonal qualities of these instruments as well as of the sophisticated and eminently repeatable musical selections and the virtuosic performances.
You could best find a summary of all that's great about this program in the final Leclair sonata, where Barton Pine demonstrates her stunning command of style, of virtuoso technique, and her obvious joy in playing this "glorious, ornate, and refined" music, which she refers to as "incredible repertoire". The ensemble shows its impressive cohesiveness in both style and substance in the two tricky Sarabandes by Couperin; Rozendaal is amazing in the Marais "La Guitare"; and if anyone wanted to offer a clinic on baroque ornamentation, Barton Pine's effort here would be the definitive demonstration. Yet I can't emphasize enough the solid, unwavering communicative skills shown by these musicians, which culminates in one of this year's more enjoyable--and replayable--recordings. The sound matches Cedille's usual high standard, captured in the fabulous acoustics of the Nichols Concert Hall at the Music Institute of Chicago. Highly recommended.
--David Vernier, ClassicsToday.com
Works on This Recording
Be the first to review this title