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In Stile Italiano

Bach,J.s. / Bagliano / Brembeck
Release Date: 01/31/2012 
Label:  Musicaphon   Catalog #: 56864  

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

LA CARTE DE TENDRE Ulrike Volkhardt (rec); Ann Morgan (hpd) MUSICAPHON 56941 (79:33)


BACH Aria variata alla maniera italiana, BWV 989. Sonatas: in a, BWV 1020; in Read more d, BWV 527; in F, BWV 1031 . BIGAGLIA Sonata in a. MARCELLO Sonata in d Stefano Bagliano (rec); Christian Brembeck (hpd) MUSICAPHON 56864 (63:26)

Here are two recent releases from the German label Musicaphon featuring recorder and harpsichord, yet the programs, stylistic approach, recorded sound, even the instruments themselves couldn’t be more different. The French title of the first disc refers to the 10-volume novel Clélie by Madeleine de Scudéry (1607–1701), a prolific novelist and favorite at the court of Louis XIV. She appended a so-called “map of tenderness” to the work, an actual roadmap of one’s journey through life that pinpoints the emotions or affections ( tendres ) encountered thereupon. This attracted considerable attention during her lifetime, and is said to have greatly influenced later generations of French writers, including Marcel Proust. The set of stylized emotions (also called sentiments ) of La Carte de tendre are the impetus behind much of French Baroque music, to wit the present program. The opening three-movement suite of Jacques Hotteterre is one obvious example; the individual movements are “Lieux charmantes, retraittes tranquilles,” “L’Amour,” and “De mes Soupirs, de ma langueur.” Of particular interest are the works by François Couperin le Grand : the Ritratto dell’amore (the ninth of the Nouveaux concerts—note the Italian title) and Les Folies françoises, ou Les Dominos from the 13th Ordre. Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre (1665–1729), one of the first important women composers, contributes an accomplished five-movement sonata. The program concludes with a stately Sonate “L’Inconnue” of Michel de la Barre (1675–1743).

German recorder player Ulrike Volkhardt has a long list of teaching and performance credentials, but I don’t need to read her résumé to know that she is thoroughly at home with the French idiom. She plays much of the program (Hotteterre, Monteclaire, the Couperin Rittrato ) on the flûte de voix , or voice flute, a low-pitched recorder in D that was a sanctioned alternative to the traverso. Her playing on this instrument is richly expressive—one of the best recorded examples of this unique instrument. Australian harpsichordist Ann Morgan—coincidently the wife of famed recorder maker Fred Morgan—is highly skilled as well. Her rendition of the solo numbers shows a real affinity for the period. The original 1628 two-manual Ruckers (enlarged in France in 1728) is a curiosity. The sound of the middle and upper registers is decidedly warm and plummy, an excellent foil to the sound of the recorder. But in the solo numbers, the bass sounds rather under-powered—I suspect that a more aggressive requilling would remedy this. The recorded sound is up-close but fairly realistic, with good balance between the instruments. Given the expert performances and generous timing, a CD that is definitely worth your while.

The second CD brings together two works by Italians with four works of Bach in stile italiano . Diogenio Bigaglia (c.1676–1745) was born on the island of Murano, home of the famous glass factories, and became prior of the monastery of San Giorgio Maggiore in 1713. His four-movement sonata da chiesa is lively and inventive. Benedetto Marcello (1686–1739) was a Venetian lawyer and dilettante musician who traveled widely and enjoyed an international reputation during his lifetime; his four-movement sonata demonstrates both German and French influence. The four Bach numbers are somewhat problematic, in that only BWV 1031 was written for recorder (actually, traverso). Its authenticity is in doubt, as is that of BWV 1020, previously attributed to Emanuel Bach, but now even that has been questioned. BWV 527 is one of the trio sonatas for organ, so what we hear on this program is an arrangement. The Aria variata is an early work for solo keyboard; it was notated by Bach’s elder brother and teacher Johann Christoph in the so-called Andreas-Bach-Buch.

I’m quite pleased with these performances. Stefano Bagliano is a young Italian recorder virtuoso who plays with considerable grace, flexibility, and expression. Although it’s not specified, I suspect that he uses a treble (alto) recorder throughout. Harpsichordist Christian Brembeck is likewise a skillful performer; his instrument is a copy after Domenico de Pesaro by Eckehart Merzdorf. Rather more generic-sounding, it has none of the characteristic pluckiness associated with Italian harpsichords. The recorded sound expertly captures the resonant acoustic of the small church in Gersheim-Medelsheim where the recording was made. At first I thought the resonance to be excessive, but repeated hearings persuaded me that this is a most agreeable-sounding recording. However many times the tape might have been edited, the lasting impression is one of a live performance, and after all, isn’t that what we’re all striving for? Recommended.

FANFARE: Christopher Brodersen
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