Notes and Editorial Reviews
Capriccios: No.1 in G; No. 2 in a; No. 8 in g; No. 18 in C. Toccatas: No. 2 in d; No. 4 in C; No. 17 in G; No. 20 in a; No. 25 in F. Fantasia No. 2 in a. Partita,
FbWV 603a. Partita Mayrin, FbWV 606a
Pamela Ruiter-Feenstra (hpd)
FLEUR DE SON 58002 (74:16)
It would be hard to overestimate the importance of the great German harpsichordist and composer Johann Jakob Froberger (1616–67), who acted as an overarching bridge between the all important keyboard styles of the
17th century: the Italian school of Frescobaldi, the French
, and ultimately the North German school of Buxtehude and Sebastian Bach. There have been plenty of excellent recordings of Froberger to choose from by the great harpsichordists of our time: Leonhardt, Rousset, Verlet, Rémy. There is even a complete recording of the keyboard works by Richard Egarr (Globe, four volumes); it was praised by Kevin Bazzana in
18:4. My perennial favorite is the Archiv LP (later reissued on CD as part of the Galleria series) that Kenneth Gilbert recorded around 1979 on an instrument built in 1729 by Le père Ballot.
On this new release by Ann Arbor-based Pamela Ruiter-Feenstra, the main attraction seems to be as much the instrument as the music. It is an original single-manual harpsichord built in 1658 by Jerome (or Girolamo) de Zentis. The instrument has been lovingly and expertly restored by master builder Keith Hill, who gives a brief description of the restoration in the liner notes (much more info is available, of course, on Hill’s website). De Zentis was the royal instrument builder to Queen Christina of Sweden in Stockholm. When Christina abdicated the Swedish throne and moved to Rome in 1658, Hill speculates that Christina had her royal instrument builder “shipped ahead of her to Rome to build an instrument for her to use the moment she arrived.” Since de Zentis originally was from Rome, Hill further speculates that he “merely had to locate one of his former constructions and set about building the instrument to fulfill her expectations.” Perhaps, but isn’t it just as likely that he built the instrument
to moving, and had it shipped to Rome in time for the Queen’s arrival? Be that as it may, the 1658 de Zentis has an intriguingly dry, hollow timbre with a decided pop at the beginning of each note, a perfect example of the classic Italian sound. The choice of a small, single-manual Italian may seem odd for Froberger, but it works quite well. My only reservation has to do with the (unspecified) temperament. It’s obviously a very aggressive, uncompromising sort of meantone, which results in some grinding inharmonicities at times—ouch!
Judging from both her playing and the essay in the liner notes, Ruiter-Feenstra has an intuitive understanding of Froberger’s musical language. There is a suppleness, a natural give-and-take to her phrasing that I associate with the best harpsichordists, including those named in the opening paragraph. The recording is far too close up for my taste; this is a decided disadvantage when recording an Italian instrument, since it emphasizes the percussive nature of the sound at the expense of the sustain. A valuable addition to the Froberger discography and recommended, despite the caveats.
FANFARE: Christopher Brodersen
Works on This Recording
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