This is the first of two discs exploring the twelve concerti grossi of Muffat. That would explain why the playing time is rather shorter than the normal generous Naxos length. Twenty more minutes would certainly be possible, but this is not a problem since the disc gives ample reward from the artistic point of view.
Muffat is an interesting figure, a composer of the generation before Bach and Handel, whose style tends mainly towards the influence of the French music of Lully at the court of Louis XIV, while the church concerto style of Corelli is another factor. Consequently these concerti grossi alternate slower and faster identities, and in the first movements Muffat always provides a French Overture, with a majestic double dotted introduction leading into a lively fugue. Bach was among the composers who knew and admired Muffat's work, and the celebrated orchestral suites could well reflect his influence.
These concertos all have titles; but there is nothing particularly significant about that, so the (useful) insert notes tell us: 'The titles given to each of the works in the set are believed to refer to the occasions of the first performances and have no bearing on the music itself.' The titles are translated in the booklet notes, whose standards are very high in content and layout.
The sound is impressive, at once resonant and atmospheric. The gut strings have a pleasing bloom, the continuo line is nicely balanced and clearly audible, and the choice of tempo always seems absolutely right. Therefore it is surprising to note that the recordings were made as long ago as 1993.
Musica Aeterna Bratislava may not be an internationally renowned ensemble, but they play with great taste and commitment for their director, Peter Zajcek. These pieces are mainly for strings, with the addition of a bassoon among the continuo instruments, whereas in other works Muffat made a notable contribution to the development of orchestral music by mixing strings with winds and even brass.
This music gives much pleasure, and should appeal to anyone who enjoys baroque suites and concertos.