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Soundboard


Girolamo FRESCOBALDI (1583-1643)
Keyboard Music

Toccata 1 (book I)
Capriccio on La Bassa Fiammenga
Canzona 1
Toccata 8 (book I)
Capriccio on L’Aria Or Che noi rimena
Canzona 4
Toccata 5 (book II)
Partite (Variations) on L’Aria della Romanesca
Toccata 11 (book I)
Variations an L’Aria detto Balletto
Ricercar 3
Toccata 7 (book II)
Capriccio on La, Sol, Fa, Mi, Re, Ut

Colin Booth
Rec: September 1999, Dillington House, Somerset (harpsichord); October 2000, Easton Village Hall, Somerset.
SOUNDBOARD SBCD 201 [76.19] Midprice


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Colin Booth is a harpsichord maker and musician who has recorded several discs on his own label, Soundboard. This recording is a selection of Frescobaldi’s keyboard works, chosen from the three types of music he composed: toccatas, variations and fugal works. Booth has chosen to record this music on two different instruments - a rich-sounding copy of an Italian harpsichord that he built himself, and a small organ with just two stops.

Booth’s approach to this music is more intimate and personal than many performers of Frescobaldi’s works. It can clearly be heard, in his organ recordings, that he is focusing more on the music than the sound of the organ. Rather than choose a grandiose organ in the reverberating environment of a church, he plays a small organ in a simple room, much like that where Frescobaldi might have played his music. This gives the organ works a tone rarely heard - one is not overcome by the force of the instrument; the listener can hear the music for what it is, rather than for the context in which it is played. Since most of Frescobaldi’s music can be played either on harpsichord or organ, this judicious choice allows Booth to give the same tone to either instrument. This is not likely to please those listeners who seek loud, energetic organ recordings, but others may appreciate the subtleties that arise from listening to this type of instrument. Toccata 11, played on organ, is a slow, intense piece, with subtle lines that weave together well on this simple organ. And the Ricercar 3 is an attractive, moving fugue, played slowly and with feeling. Booth may be a bit too rigid when playing this work, lacking in just a bit of energy, but the result is spellbinding nevertheless.

The harpsichord pieces let Frescobaldi’s virtuosity be clearly heard. Toccata 7 begins with a free, highly-embellished opening section, which is typical of this kind of work. With their improvisatory nature, harpsichord toccatas are often full of shifts in tempo, rhythm and style, and this work is no exception. Booth shows a mastery of the technique in this piece, as he negotiates runs up and down the keyboard, yet never loses track of the main lines.

The longest piece on this work is the Partite (Variations) on L’Aria della Romanesca, one of many such variation pieces that Frescobaldi wrote. This set of variations explores many different tones and rhythms, and is a beautiful piece. Booth gives a fine performance, showing an excellent command of the variety of touches necessary for this works, from a light, subtle touch to a more forceful, energetic and rhythmic approach.

This disc is a fine selection of works by Frescobaldi. The originality of using a small organ, and of presenting both organ and harpsichord performances, is an excellent choice, and makes for an attractive listening experience. Booth’s harpsichord especially stands out for its rich, subtle sound.

 

Kirk McElhearn


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