> FROBERGER Works for Clavichord JMSCD5 [KM]: Classical Reviews- February 2002 MusicWeb(UK)






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Johann Jakob FROBERGER (1616-1667)
Works for Clavichord

Le Tombeau de Monsieur Blancheroche
Suite No. X in A minor
Lamentation for Ferdinand IV
Capriccio No. VI
Suite No. XIV in G minor
Allemande (from Suite No. XX)
Ricercar No. VI in C sharp minor
Lamentation for Ferdinand III
Suite No. XIX in C minor
Fantasia No. II
Suite No. III in G major
Allemande (from Suite No. XXX)
Suite No. VII in E minor
Early English Pieces

La Bounette
La Doune Cella
La Shy Myze
An Allemande fitt for the Manicord
Sarabanda (from Suite No. 4 in C minor by William Croft)
Thurston Dart, clavichord
Rec: 1961.
ISMERON JMSCD 5 [65.44]


Occasionally, one comes across individuals with a mission. This is the case with J. Martin Stafford. He has managed to save several rare, yet essential recordings from the abyss of oblivion, especially this recording by Thurston Dart.

A clavichordist and harpsichordist, most of Dart's solo recordings were of English music. He recorded five LPs of keyboard music by the great English composers, such as Byrd, Bull, Gibbons and others, on harpsichord and chamber organ. He also recorded a selection of organ music by English composers. Yet, one must bear in mind that this was all done in the 1950s, a period when early music was far more confidential than it is today.

In addition to these great recordings of English music, and the current disc of works by Froberger, Dart also recorded Bach's French Suites, and some pieces by Purcell and other English composers, on the clavichord. This recording is certainly unique, not only for its historical interest, but also for the instrument.

The clavichord is a small, rectangular box-like instrument, with a very simple mechanism, that was probably the domestic instrument par excellence in 17th and 18th century Germany, as well as in other countries. Its simple construction and small size made it easy to have at home, and even to carry around. It is known that Bach owned clavichords, and one can imagine that, when playing with his family, this instrument might have been used often.

Frobergerís music had an important role in the history of German baroque keyboard music. Born in Stuttgart, he was a student of Frescobaldi and imperial court organist in Vienna. His keyboard works are a link between the French and Italian baroque styles and what became the more Germanic idiom. Bach was known to have appreciated his music, and was one of the composers that he definitely played and studied. Froberger was one of the first German composers to play expressive music, and the titles of some of the piece on this disc show this: Lamentation for Ferdinand IV, Le Tombeau de Monsieur Blancheroche. This is similar to the French baroque keyboardists, and the English lutenists, who gave attributes and names to their works.

This is a remarkable recording, both for the instrument and the performance. Thurston Dart was a great clavichordist, and the music comes through admirably on this instrument (even though it was recorded in 1954). Frobergerís Suite no. X in A minor is a beautiful example of the form that would later be adopted by all the German composers - the multi-movement suite with melodic relations among the movements (unlike the work of, say, Louis Couperin, who wrote separate movements that performers were free to mix and match at will). The Ricercar no. VI in C sharp minor is a fugue that begins with a slow exposition of the subject, and continues through three sections as the melodies weave together in an artful web. This is the basis for Bachís fugues. The Fantasia no. 10 is another of Frobergerís finest works. This piece opens with a slow, meditative fugal introduction, and is based on two contrasting versions of a single theme. This contrapuntal work is light and airy, yet its use of the sever Phygrian mode gives it a unique tone.

This recording also contains five early English pieces; four by anonymous composers, and one by William Croft. These are light and lively 16th and 17th century pieces, with the familiar sound of the time. The Croft Sarabande closes the disc with a beautifully haunting melody.

As with his other recordings by Thurston Dart, J. Martin Stafford has done an excellent remastering job - the sound is as clean as possible. He deserves kudos for saving these great recordings from oblivion.

An excellent recording, commendable for the performance, the music and the instrument. If you do not know Frobergerís music, this is a fine way to discover it. If you do, you owe it to yourself to hear it on the clavichord.


Kirk McElhearn


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