> William Williams 9998132 [GPJ]: Classical CD Reviews- June2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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William WILLIAMS (?-1701)
The Complete Instrumental Music
6 Trio Sonatas op.1:
Trio Sonata no.6 in F for 2 recorders and basso continuo
Trio Sonata no.1 in d minor for 2 violins and b.c.
Trio Sonata no.4 in a minor for 2 recorders and b.c.
Trio Sonata no.5 in c minor for 2 violins and b.c.
Trio Sonata no.2 in C for 2 recorders and b.c.
Trio Sonata no.3 in A for 2 violins and b.c.
Duet in F for 2 recorders
Sonata in d minor for recorder and b.c.

Camerat Köln: Michael Schneider, Sabine Ambos, recorders; Ingeborg Scheerer, Verena Schoneweg, violins; Sabine Bauer, harpsichord and organ; Rainer Zipperling, violoncello and viola da gamba
Recorded DLF Köln, Sendesaal, January 2001
CPO 999 813-2 [48:28]

William Williams is a somewhat obscure figure, who flourished in Britain around the end of the seventeenth century. His name, plus the fact that he dedicated his opus 1 to James, Earl of Anglesey, suggests inescapably that he was of Welsh origin, despite spending his working life in London.

This recording is a German production, so that the author of the booklet notes, Michael Schneider, can perhaps be forgiven for not spotting this. It does however highlight one of the potential pitfalls (pratfalls?) of learned academic research – failing to register the blindingly obvious because of lack of ‘local knowledge’.

Not to worry; leaving those relatively trivial considerations on one side, this is a delightful disc. The music is a revelation, coming as it does from a composer of, roughly, Purcell’s era. It is sophisticated, technically adroit music, with not only great artistic control and purpose, but also wit and elegance. The writing for the violins is highly idiomatic, that for the recorders even more so, bringing out their bird-like qualities. Incidentally, having maligned Michael Schneider (who also plays recorder on the disc), I now want to thank him for a suggestion that I have never come across before. There has always been a mystery surrounding the origins of the word ‘recorder’ to describe what the Germans call ‘Blockflőte’, the French ‘flűte à bec’, etc. Schneider links the name to the use of the instrument during the 17th and 18th century to teach tunes to caged birds, a popular pursuit at the time. I knew ‘Mad King George’ used to do this, but hadn’t realised it was such a widespread activity; an interesting theory.

The duetting of the two recorders is a pleasurable feature of the first sonata recorded here, no. 6 in F, which is actually subtitled ‘In imitation of birds’. The playing of Michael Schneider and Sabine Ambos is quite superb, with a wholly effective use of ornamentation, including fingered vibrato. The concluding movement is a lively and engaging gigue-like Allegro.

Three minor key sonatas follow; Sabine Bauer, the keyboard player, chooses to move to the darker sound of the positive organ for these, which is most effective. Each sonata ends with a short but inventive fugal movement.

Bauer returns to the harpsichord for the last two sonatas; no.2 has a finale which last just 38 seconds in this version, complete with hectically scurrying scales in the cello and harpsichord, while no. 3 in A has an unusually expressive Adagio, with unexpected plunges from major to minor. Add to this the Purcellian false relations and you have an unusually rich harmonic language for the period. This is really fine music.

The programme ends with two works not belonging to op.1. The Duet in F for 2 recorders has no continuo, while the Sonata in d minor was described by the composer as "A Sonata for a Single Flute, commposed (sic) by Mr.Williams".

The playing of the whole ensemble is outstanding – completely stylish without being cramped or dull. The recording too is outstanding in that it is natural and unobtrusive. A very fine issue.

Gwyn Parry-Jones

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