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Bernardo PASQUINI (1637-1710)
Toccatas, Partitas and Passacaglias

Canzon franzèsa
Ricercare con la fuga in più modi
Variationi per lo scozzese
Tre arie

Sonata XIV à basso continuo in la minore *
Roberto Loreggian (harpsichord and spinet)
Francesco Ferrarini (cello) *
recorded in the Villa Beatrice, Padua, Italy; 8-10 August 2002

I like to think that reviewers should be sympathetic to the types of music that they cover and be as constructive as possible; destructive criticism does nobody any favours. Now I will be perfectly honest at the outset and admit that this era of music is not my usual territory and my experience and knowledge of 17th century Italian music is quite limited. But sometimes I like to explore unfamiliar territory and I was so impressed by this compilation of harpsichord and spinet music that I was prompted to contribute this review.

Bernardo Pasquini was born near Lucca in December 1637. After studying locally he travelled to Rome in 1650 where he became one of the pupils of Loreto Vittori, one of the most famous male sopranos of his time. During his time in Rome he familiarised himself with the works of Frescobaldi and, especially, Palestrina.

Pasquini went on to become a celebrated keyboard virtuoso. He was also attracted to the theatre and contributed much music to it, together with compositions and performances at private gatherings and academies. He was favoured by such famous music patrons as Cardinals Ottoboni and Pamphili and Queen Christina of Sweden, the Colonna princes and, most especially, Giambattista Borghesa.

The learned technical notes for this album need not deter the listener for the majority of these pieces are very accessible and sunny. For instance, the Toccata con lo scherzo del cucco, as the title infers, wittily interweaves the cuckoo’s cry in a clever and elaborate Toccata. Elsewhere there are dance measures joyful and sedate, delicate and robust. Savour the lively yet refined Partite del salterello, for instance, or the joyous, decorous Canzon franzèsa.

The most extended work is the Ricercare con la fuga in più modi (at 13½ mins). This work is considered to be the composer’s greatest achievement in its style. It is divided into nine discreet sections, each based on the same theme stated at the opening or on a variation of it. This virtuoso polyphonic work is highly complex and elaborate but with an easy and logical flow.

Roberto Loreggian plays on a Riccardo Pergolis harpsichord, a copy of Giovanni Giusti, Lucca, late 17th century, and on a Riccardo Pergolis spinet, a copy of Honofrio Guarracino, Naples 1663. Loreggian’s impressive technical skill and clarity of playing, and obvious empathy and enthusiasm for this repertoire shines through every bar. The recital of seventeen pieces concludes with Pasquini’s five-movement Sonata XIV à basso continuo in la minore in which Loreggian is joined by cellist Francesco Ferrarini. This agreeable six-minute work, a sophisticated dialogue between the instruments, embraces a mildly protesting Adagio, a jolly, even boisterous, Allegro, a stately, slightly pompous Andante, a jolly Presto and a delicious, merry Gavotta.

Accessible, beautiful and joyous 17th century Italian harpsichord and spinet music played with great verve and refinement. A revelation.

Ian Lace

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