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Northern Delights
Morten RÆHS (1702-1766)

Allegro with variations in G
Johann Helmich ROMAN (1694-1758)

Sonata in D (1727)
Sonata in E (1727)
Johan AGRELL (1701-1765)

Harpischord Sonata No 6 in G (1748)
Francesco RUFFO

Suite in F
Herr B.xxx

Variations on "Gestern Abend"

Suite, from Jacob Mestmacherís manuscript
Murky, from Jacob Mestmacherís manuscript
Suite in A, from the Hertzberg manuscript
Angloisi, from Jacob Mestmacherís manuscript
Nordic Baroque Quartet: Hans Olav Gorset (tranverse flute), Keren Bruce (viola da gamba), Vegard Lund (lute, theorbo, baroque guitar), Urban Westerlund (harpsichord)
Rec. Sofienberg Church, Oslo in May 2003
SIMAX PSC 1224 [68:06]

"Who writes the history of music?" begins the booklet note by Hans Olav Gorset; a good question indeed, to which the answer might be a certain Mr. Grove. This is a prelude to a passage implying that Nordic baroque music has been unjustly left out. Certainly, "Anonymous" is the only composer here who is well-known and Herr B.xxx (no, I didnít copy it incorrectly) presumably didnít wish to be well-known. As far as I can tell, this music is mostly the product of the first half of the eighteen century, the only dates which seem to be known are the three given above. Whilst easily identifiable as baroque, the music is not obviously Nordic. Generally it sounds as if it could have come from an earlier period and seems relatively uninfluenced by the central European greats of the time (i.e. Bach and Telemann). But it is all attractive and the disc title "Northern Delights" seems to be justified.

The disc opens with a short piece by Ræhs which is dominated by the flute and seems to have come from a set of sonatas. This is followed by the Suite and Murky from Jacob Mestmacherís manuscript. The former is for quartet and the latter for solo harpsichord. A "Murky" is a piece with repeated octave patterns in the left hand. Mestmacher was not a musician but a tradesman who settled in Bergen. The origin of the pieces in his manuscript seems to be unknown (and may not originally be Nordic).

Next comes Romanís Sonata in D, a three movement work for tranverse flute and figured bass (here played on the viola da gamba and harpsichord). Lasting about ten minutes with frequent variations in tempo (the first movement is marked Vivace Ė Adagio), this is perhaps the most attractive piece on the disc. It is followed by Agrellís sonata for solo harpsichord which is in three movements and concludes with a Gigue.

The suite from the Hertzberg manuscript in seven brief movements has been put together by the present performers. The manuscript consists of more than a hundred pieces of mostly unknown origin. They are notated for baroque guitar, on which they are played here by Vegard Lund with occasional contributions from the others, notably Hans Olav Gorsetís flute in the Sarabande and Gigue. The final piece, a Passacaglia, derives from Lullyís musical tragedy of 1682 Persée and is certainly the most profound music on the disc.

Romanís Sonata in E and Ruffoís Suite in F follow, both in five movements and occupying the complete quartet. The piece by Herr B.xxx is a challenging set of variations for solo flute on a well known German tune. It comes from a collection belonging to Chamberlain Giedde from Copenhagen (1756-1816). Finally, the lively Angloisi from Jacob Mestmacherís manuscript was originally used to accompany line dances. Played by the full quartet, here it rounds off the programme well.

These are committed performances by fine musicians and the recorded sound is excellent. The notes in the booklet are detailed, if confusing at times. Since the origin of much of this music is murky, this may not be fault of the author. If you like to know exactly what youíre listening to, then I suggest passing by this disc. However, to just relax and listen to some unfamiliar but varied and attractive baroque music, this will do very nicely.

Patrick C Waller

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