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Early Music

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Antonio BERTALI (1605-1669)
Sonata à 6 [8:16]
Leopoldus I (1640-1705)

Regina coeli [7:15]
Antonio BERTALI (1605-1699)

Sonata à 2 [8:32]
Sonata à 3 [3:57]
Sonata à 5 [6:30]
Sonata à 3 [6:29]
Anonymous

Sonatina à Viola de Gamba [15:42]
Antonio BERTALI (1605-1699)

Sonata à 3 [7:27]
Sonata à 6 [6:44]
Chiacona [8:20]
Ricercar Consort/Philippe Pierlot
Recorded at the Church of Bra-sur-Lienne, 21-24 September, 2003.
MIRARE 9969 [79:12]

Question: Do we really need another recording of various chamber works by relatively unknown Baroque composers?

Answer: In this case, absolutely!

Bertaliís life seems to embody the typical experiences that top-notch musician would expect during the seventeenth century: his playing and composing centered around court life. Bertali served under the Habsburgs of Austria. The program notes point out that, although he was mainly a composer of oratorio and opera, his instrumental works still merit attention. This point is made best by giving this disc a thorough hearing. The sonatas which make up the majority of the repertoire here are delightful miniatures. Highly sectional and often inspired by dance rhythms, these pieces sometimes feel like dance suites.

The Ricercar Consort, led by Philippe Pierlot, brings the music to life in the most amazing way. They are highly musical players who manage to imbue each piece with a special improvisatory feeling. Musical communication between players is highly evident, and it gives an exciting edge to every second. Intonation is, without exception, extraordinarily precise. This group takes extreme musical risks. Dynamic contrasts are drastic, and tempi are never lethargic. There is rhythmic vitality in every piece that gives a crisp, uncluttered feeling so essential to a true perception of dissonance and resolution. These especially expressive moments are approached and executed beautifully.

The highlight of this disc is most definitely the final selection, a chiacona. A triple time dance set over a repeating ground bass, this form gives composers a chance to show their skill at composing variations ó Bertali succeeded ingeniously, and the Ricercar Consort plays it expertly. For solo violin and basso continuo, it offers considerable challenges. François Fernandez plays the virtuosic solo part with finesse and ease. His intonation never fails, and each phrase is shaped beautifully. He relies on a full dynamic palette for expression, and it is always effective ó he somehow manages to echo repeated phrases so expertly that it sounds like two different instruments. Passage work is clean, precise and supremely rhythmic. The continuo playing in this selection is equally as impressive. Each variation has a new configuration of instruments that results in an endless and exquisite range of color. The piece opens with a solo harp playing the ground bass through with some tasteful embellishment. From there, a viola da gamba plays along with the harp until the soloist makes his entrance. The rest of the piece is unpredictable in its ever-changing combination of harp, gamba, harpsichord and organ, all alongside the violin. This chiacona is a perfect ending to an outstanding recording.

Jonathan Rohr



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