A German Bouquet
Johann SCHOP (d. 1667)
Nobleman (pub.1646) [1:56]
Johann Heinrich SCHMELZER (c. 1620-1680)
Sonata in d minor (pub.1659) [5:49]
Georg MUFFAT (1653-1704)
Sonata in D (1677) [11:33]
Johann Philipp KRIEGER (1649-1725)
Sonata in d minor Op. 2, No. 2 (pub.1693) [10:37]
Dietrich BUXTEHUDE (1637-1707)
Sonata in C, Op. 1, No. 5 (pub.1694) [8:22]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Fugue in g minor, BWV 1026 (before 1712) [3:54]
Philipp Heinrich ERLEBACH (1657-1714)
Sonata No. 3 in A (pub.1694) [14:06]
Johann Georg PISENDEL (1687-1755)
Sonata in D (c.1716) [10:31]
Johann Sebastian BACH
Sonata in e minor, BWV 1023 (after 1723) [11:00]
Trio Settecento (Rachel Barton Pine (violin); John Mark Rozendaal (viola da gamba and cello); David Schrader (harpsichord and positiv organ))
rec. Nicholas Hall, Music Institute of Chicago, Evanston, Illinois, 16-14 June, 2008. DDD.
Original instruments, tuned in unequal temperament by David Schrader, based on Werckmeister III.
CEDILLE RECORDS 90000 114 [78:30]
Having recorded music from baroque Italy (An Italian Sojourn, Cedille CDR 90000 099), Trio Settecento now turn their attention to Northern Europe, where, as the notes rather quaintly express it, ‘the winters are dark and pork fat is the foundation of the cuisine’ and Gemütlichkeit, a combination of modesty with luxury, is the order of the day in music as in much else, rather than the ostentation of the courts of Southern Europe. To put it like that is a vast over-simplification but at least it gives the potential purchaser some idea of the tone of the music: less showy than that on its Italian predecessor, but well worth hearing. Even more helpfully, Cedille include the complete notes from the booklet on their web-page - here - for potential buyers.
Don’t be put off by the booklet’s reference to Gemütlichkeit and pork fat: this is emphatically not the music of fat, self-contented musicians. The performers are far removed from that and they give the music its full emotional weight. What it offers is a range of attractive music-making on a domestic scale, by Bach and seven distinguished contemporaries and predecessors, some of them much less well known today than they deserve to be. Johann Schop was not even a name to me before hearing this recording; though his characteristic piece Nobleman, which opens the programme, is perhaps the least enticing work here, it makes a good introduction and I was pleased to make its acquaintance.
The other composers are better known, though none of them is exactly over-represented in the catalogue. Several gaps in the representation of Buxtehude were repaired during his centenary year, 2007, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t yet more that is unexplored. Until recently Muffat was known by repute rather than through performance and, again, there is much that remains to be explored. Pisendel’s fame rests largely on the fact that he was the violinist for whom Vivaldi composed several concertos, though his own music, in a style much influenced by Vivaldi, is well worth getting to know. It would be superfluous to offer potted biographies of these composers when the material from the Cedille booklet is so easily available online (see above). Though it is true to say that the two works of J S Bach outshine the rest of the pieces and seem to evoke the most committed performances, there is much else that is well worth hearing.
In saying that they give of their best in the two Bach works, I certainly don’t wish to imply that the three performers fail to do so in the other music. They may have had more extrovert and flamboyant music to deal with on the Italian CD, but I am just as impressed by their playing here as Jonathan Woolf was with that on the earlier programme: ‘Finely chosen, well programmed, elegantly produced, this is another excellent addition to your roster of Italian sonatas.’ (See review). Where there are existing recordings, for example of the Buxtehude Opus 1 sonatas, Trio Settecento offer serious rivalry to existing recommendations, in this case from John Holloway et al on Naxos 8.557248 - see review, L’Estravagante on Arts Blue Line 47731-8 - see reviews here and here - and from the Purcell Quartet on Chandos CHAN0766 - see my April 2010 Download Roundup.
Similarly, the performance of the Erlebach Sonata makes good some of the shortcomings which Johan van Veen found in the otherwise recommendable Linn recording of all six works (Rodolfo Richter, et al, CKD270 - see review). I was rather more enthusiastic than JV about the Linn recording - see my April 2010 Download Roundup - but I think the Trio Settecento have the measure of the work more fully, including slightly faster tempi overall.
There are several recordings of Bach’s sonatas for violin and continuo, including BWV1023: you wouldn’t go far wrong with the two least expensive versions, from Grumiaux and Jaccottet on Philips Duo 454 0112 or Wallfisch et al on Hyperion Dyad CDD22025, both 2-for-1 offers, but, again, unless you are looking for completeness, the Trio Settecento are a match for the competition. They take a little longer than the Hyperion performers overall, except in the gigue finale, but I didn’t find that their performance dragged at all; their tempi are actually slightly faster than those of Grumiaux and Jaccottet. This sonata and the performance make a fine conclusion to the CD. NB: the Hyperion has recently been deleted but is still available from some suppliers or from Hyperion’s own archive service or, least expensive of all, as an mp3 or lossless download from Hyperion here.
Perhaps heedful of Jonathan Woolf’s complaint about the lack of dates in the notes for the earlier recording, they are provided here. The description of BWV1023 as composed in Leipzig after 1723 is at odds with the reference books which I have to hand, which give the date as 1714-17; presumably the later date arises from modern scholarship.
With performances of high calibre throughout, good recording, informative notes and an attractive cover, the new release is a strong contender. I can’t remember having heard a more enjoyable recording of this repertoire.
Encouraged by what I heard on the present recording and by Jonathan Woolf’s review, I downloaded Trio Settecento’s earlier Italian album from passionato.com. It’s available there in two guises - via The Orchard - here - in mp3 for £5.99 or via their list of Cedille recordings - here - for £7.99 (mp3) or £9.99 (lossless). It’s not easy to find because someone has mis-spelled the title, An Italian Sojourn, as An Italian Soujourn. It was, however, well worth seeking out; if anything, the repertoire is slightly preferable to the newer recording, though I greatly enjoyed both. It’s also available from classicsonline.com - here - in mp3 for £7.99. Subscribers to the Naxos Music Library will find the Italian Sojourn there; I assume that the German volume will join it shortly for those who would like to hear before buying.
Future programmes of English and French music are planned; on the evidence of these first two recordings, they should be well worth watching out for. Purchase either or both of these with confidence.