This is volume 3 of Richard Lester's recording for Nimbus of the complete keyboard works of Girolamo Frescobaldi. An alternative view of this disc is available on this page, which also gives further links of relevance.
All works are played on period harpsichords, except those marked with an asterisk* above, which are performed on Renaissance virginals. More information about the instruments played by Lester during this series is available on the official series site here. The Capriccios all come from Frescobaldi's First Book of Capricci, published in Rome in 1624, except the 'Jacopino' Capriccio which comes from the First Book of Toccate and Partite (1615-16/1637), along with the three Balletti, the Correntes and the first two listed Toccatas. Everything else is drawn from the Second Book of Toccate, Canzone (etc) (Rome, 1627/1637).
Lester has received considerable acclaim for his recent mammoth seven-volume Complete Scarlatti Sonatas, also on Nimbus. With this new series Lester, with his consummate musicianship and carefully considered interpretations, is sure to add further evidence to Frescobaldi's claim to be a key figure in the history of music, not only for the fact that he was one of the very first to focus his talents on instrumental music, but also as one of the greatest keyboard composers of the early 1600s.
Two of the four Toccatas, the Seconda (2nd) and Quarta (4th), come from the First Book of 1615, which was a watershed in the history of keyboard music. These works broke with tradition and created a new quasi-improvisatory, expressive style of playing, full of harmonic extravagances, rhythmic flexibility and technical challenges. The Toccatas from the later Second Book, represented by the Decima (10th) and Undecima (11th) on this disc, expand on these innovations. The four Correnti, on the other hand, though published in the same volume, show a composer equally at home writing more traditional dance music. Very brief, they have been recorded as a single track. The three Balletti, numbered First to Third, also from the same volume, are similar short, time-honoured, comely works.
The two Arias are more substantial than their title suggests - the Aria detta Balletto is in fact the longest piece on the CD. Both works are animated, attractive sets of variations, the Aria detta La Frescobalda ('Aria "Frescobaldi"') performed on the slightly harsher, but more intimate-sounding virginals. The two Canzone, the First and Fifth, come from the same publication, and are further examples of Frescobaldi's experimental leanings, partly dance-like, partly improvisatory in feel. The single Recercar, on the other hand, is probably the most workaday, pedestrian piece in the programme.
The five Capriccios contain some of Frescobaldi's most imaginative, heterogeneous writing. The individual titles give an indication of the various subjects Frescobaldi would take for a musical journey, such as the cuckoo, or a popular tune of the time like 'Brother Jacopina Went to Rome'. The last of the five, the Capriccio sopra La Bassa Fiamenga, is one of Frescobaldi's most recorded pieces.
The accompanying booklet includes an excellent essay by Lester on performance practices and the four instruments used, including a photo of the Boni harpsichord that most of the pieces are performed on. For a biography of the composer, the listener must have recourse to one of the first two volumes or look it up elsewhere. Unfortunately, there are only the briefest of notes on the works individually, and not on all of them; and, inexplicably, recording details have been omitted.
Sound quality is very good, without being exceptional - at the beginnings and ends of tracks some degree of background hum/rumble is evident, of the electrical interference kind that appears difficult to avoid in recording equipment. There are also one or two noticeable editing points.