Con Chitarrone - Italian sonatas from early renaissance to baroque
Girolamo FRESCOBALDI (1583-1643)
Canzona IV [4:00]
Dario CASTELLO (c.1590-1630)
Sonata II a sopran solo [5:55]
Gregory HOWET (c.1550-1616)
Fantasie for lute [4:36]
Domenico GABRIELLI (1651-1690)
Sonata in G [6:00]
Antonio BERTALI (1605-1669)
Sonata a 2 [8:14]
Biagio MARINI (1594-1663)
Romanesca per violino solo e basso se piace [5:11]
Sonata VIII [5:13]
Johann ROSENMÜLLER (1617-1684)
Sonata III a 2 in d minor [4:57]
John DOWLAND (1563-1626)
Lachrimae for lute [4:21]
Giovanni Paolo CIMA (c.1570-1622)
Sonata per il violino [4:10]
Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
Sonata for cello and bc in a minor (RV 44) [10:54]
Arcangelo CORELLI (1653-1713)
Sonata for violin and bc in d minor, op. 5,12 'La Follia' [11:03]
Leupold Trio (Eva Stegemann (violin), Wouter Mijnders (cello), Sören Leupold (renaissance lute, chitarrone))
rec. 11-14 May 2010, church of Sengwarden, Germany. DDD
Some instrumentalists have the problem of lack of repertoire. Violinists have another problem: the large amount of music from which to choose. Since the late 16th century up until our own time numerous pieces of all kinds have been written for their instrument. And even those who confine themselves to pre-romantic music have no shortage of repertoire. Many composers were educated as violinists and have written music for their own use. During the 17th century the violin developed into one of the main instruments, in particular in Italy.
Taking this into account it is rather disappointing that a large part of the repertoire the Leupold Trio has chosen for this recording is quite familiar and has been recorded many times before. That is certainly the case with the sonatas of Corelli and Vivaldi, but the pieces by Castello, Marini and Cima are also part of the standard repertoire of baroque violinists. The inclusion of two lute pieces from the renaissance is a bit odd as the other works on this programme are written in the baroque style. But then, so is the title of this disc. The 16th century is not what I would call "early renaissance".
I was referring to the repertoire of "baroque violinists". Strictly speaking Eva Stegeman is not a baroque violinist as she doesn't use a period instrument. She plays a violin which was built around 1680 by Giovanni Battista Rogeri. But that is the instrument she always plays, in music from the early baroque to contemporary repertoire. So there isn't anything "baroque" about it, apart from the fact that she probably uses gut strings for early music. The instrument of Wouter Mijnders isn't mentioned in the booklet. An internet search reveals that he usually plays a copy of a cello by Nicolas Lupot who lived around 1800. That is very likely also the instrument he uses here. The only member of the trio who plays really early instruments is Sören Leupold. Ms Stegeman and Wouter Mijnders have a vast experience in playing music from the 17th and 18th centuries. Both are regulars in the Combattimento Consort Amsterdam, which performs baroque and classical music on modern instruments, but in a style compliant with historical performance practice.
The lively and energetic style of performance applied here makes this disc quite pleasant to listen to. Stegeman and Mijnders show that very good interpretations can be realised with modern instruments if played with a thorough understanding of the performance practice of the time. And Leupold gives an excellent and rhythmically pregnant interpretation of the basso continuo part. Even so, these performances can't compete with recordings on period instruments. The dynamics lack the subtlety that baroque instruments have by nature, and the articulation is far less natural than on period instruments. In the opening piece by Frescobaldi the trillo, a typical ornamentation of the early Italian baroque, doesn't come off well. An important feature of baroque music is the hierarchy of the notes, meaning that some notes are more important than others and therefore should get more emphasis. That is far easier on baroque instruments than on their modern counterparts as this disc shows. Too many notes get the same weight and there is too little differentiation within phrases. In general dynamics are also a bit problematic as modern instruments are louder than baroque instruments. This means that forte passages often sound exaggerated.
As I have indicated this disc is quite entertaining from a musical point of view. But if you are looking for performances which suit this repertoire best, there is no other way than to go for recordings with period instruments. And there are plenty in the market with the kind of repertoire played here. The programme notes in the booklet are a mixture of interviews with the artists and information about the music. The specification of the sources of the various pieces in the tracklist is flawed and incomplete.  

Johan van Veen
Lively and energetic performances of baroque music on two non-period string instruments.