Girolamo FRESCOBALDI (1583-1643)
Toccata Sesta [6:11]
Canzona Sesta [2:00]
Toccata Terza [9:12]
Toccata per organo [2:33]
Toccata Quinta [4:38]
Toccata Cromatica per le Levatione [5:30]
Toccata Ottava di Durezze e Ligature [3:54]
Fantasia Sesta [6:10]
Toccata Quarta [6:00]
Canzona Seconda [4:00]
Toccata per le Levatione [4:16]
Fantasia Nona [7:00]
Canzona Nona alla Francese detta 'La Querina' [5:00]
Toccata per le Levatione [2:52]
*Partite 6 sopra l'Aria di Follia [6:27]
*Canzona Terza [4:22]
Richard Lester (organ, *harpsichord)
rec. Fenton House, London, undated. DDD
NIMBUS NI 5874 [78:05]
This is volume 4 of Richard Lester's recording for Nimbus of the complete keyboard works of Girolamo Frescobaldi. Volume 3 was released in early 2011, and reviewed here, with a second opinion here, the latter also providing other links of relevance.
Half of the pieces in Lester's programme are drawn from the Second Book of Toccate, Canzone (Rome, 1627/1637), the rest from other publications during Frescobaldi's lifetime, except track 4, which comes straight from manuscript. All works are played on the 1588 organ in San Salvatore, Italy, apart from the final two, which - somewhat incongruously - revert to harpsichord, though again an authentic instrument from 1619. More information about the instruments played by Lester during this series is available on the official series site here.
Lester has received considerable acclaim for his recent mammoth seven-volume Complete Scarlatti Sonatas, also on Nimbus. With this series Lester, with his consummate musicianship and carefully considered interpretations, adduces further evidence to the thesis that Frescobaldi is 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, beginning with his watershed First Book of Toccatas of 1616, and expatiated in the Second Book, as he broke with tradition to create a new quasi-improvisatory, expressive style of playing, full of harmonic extravagances, rhythmic flexibility, experimental techniques and technical challenges.
This CD offers a first chance in Lester's series to hear Frescobaldi the "miraculous organist." The instrument used for this recording was built by Costanzo Antegnati in the late 16th century at the church of St Nicola near Almenno in northern Italy, and very likely played by Frescobaldi himself. Though the organ itself is a little rough around the edges, Frescobaldi's music for it is riveting, often astoundingly modern in its harmonics. Though these works are still clearly devotional in the main, audiences must have been startled by some of the chords and sequences; yet his amazing popularity as an organist indicates that this new style and sound was quickly accepted by contemporaries and benefactors alike.
The accompanying booklet contains fascinating notes of a different kind by Lester, with sections on historical context, the pieces themselves, the instrument and period technique. Again, recording details - other than that Raymond Fenton did the business - have disappointingly been left out. The booklet describes this disc in fact as a 'compilation', with the recordings being licensed from Privilège Accord. Sound quality is fairly good, although there is still just a little background hiss in evidence at the beginnings and ends of tracks, and the organ recordings have a slight 'underwater' quality to them.
Collected reviews and contact at reviews.gramma.co.uk
Expressive playing, full of harmonic extravagances, rhythmic flexibility, experimental techniques and technical challenges.