This 2 CD compilation has been reissued to mark the 85th
birthday of the eminent Czech harpsichordist Zuzana Ružicková. A grant from the Viktor Kalabis and Zuzana Ružicková Foundation, based in America, has made its release possible, so all thanks to them. The discs split neatly into two, reflecting the LPs from which they derive. The first disc concentrates on English music, and was recorded in 1966, whilst the second disc presents Iberian music and was taped in 1983.
To England first, then. She begins her recital with three Dowland lute pieces arranged for harpsichord. This may seem odd, given the wealth of original English harpsichord music available, but clearly the arrangements offered opportunities for novelty. These are certainly eccentric, with registral transition sections sounding very strange. Overall the performances are overemphatic and, in the case of My Lady Hunsdon's Puffe,
over-busy, overblown and yet strangely enjoyable. It’s not for purists, obviously. When she is on original territory with, say, John Bull, she calms down appreciably, those delicate silvery registrations really making their mark. In nomine
is played with requisite seriousness – indeed grandiosity - and Walsingham
shows both her virtuosity and her sensitivity for long phrases. She doesn’t play all the variations. The King’s Hunt
is played with an eager appreciation of its own vitality and alertness. Martin Peerson’s The Fall of the leafe
is a delight and one of the standout tracks, though for vim and vigour Richard Farnaby’s Nobodyes Gigge
takes some beating. She plays a couple of playthings by Purcell, and Croft’s ever-affecting Ground.
So, something of an uneven programme all in all, but still with much to interest and intrigue.
The Spanish and Portuguese disc doesn’t present quiet so many anomalous or at least mildly problematic elements. It was recorded much more recently and concentrates in the main on impressive sonatas by masters of the genre, Soler and Seixas, as well as smaller pieces by Carvalho and Cabezón. She locates the haughty grandeur evinced by Cabezón in his La dama le demanda,
a cunningly descriptive piece of work. But most of all she clearly relishes the playful vigour and rhythmic virtuosity of Seixas’s three sonatas, and perhaps still more the demands of the sextet of Soler sonatas. She plays the extensive C major (extensive in the context of the much smaller surrounding sonatas) with awareness of its answering paragraphs and internal dialogues; and she characterises these eventful works with skill and colour.
Neither of these LPs saw her on what some may see as ‘home turf’ but perhaps that’s all the more reason to welcome this celebratory set back into the catalogue. The notes are succinct and replace the LP liner notes (her pupil Christopher Hogwood wrote the notes for the English LP disc, I remember). Inevitably timings are LP ones but I believe the CD price bracket reflects that. Let’s hope this heralds more Ružicková restorations from Supraphon.