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REVIEW
RECORDING OF THE MONTH
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Journey: 200 Years of Harpsichord Music
Antonio de CABEZÓN (c.1510-1566)
Diferencias sobre ‘El canto del caballero’ [3:10]
William BYRD (c.1540-1623)
The Carman’s Whistle [3:58]
Thomas TALLIS (c.1505-1585)
O ye tender babes [2:37]
John BULL (1562/3-1628)
The King’s Hunt [3:25]
Jan Pieterszoon SWEELINCK (1562-1621)
Variations on Mein junges Leben hat ein End, SwWV 324 [6:10]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
French Suite No.6 in E, BWV817 [18:27]
Girolamo FRESCOBALDI (1583-1643)
Toccata Nona [4:32]
Balletto primo e secondo [5:39]
George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759)
Chaconne in G, HWV 435 [6:36]
Domenico SCARLATTI (1685-1757) Three Sonatas in D, K. 490-492
Sonata, K.490: Cantabile [5:02]
Sonata, K.491: Allegro [4:57]
Sonata, K.492: Presto [4:17]
Trevor Pinnock (harpsichord: meantone temperament and unequal temperaments)
rec. Colyer-Fergusson Concert Hall, University of Kent, Canterbury, 20-21 August 2014. DDD/DSD
LINN CKD570 SACD [68:50]

The journey in the title is twofold: inspired by the travels of Antonio Cabezón, the sixteenth-century organist and composer whose variations on a popular tune open the programme, Trevor Pinnock weaves a path not only through Cabezón’s life but also through his own enviable career.  Cabezón and Domenico Scarlatti bookend the album – from a Spanish composer who travelled, to an Italian who settled in Spain – with Sweelinck’s Variations on Mein junges Leben hat ein End at its heart.  Cabezón’s journey was matched by a much shorter one for the young Pinnock, to the house of pianist Ronald Smith and eventually to his being tutored there by Smith’s sister, June.  Being born in Canterbury certainly had its advantages.

I have already alluded to the Sweelinck in my recent review of the Glossa 6-CD set of that composer’s complete keyboard music (GCD922410 – review).  As I noted there, it’s six of one and half-a-dozen of the other in terms of performance.  Pieter Dirksen on Glossa has the considerable advantage of our having heard the tune on which the variations are based immediately before his performance, something which would hardly have been feasible for Linn.  Pinnock also plays the work noticeably faster but the chosen tempi suit the different instruments: Dirksen on the more intimate virginal, Pinnock on the harpsichord. 

Of necessity only one instrument is used throughout the programme but it suits the very wide chronological range of the music very well, with appropriate registration for the earlier music.  Re-tuning would have been required at some stage: the earlier pieces are played in meantone temperament and there’s a variety of unequal temperaments for the rest of the programme.

It would be pointless to compare the performances with those on other recordings: there’s no comparable programme and, even if there were, many would want to have this SACD as a celebration of Pinnock’s 70th birthday.  Maybe the Sweelinck work is significant in that we septuagenarians cannot refer to our junges Leben anymore, but I hope that it’s not the end of his journey – or mine.  I need hardly say that the playing is as brilliant as ever it was: you would hardly know that much of what we hear is technically very difficult and all the performances are well suited to the tone of the music.  The photographs on pages 8 and 14 show a much older Trevor Pinnock than of yore but the first reminds us of his thoughtful approach to the music – try the Bach – and the second of the sheer joie de vivre that his playing can still evoke, as in the Scarlatti works which close the recital. 

Trevor Pinnock refers in the notes to his friendship with Rafael Puyana and, while I’m sure that his instrument is not the kind of monster that Puyana used to play, his performance of the Scarlatti reminds me of the sheer abandon of the latter’s playing without its excesses.

The recording is very good, as heard from the stereo SACD layer, and the notes are excellent.  As usual from me, a short review betokens a strong recommendation.

Brian Wilson


 
 

 




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