Zu Gast im Blauen Haus
Johann STAMITZ (1717-1757)
Trio in A major [12:09]
Johann Christian BACH (1735-1782)
Sonata Notturna Tre in D major [7:11]
Giovanni Battista SAMMARTINI (c.1700-1775)
Sonata Tre in A major [5:04]
Sonata Tre in D major [5:59]
Anton FILS (1733-1760)
Trio in D major [13:35]
Carl STAMITZ (1745-1801)
Sonata Tre in G major [10:42]
Giacomo CONTI (c.1700-1775)
Trio in G minor [6:46]
Gaetano PUGNANI (1731-1798)
Sonata Tre in E flat major [11:55]
Der Musikalische Garten
rec. Kirche St. Pantaleon, Solothurn, Switzerland, 27-30 April 2015
SACD/CD Hybrid Stereo/Surround 5.1
reviewed in surround
ARS PRODUKTION ARS38185 SACD [74:18]

This disc does not sell itself very well because the prominent title on the cover is decidedly obscure unless you are aware of the lives of late 18th century silk merchants. It is in fact a disc of early-classical trio-sonatas performed on period instruments. The disc name translates as 'A visit to the Blue House' and it refers to the music collection of one Lucas Sarasin, a wealthy Basel silk manufacturer who lived from 1730 to 1802. He was as much a collector of original scores as readers and reviewers on Music Web International are collectors of CDs. He collected some 1300, a mixture of vocal, orchestral and instrumental music, of which about a third have survived. These were performed in one of his two grand mansions, the Blue House; the other was the White House. He had a music hall complete with organ for the purpose. All this is explained in some detail in the fascinating and well written notes which also go into some detail about each of the eight works by seven different composers presented here.

Der Musikalische Garten is a young chamber group. Each of the four members, two violinists, a cellist and a harpsichord/fortepiano player, studied at the famous Schola Cantorum Basiliensis so presenting this repertoire was very much a local enterprise. They are utterly superb players giving this obscure set of pieces performances of the highest possible quality. They treat every work as if it were a masterpiece. The Johann Stamitz trio is utterly delightful, full of energy and effects. J.C. Bach's piece has a great first movement which quite zips along at high speed and an elegant second movement with the unusual marking allegrino grazioso. The first of Sammartini's works has a fetching minuet, the second is a total delight. Anton Fils, a name that was new to me, gives us a charming and tuneful piece during which one can almost hear the players smiling. The minuet in particular is gorgeous. After this Carl Stamitz's rather more 'modern' work comes as a shock. He was a friend of Mozart and unsurprisingly his Sonata Tre sounds just like Mozart: none the worse for that. Giacomo Conti is for me another new composer. His trio contains a most surprising violin cadenza during the second of the two movements. In contrast Pugnani's work is slightly four-square but nonetheless a pleasant twelve minutes' listening.

A well nigh perfect disc which any enthusiast of this fruitful and lesser-played period should buy at once. The recording is as good as it gets with a lovely spacious sound and a clearly defined instrumental picture.

Dave Billinge

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