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A Musical Journey Around Europe
Richard Lester (harpsichord, chamber organ and fortepiano)
Elizabeth Lester (renaissance recorder: Frescobaldi)
rec. no information given
NIMBUS NI5939 [79:35]

Following on from Trevor Pinnock’s recent excellent disc Journey for Linn (CKD570 - review), we now have a similar undertaking. This one is conducted by Richard Lester who also takes a musical Grand Tour of Europe but one in this case that also includes the use of a chamber organ and a fortepiano.

Lester begins his tour in sixteenth century Italy with works by Luzzaschi and Merulo. These are two charming harpsichord pieces that set the stage for what is to come. They are interspersed with two Canzone by Frescobaldi, the first performed on a chamber organ. Here Lester is joined by his daughter Elizabeth Lester, on the renaissance recorder. The resulting sound is quite wholesome and rewarding.

These are followed by a journey into northern Europe, with music from one of my personal favourites. Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck's Variations on ‘Mein junges Leben hat ein End, the only piece to appear on both this and the Pinnock disc, are performed excellently, as are the Toccatas by Froberger and Johann Sebastian Bach.

It is good to see that Lester not only gives us two pieces by François Couperin but also by his uncle Louis who died tragically young at the age of 35. Louis had risen through the ranks to be regarded as the finest musician in Paris by the time of his untimely death. He then languished in obscurity with many of his two hundred or so works lying undiscovered until middle of the twentieth century. The pieces here are typical of his output and of the period of French music in which they were written, with those of François sounding more advanced.

These are followed by something which hardly needs an introduction, the Air and Variations (Harmonious Blacksmith) by Handel. Here they are given a faithful performance with the harpsichord not sounding too brash which is something that has marred some other recordings.

The G Major Sonata K.146 by Domenico Scarlatti comes from volume 7 of Lester’s highly recommendable complete survey of the sonatas, for Nimbus (NI1731 - review). A further Italian composer is included on this recording with the famous Toccata in A by Domenico Paradies. Although born in Naples he spent about twenty years or so in London where he became one of the most important musicians and teachers.

Lester then ventures into Spain with three short sonatas, one by Seixas and two by Soler. These again are taken from a previous Nimbus release (NI5836 - review), and show the Italian influence of the likes of Scarlatti on the development of Spanish music.

Haydn and Mozart feature on this disc with performances given on a fortepiano. Haydn’s Sonata in D Major Hob. XVI:37 comes from the previous Nimbus release (NI5847 - review) whilst Mozart’s Variations on ‘Ah vous dirai-je, Maman’ was recorded live and released on (NI5867). The Haydn enjoys a better recording than the Mozart despite the same instrument being used; it is simply a question of a more pleasing acoustic.

This is a well conceived and mostly well recorded survey of re-issues and I take it newly recorded music. The notes on the music are very good if uncredited. I imagine that they are by Lester himself as has been his way with previous issues. Whilst it may not take the place of Trevor Pinnock’s recent disc, Richard Lester’s new CD certainly adds to the concept of the musical journey.

Stuart Sillitoe

LUZZASCHI Toccata del Quarto Tuono [1:46]
FRESCOBALDI Canzona III [2:57]
FRESCOBALDI Canzona I [3:10]
MERULO Toccata Prima Primo Tuono [4:17]
SWEELINCK Variations on Mein junges Leben hat ein End [6:21]
FROBERGER Toccata III [3:05]
J.S. BACH Toccata in D major BWV 912 [10:47]
Louis COUPERIN La Piémontoise [1:59]
Louis COUPERIN Passacaille in C [5:34]
François COUPERIN Soeur Monique [3:55]
François COUPERIN Les Barricades Mystérieuses [3:11]
HANDEL Air and variations [4:33]
SCARLATTI Sonata in G major K. 146 [2:37]
SEIXAS Sonata No. 25 in G minor [2:01]
PARADIES Toccata in A major [1:48]
HAYDN Sonata in D major Hob. XVI:37 [7:51]
SOLER Sonata in G R. 45 [2:03]
SOLER Sonata in D R. 15 [2:18]
MOZART Variations on Ah vous dirai-je, Maman K. 265 [9:11]



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