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Il violino Boemo
František BENDA (1709-1786)
Sonata in B flat, Lee III-124 (1759) [10:02]
Sonata in C minor, Lee III-15 (c. 1759) [10:00]
František JIRÁNEK (1698-1778)
Sonata in F, Jk 29 [8:38]
Sonata in C, Jk 28 [12:09]
František BENDA (1709-1786)/Carl Heinrich (?) GRAUN (1704-1759)
Sonata in A, Lee 3:107/GraunWV B.XVII:56 [10:13]
Josef Antonín GURECKY (1709-1769)
Sonata in D (1736) [11:39]
Lenka Torgersen (violin)
Václav Luks (harpsichord)
Libor Mašek (cello)
rec. 2003, Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren in Prague, Vinohrady, Prague
SUPRAPHON SU4151-2 [62:41]

This is a beautifully recorded, stylish disc. The recording itself is rich but does not detract one iota from the cleanliness of texture and, indeed, of performance. Lenka Torgerseb, the violinist, delivers the ornamentation beautifully throughout, particularly her trills.

The three sonatas by Benda on this recording are all preserved in Prague, in the collection compiled by Count Jan Josef Filip Pachta. The first heard here, in B flat major, dates from 1759. The stateliness of the opening Largo is perhaps underlined by the lush recording, while the sprightly staccato of Torgersen’s violin in the Allegro ma non molto is lovely (there is drama in this movement, too). The finale, marked “amoroso”, is a nicely paced andante, its long lines marked by tremendously stylish ornamentation. Harpsichordist Václav Luks plays on a 2012 instrument by František Vyhndlek, after Pascal Taskin, and is an incredibly stylish player. Lenka Torgersen plays on a Sebastian Klotz (Mittenwald) from around 1760 and delivers one of the finest performances of Baroque violin out there – this standard is maintained throughout the disc. No information is given about the continuo cellist Libor Mašek’s instrument, unfortunately. The C minor holds its dolorous nature on its sleeve in the opening Siciliano, while there is terrific energy in the finale. The A major which follows, the opening Andante of which acts as a shaft of Baroque light, is listed as by two composers. It was originally for flute and by one of the Graun brothers (probably Carl Heinrich); in 18th century in Bohemia, however, it was known as a violin piece by Benda. Torgersen’s exquisite trills lighten up the opening Andante; the ensuing Allegro is perhaps surprisingly inward-looking. Torgersen’s accuracy of articulation and tuning is remarkable.

Jiránek studied with Vivaldi for two years. He was Prague-based until 1737, at which point he moved around Europe, his stops including Dresden and Warsaw. He died in Dresden, aged 80, in 1778. His F major Sonata is an absolute delight, its central Allegro the height of charming civility. The writing in the central Allegro is remarkable, unsettled and even deliberately rough at times. Jiránek’s C major Sonata, which closes the disc, is another masterwork, its Adagio heartbreaking in its eloquence, its finale containing some jaw-dropping virtuosity from Torgersen, whose articulation remains miraculously controlled throughout. This virtuoso writing is contrasted beautifully against simple, courtly themes, and it is a testimony to the composer’s self-control that the movement, indeed the Sonata, ends quietly. Supraphon have released a Trio Sonata by this composer on a 2012 disc of chamber music, Musici da Camera (SU4112-2) performed by Collegium Marianum. It is a miraculous outpouring, particularly in its opening Largo.

The Sonata by Gurecky is remarkable. Written in 1736 and composed in Dresden, before he returned to Olomouc (where he was eventually to become Kapellmeister of the cathedral), it is structured as a Sonata da Chiesa but written in the Galante style. It is a virtuoso work, its challenges breathtakingly delivered by Torgersen. Luks’ cello is particularly jaunty in the second movement allegro, which features violin and cello alone.

While there are other Benda recordings out there to supplement this, the programme here is delicious and refreshing – and unique. Unhesitatingly recommended, quite simply one of the best recordings of Baroque violin music I have come across.

Colin Clarke


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