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Grand Tour
Jean-Baptiste BARRIÈRE (1707-1747)
Sonatas for Violoncello with Bass Continuo [7.26]
George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759)
Solos for German Flute, a Hoboy or Violin, Sonata V in G major [7.32]
Georg MUFFAT (1653-1704)
Apparatus musico-organisticus – Passacaglia in G minor [8.48]
Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681-1767)
Tafelmusik: Solo in B minor [11.59]
Francesco GEMINIANI (1687-1762)
Sonata for Violoncello and Bass Continuo, Ouvrage Cinquième, Sonata III in C major [11.57]
Johan Helmich ROMAN (1694-1758)
Sonata XII for Flauto Traverso, Violine and Cembalo, Sonata VI in B minor [12.37]
Johann Joachim QUANTZ (1697-1773)
Solo for Flauto Traverso and Bass, No.231 in B minor [11.58]
Cicerone Ensemble
rec. Neumarkt i.d. Oberpfalz, Germany, 2018
GENUIN GEN19648 [72.33]

This release is based on the 18th Century Grand tour – but a particular one (I think). The cover refers to ‘works by the musical travellers, G.F. Handel’ et al, but the programme notes concentrate on the Grand Tour by Dr. Charles Burney (1726 – 1814), that indefatigable and wonderfully astute musical historian (and composer). His first journey began in June 1770, travelling to Paris, Geneva, Turin, Padua, Venice, Bologna, Florence, Rome and Naples. In 1771, he published The Present State of Music in France and Italy. The following year he took a second journey, which led to the publication of The Present State of Music in Germany, the Netherlands and United Provinces (1773, I think, though given in Andreas Gilger’s notes as 1775). Both volumes were widely read – Samuel Johnson acknowledged the influence of ‘that clever dog Burney’s Musical Tour’ on his own Tour of the Hebrides.

A sub-text of the collection is the composers' own travels. Burney of course was very well acquainted with the music of the immigrant Handel, but could hardly have been unaware of different national habits of composition, often determined by the capacities and practices of a given body of musicians. In our age, practices seem less local, as musicians and ensembles cross continents so readily. In my lifetime, orchestral sounds have become more uniform, (I sometimes miss the raucous brass of Soviet recordings half a century ago.) The Cicerone Ensemble are to be commended for reminding us of the individuality and cross-overs between nations three centuries ago, though we cannot listen with 18thC ears, and they have settled for the uniform period pitch of Kirnberger III, 415Hz. We cannot know the variety of pitches used in practice.

The three instruments here – modern copies of old instruments – provide a fascinating variety of sounds. Parts are clear, playing precise and lively, often generating real excitement. There is variety and very much to enjoy. Nothing is dull, and there are special beauties. I enjoyed especially Muffat’s curiously named Apparatus musico-organisticus, for solo harpsichord, a piece of variety and substance, idiomatically played. This is music-making of a high order.

I have a tiny caveat about Gilger’s informative notes. It would have been valuable to read more about the composers. Handel, Telemann, and perhaps Geminiani and Muffat, are well-known, but even for keen music lovers, others are perhaps little more than names. Gilger’s main interest is rather in performance style – as he acknowledges – and he writes informatively and thoughtfully about this, acknowledging frankly the difficulties in performance of determining original intention.

But the important thing is the music and we have here a fascinating and admirably adventurous programme, sensitively played.

Michael Wilkinson
 



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