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Gottfried FINGER (1655-1730)
A Bohemian in London: Violin Sonatas
Sonata in E, RI 132 (No.53) [6:16]
Sonata in A, RI 119 (No.7) [7:00]
Sonata in D, RI 129 (No.9) [6:05]
Sonata in B-flat, RI 125 (No.45) [8:02]
Sonata in B-flat, RI 124 (No.46) [5:06]
Sonata in F, RI 136 (No.47) [5:42]
Sonata in A, RI 120 (No.23) [5:37]
Sonata in b minor, RI 122a (No.14) [6:36]
Sonata in A, RI 118 (No.6) [5:51]
Sonata in F, RI 137 (No.54) [7:51]
Sonata in D, RI 113 (No.15) [3:08]
Sonata in E, RI 134 (No.51) [3:38]
Sonata in F, RI 135 (No.52) [6:36]
Duo Dorado
rec. 2016, St Martin’s Church, East Woodhay, Hampshire
CHANDOS CHAN0824 [78:00]

There’s no torrent of music by Gottfried Finger as yet, but there is more than a trickle. He’s been featured in recitals in the recent past, a situation more palatable than the days when the only way you’d hear anything of his was via the radio, and then rarely. This makes the arrival of these thirteen sonatas performed on this disc by Duo Dorado all the more welcome, especially as violinist Hazel Brooks suggests that there are altogether only 20 extant violin sonatas by him.

Finger worked in Purcell’s London and remains notorious for ‘arguing with the referee’ when his 1701 setting of Congreve’s The Judgement of Paris came last in a competition won by John Weldon. Whether this was a home-town decision will probably never be known, as Finger’s score is lost, but so hard did he take it that he promptly left the country.

The individual movements of the sonatas are not separately tracked here so ‘listening through’ is the order of the day, and the more one does so the more one appreciates the cut of Finger’s jib. Clearly, he knew the music of his almost exact contemporary Corelli, as there are indications throughout, whether in slithers of slow introductions or in faster, more virtuosic passages, that he had absorbed elements of the Italian style. He can write slightly bumptious fast movements as well as plangent slow ones, dancing Allegros, and expressive long-breathed melodies – try the sonata RI 136, tracked sixth – just as much as he can present what sounds like a popular song, with decorations, and some Purcellian adjuncts too (listen to RI 120, track seven).

Then, too, there is the boldness of the cadential opening of RI 118 (track nine) and the folkloric suggestiveness embedded in RI 137, the brief bipartite charms of RI 134 (track twelve) or the pleasurably attractive thematic components of the final sonata in the recital, R1 135.

Brooks and David Pollock play with great clarity and directness. The performances are cannily varied with Pollock playing either a double-manual harpsichord, a 1999 replica of a Ruckers-Hemsch, or a continuo organ of 2007. This ensures that colours are never static, with, in the main, two harpsichord-accompanied sonatas followed by two organ-accompanied ones. Decoration is sparingly used. The Duo brings this music valuably to life and shows that Finger’s is a voice that deserves to be heard.

Jonathan Woolf

Previous review: Brian Wilson