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MICHEL PIGNOLET DE MONTECLAIR (1667 - 1737) A la Guerre! Concertos for natural trumpet and harpsichord  Ensemble "Pian e Forte" / Gabriele Casson, natural trumpet / Antonio Frige, harpsichord. Dynamic CDS229




These four concertos are taken from a set of six published in 1724/25 as "Concertos pour la flute transversiere avec la Basse chifrée. The use of the translated term "concertos" is perhaps misleading, as they are mostly for a soloist with harpsichord accompaniment, without a ritornello string band; they consist of  numerous (between 12 and 20) dance movements, each lasting form 24 seconds to  3 minutes. The term "suites" would probably convey a more accurate impression.

Whilst scored for the transverse flute, the title page of the contemporary editions  indicates that some of these concertos can alternatively be played on the violin, oboe or flute a bec (recorder); a common enough practice in the 17th and 18th Centuries. For the present recording, the music has been adapted by Antonio Frige  for the natural trumpet. Certainly Gabriele Cassone's performance of these pieces shows off his mastery of the instrument with virtuostic playing in the high clarino  register to breathtakingly brilliant effect. Equally certainly, the trumpet is an ideal instrument for the 5th Concerto (the forst one recorded) subtitled "La Guerre": it is  exciting militaristic music in which the effect is heightened with addition of  trumpets and tympani from the Ensemble "Pian e Forte".

The use of trumpet in the other three concertos is less successful; the music of the third and fourth concertos cries out loud for performance on the flute as originally scored (indeed much of it reminds the listener of Bach's B minor suite!), whilst the sixth concerto, "la Paix", could very suitably use the oboe.

The harpsichord's contribution to these concertos is considerable. About a quarter of the concerto movements are for harpsichod solo in which Antonio Frige displays skilled accomplishment. The intricate ornamentation is faithfully rendered in the authentic style of 17th Century France.

My main reservation about this recording is that the tempi of many of the movements are far too slow. These "concertos" are in reality dance suites with bright dancing rhythms; unfortunately the slow pulses rob them of their innate vivacity. A simple increase in tempo would bring them wondrously to life.

There is much to admire in these recordings - especially the virtuosity of both the natural trumpet and harpsichord playing. It is such a pity that they so often fail to realise the composer's intentions.


Humphrey Smith

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Humphrey Smith

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