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Forgotten Virtuosi - Jonathan Talbott

Forgotten Virtuosi - Jonathan Talbott

Aliud  ACD HN 012-2

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical


Ruggiero/Anon., Striggio/Schop, De Rore/Rognonio, Baltzar, Schop, Nau, Castello, Brade, Palestrina/Rognoni, Castello, Marini

Jonathan Talbott (violin)


In the early 17th century a number of now forgotten violin soloists toured Europe, commanding enormous salaries and following ever more prestigeous offers of employment. Some were so valued for their playing that they were granted nobility, and more than one was described as “the most famous artist for the violin that the world has yet produced.” Courts and cities would hire these superstars in order to have them astonish and awe their guests with their performances. One of the more astonishing pieces on this disc is the unaccompanied Fantasia by Étienne Nau, which is found in a manuscript now in Berlin.

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Review by John Miller - July 24, 2011

We all know of virtuoso violinists who became household names in their time. Yet, as this enterprising album shows, in the early C17th there was another shadowy coterie of virtuosi who travelled Europe, commanding fabulous salaries and even being ennobled as payment for their services.

Jonathan Talbott is a renowned exponent of early violins, having led baroque orchestras on four continents. He offers a repertoire that spans a mere 800 years. In his disc notes, he describes these itinerant violinists from the dawning of the Baroque period as "superstars", which courts and cities would vie for, anxious to hire them for their ability to astonish and awe audiences.

Mostly these violinists wrote or improvised their own variations on popular songs of the day, or took as a starting point one of the highly fashionable madrigals penned by such as Striggio, de Rore or Palestrina. Others were composers in their own right, and played a vital part in the development of the violin, still a young instrument at the time. Talbott has compiled examples of these various styles on this fascinating disc, and is accompanied by various combinations of bass violin (remarkably cello-like), double-harp, theorbo or guitar and a chamber organ.

Traversing this well-planned programme, one is left with an indelible impression of the continuation of fiddle styles from medieval times through to the more sophisticated Renaissance and thence to the highly ornamented Baroque - even references to the amazing folk fiddlers of the Shetland islands. For example, Johan Schop's variations upon Striggio's madrigal "Nasce la pena mia" captures the doleful viols of Dowland's time, then lifts into a dazzling kingdom of filigree passing notes, which are based on "divisions" so beloved of English lutenists.

As well as looking back, there are some pieces here which look ahead. Schop's solo violin Praeludium anticipates the solo partitas of JS Bach, and Étienne Nan's unforgettable solo "Fantasie" is a deeply felt, highly personal expression which contrasts utter simplicity with fizzing fireworks. Stunningly played here by Talbott with finely-graduated passion, it makes the listener wish that there were many more pieces from this composer/virtuoso (c.1597-1647).

As the star of the disc, Talbott's playing is quite superb. His reconstructed late-Renaissance/Early Baroque violin has a pure sound, and is played on the arm as indicated in many oil paintings of the time. His nimble articulation is a model of clarity, tuning is immaculate and technical mastery self-evident. Much praise also to the fellow accompanists; the bass violin is itself given a workout at times as brilliant as the violin, and the ensemble play stylishly whether in expressively mournful or joyfully toe-tapping modes. Aliud's pure DSD sound is very well-balanced, the violin not too far forward, enveloped in an intimate acoustic which easily becomes an extension of one's own listening room.

This disc manages to be informative, thought-provoking, entertaining and thrilling all at once. There are also three world première recordings. Highly recommended.

Tracks
(1) Ruggiero (Anon). (2) Nasce la pena mia (Striggio arr. Johann Schop). (3) Anchor che col partire (Cipriano de Rore arr. Richardo Rognonio) . (4) A Prelude for the violin by Senr. Balshar a Germaine (Thomas Baltzar). (5) Snr Balshar's Division on a Ground (Thomas Baltzar). (6) Praeludium (Johann Schop). (7) Pavane d'Espagne (Johann Schop). (8) Fantasia (Étienne Nau). (9) Sonata 1a (Dario Castello). (10) C(h)oral del Sr Wilhelm Brad (attr. William Brade). (11) Io son ferito (Palestrina arr. Francesco Rognoni). (12) Sonata 2a (Dario Castello). (13) Bergamasca (Anon). (14) Romanesca (Biagio Marini).

Copyright © 2011 John Miller and HRAudio.net

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