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The Trio Sonata in 17th-century Italy

Cd/Dvd Reviews -

London Baroque
BIS CD 1795

by Clive Paget on January 31, 2013 (January 31, 2013) filed under | Comment Now
London Baroque explore the birth of a genre.

You wouldn’t have thought it perhaps, but the humble trio sonata (commonly defined as two violin lines plus continuo) was at the cutting edge of new music circa 1600. Nowhere was this better exemplified than in Italy, the cradle of the stile moderno as created by Cacini and Monteverdi. This delightful disc from London Baroque is the sixth of a series of eight chasing the history of the trio sonata across Europe. It should rightly be labelled the first, however, exploring as it does the form from embryonic beginnings through to its full flowering with Arcangelo Corelli.

As always with new movements in music, there is a fascinating coalface at which numerous composers hew away, as yet unsure of what boundaries will be imposed upon them. Thus we have examples of canzonas, sinfonias, chaconnes, passacaglias or just plain popular dances, many of them in infectious triple time. Amongst numerous highlights are Buonamente’s haunting variations on La Romanesca, a pair of skipping Ciaconas from Merula and Cazzati and sprightly  sonatas from the likes of Castello, Legrenzi and Falconiero. Perhaps the strangest find is Marini’s Sonata Sopra Fuggi Dolente Core, which turns out to be a set of charming variations on the Israeli National Anthem (or Smetana’s Moldau if you prefer).

I couldn’t imagine this music better played than it is by London Baroque. Ingrid Seifert and Richard Gwilt prove perfect partners on frequently duelling violins with Charles Medlam’s cello resonantly caught and Steven Devine switching from chamber organ to harpsichord as required. This is foot-tapping stuff, elegant and superbly engineered by BIS.