After decades during which the unaccompanied violin sonatas and partitas of Bach stood alone, regarded by all but specialists as rather freakish musical occurrences, recent years have seen a growth of interest in the virtuoso violin repertory of the Baroque. Composers like Biber, Pisendel, and Tartini have all shown up with increasing frequency on concert programs and recordings.
It's hard to believe this CD was done with only a violin, viola da gama and harpsichord. This is polyphonic music at its finest. It does tribute to Buxtehude, who preceded Bach. The ensemble is perfect - the instruments complement each other. When they go from slow to fast, it is remarkable to hear the contrast. These are expert musicians with a complete mastery of their instruments. They use loud-soft as easily as any masters of the Baroque. The result is joyous, lively and entertaining.
These two discs contain Leclair's 12 sonatas for two unaccompanied violins en duo. He produced them in two sets of six, the earlier one, Op. 3, dating from 1730, the later one from 1747-9. Barely a handful have previously been recorded, so these new issues make an important addition to the baroque catalogue. Leclair more than any of his French contemporaries implemented the technical developments in violin playing which were taking place in Italy in the hands of the post-Corelli generation.
The violin was perhaps the most popular instrument of the 17th century. It turns up in nearly every Baroque instrumental genre, including the solo sonata, the concerto, and the immensely popular trio sonata (for two violins, often complimented by harpsichord, organ, or theorbo). Much less common, but equally compelling, are pieces for three violins with some sort of plucked or strummed accompaniment.
Dietrich Buxtehude is probably most familiar to modern classical music audiences as the man who inspired the young Johann Sebastian Bach to make a lengthy pilgrimage to Lubeck, Buxtehude's place of employment and residence for most of his life, just to hear Buxtehude play the organ. But Buxtehude was a major figure among German Baroque composers in his own right.
Stephen Paulus was an astonishingly prolific fixture of the American music scene, with some 600 works to his credit. His sudden death in 2014 left classical music—particularly the worlds of opera and choral music—significantly the poorer, so it’s inevitable that we should see his legacy memorialised with new additions to the catalogue. Royal Holloway’s ‘Calm on the Listening Ear of Night’ sets Paulus’s music in dialogue with another Midwestern composer, René Clausen. It’s Clausen whose musical personality emerges most strongly here in these precise performances. His works offer a distinctively American spin on the fashionable Baltic sound world of Ešenvalds and Vasks that is as appealing as it is generous. In pace, which opens the disc, offers eight minutes of lushly filmic excess.
John Dowland’s Lachrimae Pavans is considered one of the greatest works in the canon of English chamber music. Based upon his famous song “Flow My Teares”, the seven pavans – "Seaven Teares", as Dowland called them – present an extraordinary exploration of the contrapuntal and harmonic possibilities offered by the theme. In this remarkable recording, baroque violinist John Holloway creates a concert programme around the lachrimae Pavans. Threaded between Dowland’s masterpieces are works of other major composers of his era – Henry Purcell, William Lawes, John Jenkins, Thomas Morley and Matthew Locke. In bringing together these works of strongly contrasting colour and character Holloway and company give us a vivid sense of the great flowering of consort music which took place in England in the 17th century.