CordArte performs music by Becker, Strungk, Reincken, Buxtehude, Förster, and Theile for strings and continuo in their album, Musicalische Frühlingsfrüchte.
In the recent review I did of music from Buxtehude and Reincken, I found the music to be good, i.e., it’s worth playing, recording, and hearing. But passion was missing from the performance, and that was my personal bias.
CordArte is a German ensemble who presents to us a very similar collection, albeit from a far more diverse set of composers. And their playing is full of passion!
The opening sonata in A minor by Dietrich Becker is outstanding–both from the performance side and the compositional one. It’s from his collection of chamber music that the title of the CD is borrowed.
The next piece by Nicolaus Strungk maybe isn’t as finely wrought as Becker’s, but it’s still a gem full of richness. Using the same scoring (2 violins, gamba, and continuo), it sounds as if it came from the same tradition.
The next is a re-visit of Reincken’s Hortus Musicus, here the sixth sonata in A major. Both the energy from the players and the recorded sound best the Revêuse recording, although to be fair, this isn’t the same sonata they performed. But for me it also shows, in the company of his compatriots, his writing style wasn’t as strong. This work, incidentally, is the longest on the recording. The harpsichord in the continuo team (together with bass lute) is especially well played and sounds great.
A favorite Buxtehude piece is next, the Ciacona in E minor, BuxWV 160. Instead of an organ, however, they perform it on harpsichord with bowed bass. It works.
Next we’re back to Becker with another A minor sonata, with the same scoring. He plays with counterpoint with a phrase that speaks to us. Where Reincken had the “language,” a lot of his lines sounded like busy work for the instruments. Becker’s writing plays more with interesting melody. I’d put the interest level here up with Schmelzer’s ensemble music.
Kaspar Förster is a new composer to me; he’s represented on disc with three works; two are scored for 2 violins, gamba, and continuo, but the first, in C minor, is for 2 violins, violone, and continuo. Here organ and lute are used to lend a dark sound to the work, which for me would accompany any number of dramatic paintings from the period well.
Johann Theile is new to me, too, and from him we’re treated to a sonata in G minor. His writing style is different, treating the two violins as a single unit, playing together in thirds. His harmonic progressions don’t always lead where you expect, which is rather satisfying. In a fugal section, he breaks the upper strings into their own lines. I’d like to hear more from this guy.
Buxtehude’s op. 2, no. 4 sonata BuxWV 262 is for single violin and gamba, with continuo. The ensemble sound is really strong, but the violin playing isn’t as adventurous as what I’ve heard from Petra Mullijans (Freiburg) or Manfredo Kraemer (Rare Fruits). And I’m not speaking of the fast sections; Deuter here is in good command of the faster licks. It’s in the slower ones he could probably extract a little more expression from the instrument.
But I’m nitpicking.
This is a very strong release. I’m interested in exploring more from this ensemble.
Hats off to my friend who has introduced me to this ensemble!