From the Collectio Argentea (Archiv Produktion) in 1981 comes a sampling of a variety of German chamber music. We might call this "early" baroque, or at least "mid-period" music, from the likes of Buxtehude, Pachelbel, Reincken, Rosenmüller, and Westhoff. It took Gramophone's Early Music Award in 1981, and was a special treat for me to obtain recently. I remember reading issues of Early Music magazine, and seeing the collectio Argentea advertised by DG. MAK have always been focusing on German music, if not Bach and his family, then the forgotten composers of Dresden. They took brief sojourns, of course, to Italy and France, and even to Austria and the Baltics. But this music seems firmly squared in their area of expertise, even though it's an early recording. Among the gems is Buxtehude's masterpiece, BuxWV 273, the B-flat sonata for violin. Here Goebel shines on top across the multiple movements, but my favorite is the first movement. Goebel is the star, outshining the contribution from the gamba. The bass used here is likely a significant instrument, played along with the harpsichord. It is, to my estimation, a 16' instrument, which is something we don't often hear. It proffers quite a richness, and is a wonderful counterbalance to the high-pitched violin and middle-register viola da gamba. This works' opener is happy music and it can't help but make you smile. First in the CD however is a Sonata in A minor by Johann Adam Reincken. Aggressive, solid playing, like the Buxtehude, written in three parts. An opening sonata is followed by dance movements, especially flamboyant, the Courante. Early MAK plays this music technically well, and even hints at the deep affectations quality of the lines and their occasional surprises in harmony. This piece reminds me most of MAK's last release, performing string music by Meister. Johann Rosenmüller is represented with a solo work, a Sonata in E minor. MAK employs the use of an organ for the continuo instrument and plucked lute. This is a relatively early recording to use a varied continuo. The phantasticus style of this sonata is perhaps not as overt in interpretation as Goebel would take in his 1990 recording of Biber's Rosenkranz Sonaten. Again, the surprises that await us are kind of cool… clashes in different lines, interesting melodic lines that take a long harmonic beat. While this is played well, I almost long for a little more Italian flavor injected into this sonata. Johann Paul von Westhoff is represented with his Guerra sonata. The "tremolo adagio" is interesting to me; MAK doesn't really represent a tremulant organ as, say, Farina does in his Capriccio Stravagante. Goebel emerges technically competent, but in this piece especially, the close miking and sound of the small ensemble began to tire my ears. It's interesting to compare this early recording with one made just a few years ago by the Rare Fruits Council under MAK-alumnus Manfred(o) Kraemer. The sound quality is far more soothing, and the phrasing is more relaxed and organic. We could imagine Kraemer's violin a voice; the continuo really supporting this voice with sympathetic dynamics. The aggressive ending by Kraemer is more exciting simply because he's done a better job at contrasting the sections of this long work. MAK ends with two works by Pachelbel; first is the multi-movement Partie in G, a string suite. The second, you guessed it, the Kanon und Gigue. All I'll say about the C&G is that it is a different recording than what appears on their compilation album with works by Bach, Vivaldi, and Handel. The first and longer work epitomizes what we might call the MAK string sound. There's such a richness in tone that comes from this group playing together; it's dark, for sure, with the use again of organ and lute. But the recording quality aside, we could be listening to their 1986 Biber recording of Mensa Sonora. Or Bach's Kunst der Fuge. Goebel's mastery extended beyond the violin itself; he knew about the orchestration of string sound, especially when it came to Germanic pieces. In comparison, I enjoy my London Baroque reading with Andrew Manze of Pachelbel's complete set of suites. But there's also something beautiful in that MAK sound despite a less focused recorded sound. The Reincken and Buxtehude works are the strongest. The use of a deep bass in several works is orchestration-ally interesting. There's a reason this was an award winner. They were on their A-game.