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Fanfare 4. review - 5 stars

August 19, 2023

Ken Meltzer

Fanfare 4
Five stars: A brilliant, must-have recital of Baroque chamber music

CORELLIMANIA  Michala Petri1 (rcr); Hille Perl2 (vdg); Mahan Esfahani3 (hpd)  OUR RECORDINGS 6.220682 (streaming audio: 75:46)

CORELLI 1,2,3Sonata da chiesa in b, op. 3/4. 1,2,3Sonata in g, op. 5/12, “La Follia”. BACH 1,2,3Fugue on a Theme by Corelli, BWV 579. 1,2Four Duets, BWV 802-5. 1,2,3Chorale Prelude “Von Gott will ich nicht lassen”, BWV 658. HÄNDEL 1,2,3 Recorder Sonata in d, HWV 367. 3Suite in B-flat, HWV 434. TELEMANN 1,2,3Sonata corellisante No. 2 in A

In his marvelous liner notes for CORELLIMANIA (shouldn’t there be at least one “!” at the end of the title?), a new release on the Our Recordings label, harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani offers a musicological raison-d’être for the featured repertoire. Esfahani characterizes Baroque composer Arcangelo Corelli as “the progenitor of a style whose influence was pervasive enough throughout the eighteenth century that its characteristics more or less came to define an entire generation of music…” Corelli’s reach is obvious in such works as Bach’s Fugue on a Theme of Corelli, and Telemann’s Sonata corellisante. But Esfahani also notes Corelli’s “standardization” of “the succession of movement types in Sonate da Camera and Sonate da Chiesa,” as well as the deployment of violin techniques “that amplify an instrument with origins primarily in dance music into one that by the High Baroque could imitate the rise and fall of the sung and spoken human voice.” All of these elements are explored throughout CORELLIMANIA, both in Corelli’s music, and works by Bach, Handel, and Telemann. And speaking of musicological elements, the performances fulfill such HIP criteria as the use of instruments appropriate to the period, tuning at a=415, embellishment of the printed notes, and the absence of applied vibrato.
A few words about the instruments played on this recording. Hille Perl performs on a Viola da Gamba, Matthias Alban 1686. The Alban Viola da Gamba was discovered in an Austrian Convent in 1952. According to Perl” “(t)he instrument is unique in that to date, no sister instrument has been found.” Mahan Esfahani’s harpsichord was built in 2003 by Matthias Kramer. The recorders used by Michala Petri are from the collection of Leif Ramløv Svendsen, with whom she studied in Hannover. After Svendsen’s death from an extended illness, his widow Patricia van Duuren Svendsen offered Petri the opportunity to play her husband’s Baroque recorders, made by Heinz Ammann. Petri explains: “Having played much contemporary music and mostly in our days tuning of a=440, this was a wonderful – though also sad – opportunity for me to follow the wish I had had for some years to explore more of the world of authentic recorders, tuned in a=415. I want to thank Patricia warmly for her generosity, and will do my best to give those recorders a continued life.”
The performances on CORELLIMANIA most certainly adhere to HIP conventions. But this is a disc to be savored by anyone who loves great music and music-making. CORELLIMANIA features a trio of sterling musicians; Michala Petri (recorder), Hille Perl (viola da gamba), and Mahan Esfahani (harpsichord). Their performances are brilliant throughout. The repertoire on CORELLIMANIA explores a vast range of expression. And the artists prove equally at home in the hushed solemnity of Bach’s Chorale Prelude “Von Gott will ich nicht lassen”, as they do in the electrifying virtuoso fireworks of Corelli’s “La Follia.” The level of technical execution is spellbinding, as is the artists’ keen sense of collaboration. It is also wonderful to hear these musicians reject a metronomic approach to Baroque performance, embracing instead an elegant and gratifying flexibility in their phrasing. Also heartwarming is their celebration of the beauty inherent in their Baroque instruments. I am not an HIP purist by any means, and often enjoy Baroque music performed on modern instruments, and even in technicolor orchestrations, à la Stokowski. But Petri, Perl, and Esfahani make the strongest case that the instruments for which this music was originally conceived have their own unique and sensuous beauty. Even if HIP performance of Baroque music is not your preference, I urge you to give this recording a try. If you are an HIP devotee, no additional urging on my part is necessary. This is a recital of the highest order in conception, breathtaking technical mastery, and radiant musicianship. A must have in every respect. Ken Meltzer, August 19.2023

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