A German Bouquet (CD review)

Trio Settecento.  Cedille CDR 90000 114.

My appreciation and admiration for violinist Rachel Barton Pine grows with each new recording she releases.  Here she is joined by John Mark Rozendaal on viola da gamba and 'cello and David Schrader on harpsichord and positiv organ as the original-instruments group Trio Settecento in an album of German Baroque chamber music.  Combine the Trio's eloquent playing with Cedille's unparalleled audio reproduction, and you get yet another of Ms. Pine's exquisite recordings.

The album consists of short works by eight German composers of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries.  Although the works are brief, the disc contains over seventy-eight minutes of material.  The composers in question are Johann Schop (d. 1167), Johann Heinrich Schmelzer (c. 1620-1680), Georg Muffat (1653-1704), Johann Philipp Krieger (1649-1725), Dietrich Buxtehude (1637-1707), Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750), Philipp Heinrich Erlebach (1657-1714), and Johann Georg Pisendel (1687-1755).

OK, I know that unless you are a hard-core classical music fan, most of the names except Bach may be unfamiliar to you.  But, understand, these were among the most-popular composers in Europe at the time.  That much of their work goes unrecognized or even unknown is sign of changing times and attitudes.  I can assure you that even though much of the music may seem repetitious, if you enjoy Baroque music at all, you will enjoy these pieces, most of them two-to-six movement sonatas, especially as they are played by so capable a trio of performers as we have here.  The Trio Settecento have been performing together on period instruments since 1996 and have entertained audiences the world over, live and on disc.  They cannot be faulted in realizations that are lively, poignant, and exciting by turns.  The performances are festive, imaginative, intense, and simply a joy to listen to.

Of course, it also helps that Cedille's chief engineer, Bill Maylone, again provides us with a first-rate audiophile recording.  Made in 2008, it's yet another one of those reach-out-and-touch-it affairs where you feel you are there with the performers in Nicholas Hall at the Music Institute of Chicago.  Whether it's the sonority of Ms. Pine's violin, the crispness of Mr. Schrader's harpsichord or the mellow resonance of the organ, or the glow of Mr. Rozendaal's 'cello or the warmth of his viola da gamba, the sound is as realistic as one could hope for, with no veiling, no undue resonance, no deviations from anything that doesn't sound entirely natural.  It's quite the lovely disc all the way around.


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John J. Puccio

John J. Puccio

About the Author

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.

Mission Statement

It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.

When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job.

Contact Information

Readers with polite, courteous, helpful letters may send them to pucciojj@gmail.com.

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa