Monday 28 March 2016

Playing of astounding brilliance from Piers Adams and David Wright on their new disc for Red Priest Recordings, Wild Men of the Seicento

Red Priest Recordings  have just released a terrific new recording featuring recorder player, Piers Adams and harpsichordist/organist, David Wright of works by a diverse collection of 17th century composers who often pushed the boundaries of musical ideas.

Entitled Wild Men of the Seicento – or the sixteen hundreds – this new disc opens with the Bohemian virtuoso violinist and arch innovator, Heinrich Biber’s (1644-1704) Sonata No.3. David Wright provides a wonderfully florid opening for harpsichord to which Piers Adams adds some sumptuous recorder sounds, weaving beautifully and freely around the harpsichord line in the most virtuosic style with which we have come to expect from him. There are moments of terrific rhythmic bounce as well as the most brilliant fast, intricate passages of astounding brilliance in this ever changing sonata. Wright brings playing of terrific panache with passages of fine breadth as well as restrained poise.  Adams achieves some lovely sonorities in the longer, slower phrases before a fast and furious, mad rush to the coda.  

The Italian maestro di cappella at Modena Cathedral, Marco Uccellini (1603-1680) is a much lesser known figure. David Wright brings a rather dark and solemn opening to his Sonata Nona with Adams soon adding a slow, mellifluous dark hued theme weaving beautifully around the organ part with some terrific decorations.

The Italian composer and lutenist Andrea Falconieri (c. 1585-1656) also worked in Modena as well as Parma and Genoa. In four movements, Wright brings a well sprung harpsichord opening to the Brando Dicho El Melo of his Dance Suite before Adams joins to dance forward in this joyous section, the two creating some lovely harmonies. Both players lead forward in the slower Corrente Dicha La Cuella, a most lovely piece that, although not English, has a kind of Elizabethan charm. Il Spiritillo Brando has a stomping good tune, rhythmically pointed as it races quickly ahead with fabulous playing from both these artists. Brando Dicho El Melo (reprise) gains in tempo as it moves into a return of the opening.

The French composer, Jean-Henri d'Anglebert (1629-1691) was harpsichordist to King Louis XIV. David Wright brings us his Prelude in G minor for harpsichord with a slow, broad opening beautifully laid out, finding some wonderful sonorities and harmonies as the piece develops.

The Italian composer and violinist Giovanni Antonio Pandolfi Mealli (c.1630-1670) was employed in the Spanish Chapel Royale.  Piers Adams brings a lovely wavering theme to open his Sonata 'La Cesta' over David Wright’s broad rippling textures. The music rises through some terrific passages before increasing, with Adams bringing more finely fluent and agile playing. Midway there is a slow moment for harpsichord that introduces a melancholy theme that is taken up by the recorder – quite beautiful – before soon gaining momentum to race forward with some fabulously intricate playing to a florid coda.

Jacob van Eyck (1590-1657) was a Dutch carillonist and composer working in Utrecht. His Boffons brings a nicely pointed, staccato recorder line over an organ drone that develops its own rhythm. Adams develops the theme with intricate decorations, quite wonderfully played, with incredible dexterity and fluency.

The English composer John Bull (c.1563-1628) was one of the leading keyboard virtuosos of his time. His Fantasia in D minor for harpsichord opens with a series of three note motifs that seem to predict the opening of Bach’s famous Toccata and Fugue in D minor but immediately develops its own way through some richly built sonorities. It develops some fine passages, full of freely developed invention with Wright building some terrific passages with supreme fluency and panache – wonderfully done.

The Spanish composer Bartolomeo de Selma y Salaverde (1570-1638) is represented by his Canzona Seconda opened by Wright who is very soon joined by Adams in a perky theme that occasionally finds a more reflective moment. It develops some incredibly fluent, intricate passages for recorder that are nothing short of remarkable in the hands of Adams.

Giovanni Battista Fontana (d. 1630) was an Italian composer and violinist who left an important collection of sonatas. There is a slow opening for recorder and organ to his Sonata Seconda with Adams adding lovely embellishments and bringing lovely sonorities. There is some fine accompaniment from Wright occasionally echoing the recorder line as the music moves through some varying passages often faster and rhythmic to a beautifully turned coda.

David Wright brings another Fantasia by John Bul, this time his Fantasia in A minor for harpsichord that has a slow, broad opening, gently and slowly revealing the theme with some lovely harmonies.  

The Italian composer and wind player, Dario Castello (c.1590 - c.1658) is believed to have worked in Venice in the early part of the 17th century. His Sonata Seconda opens with a quizzical little theme for harpsichord before the recorder joins and the music moves ahead with some faster bursts played with fine dexterity by both these players. Their ensemble is quite superb as the music moves through some fast and intricate passages full of joy and energy. Part way the harpsichord heralds a slower, broader section with these two creating fine textures before building through some elaborate passages to the coda.

The Italian composer and violinist Arcangelo Corelli (1653-1713) is probably one of the best known names here. His Sonata in C major Op.5 No.3 opens with a finely shaped Adagio that slowly builds through some wonderfully fluent passages to the lovely coda. There is razor sharp phrasing in the energetic Allegro, superbly handled by both these players with some fine flourishes from Adams - superbly done. The broad and flowing Adagio brings more fine decorations with little touches from Adams that lifts the music. There is terrific fast intricate phrasing from Adams in the brief Allegro that leaves one quite breathless before a Giga that has a fine rhythmic bounce, moving through some terrific passages to the slower coda.

Make no mistake, for all the fun and good humour in these terrific performances there is musicianship of a high order. With a first rate recording this is a stunning disc.

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