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GRAMOPHONE (Awards Issue /2015)
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Reviewer: Lindsay Kemp


Thanks to the admiring accounts of the likes of John Evelyn and Roger North, we know a fair bit about ‘stupendous’ Nicola Matteis, the Italian violinist who came to London in 1670 and showed the English a thing or two about violin-playing with recitals that had his audiences ‘held by the ears’. And his music, which consists mainly of four books of attractive and playful ‘Ayres for the Violin’ published between 1676 and 1685, has attracted some attention in recent years. Various of the preludes, dances, grounds, mini-fugues and other pieces for violin and continuo – some Italianate, some Frenchsounding, few longer than five minutes, from which Matteis apparently liked to make up suites or sonatas in performance – have turned up in several anthologies, while this is the fourth album to make them its focus, following those by the Palladian Ensemble (Linn, 9/00), Gli Incogniti (ZZT, 4/10) and Hélène Schmitt (Alpha).


Theatrum Affectuum, based in Holland, use recorder, violin or both on the top lines (Matteis added second treble parts in later editions) with a continuo section of cello, theorbo/guitar and keyboards. Their performances are stylish, rich-toned and nimble; and, like most Matteis interpreters, they play with the material a bit, adding ornaments and repeats and sexing up the scoring here and there. Perhaps not much more than that is required, though if you want a touch more fantasy and fun you may prefer the lithe violin of Gli Incogniti’s Amandine Beyer or the quick, bright brilliance of Rachel Podger and recorder player Pamela Thorby for the Palladians. Like the Palladians, Theatrum Affectuum throw in some Scottish tunes as published by Francesco Barsanti in 1742, though they keep the balance much more firmly in Matteis’s favour. Four discs of Matteis may well be more than you’ll ever need but each of the above will give pleasure enough.



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