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American Record Guide: (03/2021) 
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Harmonia Mundi

Code-barres / Barcode : 3149020941942



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Reviewer: Charles Brewer


The title for this anthology was inspired by two grounds, based on different ostinatos, that John Eccles wrote as incidental music for a play about a melancholy man. In addition to Eccles, this collection of sonatas, suites, grounds, and divisions includes a single prelude for unaccompa-nied violin by Henry Purcell, the ‘Sonata Sesta’ by Daniel Purcell, two sonatas by Henry Eccles, and a number of selections by both the elder Nicola Matteis (c.1650-c.1714), an Italian immigrant to England, and his son, also named Nicola (late 1670s-1737). Many of these selections are also ostinato variations, such as the elder Matteis’s ‘Diverse bizzarie sopra la vecchia saraband o pur Ciaccona’ (Various whimsies on the old saraband or, if you like, Ciaccona) or Henry Eccles’s ‘New Division on the ground bass of John come and kiss me’.The sonatas by Daniel Purcell and Henry Eccles are very much in the style of Arcangelo Corelli’s Italian contemporaries, while the elder Matteis’s suite consists of dances and character pieces (such as the ‘Aria Burlesca’ and the ‘Giga al Genio Turchesco’). The two unaccompanied violin fantasias by the young Matteis are found only in a German manuscript, though on this new recording the second movement of the unaccompanied Fantasia in C minor by the younger Matteis is missing.

The interpretation of the first movement by De Swarte is significantly more expressive than the faster recording by Augusta McKay Lodge (Nov/Dec 2018: 183), who does include the following Molto Adagio. Langlois de Swarte in the booklet described the ability of the 1665 violin by Jacob Stainer he played “to imitate the sound of the (singing or speaking) human voice”. He varies his bow strokes to evoke the many different passions expressed by these compositions.

De Swarte’s sensitive interpretations are imaginatively supported by Thomas Dunford’s lute continuo. While I have not heard the release by Theatrum Affectuum (Aeolus 10226, 2015), both the earlier recordings of music by Matteis and his contemporaries (July/Aug 1995 & July/Aug 1998) as well other more recent recordings (Amandine Beyer, Alpha 497, 2009, and Alice Julien-Laferriere (Jan/Feb 2021) are very good, but none match the sensitivity of De Swarte. I hope he will soon accept the challenge to perform music by the 17th Century Central-European violinists, Schmelzer, Biber, and their contemporaries.


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