STILE MODERNO: New Music from the Seventeenth Century: Quicksilver – ACIS APL72546 (73:30)

STILE MODERNO: New Music from the Seventeenth Century  Quicksilver  ACIS APL72546 (73:30)
Selections by CASTELLO, FONTANA, CIMA, MERULA, BERTALI, MARINI, NERI

“Modern Style” here of course refers to the relatively short, multi-movement pieces developed in the early 17th century at the sumptuous courts and chapels of the northern Italian States. These great musicians were sought by rulers with an alacrity that the powerful of a later time put into acquiring artworks, or the saxophones of great jazz artists who died in poverty. Their sonatas—the term at that point having acquired none of the formal constraints it did, later—were virtuosic display works framing great emotional contrasts. They aimed to please by both charming and surprising their noble audiences, with successive movements that featured fireworks, popular-inspired dance, dramatic recitative, and cantilena.  Especially since the 1990s there’s been an escalation in interest among violinists specializing in early music, which is not surprising. Virtuosic performers enjoy strutting their stuff, and that’s true, whether you’re a 450-year old Venetian, or a relatively young American.

Quicksilver is an ensemble made up of some of the best known musicians traveling the early music circuit, teaching, performing, and recording.  All of them are members of numerous other groups, often emphasizing different instrumentation and works from the broad geographical and temporal span of early music.  Featured here are violinists Robert Mealy (of Tragicomedia, the Boston Camerata, Sequentia, etc) and Julie Andrijeski (of The King’s Noyse, Les Délices, Apollo’s Fire, etc).  Both are excellent performers, technically expert, flexible in phrasing and stylish in ornamentation: fully aware of this music’s rich sense of theater.  They have none of the stodginess and determination I’ve noted in a few other recordings; none of the need to treat the extrovert genius of these works as though it were cautious and bar-bound.  The addition of the occasional other soloist (such as Dominic Teresi on dulcian in Castello’s Sonata undecima, trombonist Greg Ingles in Bertali’s Sonata No. 3) and varied continuo keep things aurally interesting.

Spacious sound, close, with good definition.  So what are you waiting for?  Buy this.