Nicola Porpora, a contemporary of Bach, Handel, Vivaldi, and Haydn (and a very young Mozart) is best remembered today as a famous singing teacher and opera composer. During his long career (he lived to age 81) he suffered many employment-related difficulties and disappointments that caused him to move frequently. Naples (where he was born), Venice, Dresden, and Vienna (where he taught Haydn) all enjoyed Porpora's reputable presence, and he even spent a period in London at the behest of a group seeking to unseat Handel and his opera company from its preeminent position. In addition to his operas and vocal music, Porpora wrote instrumental works such as the six violin sonatas featured here, which are drawn from a set of 12. Although anyone familiar with Italian Baroque and early Classical-style solo violin music will discover nothing particularly original on this generally fine recording, if you enjoy that genre and period you'll find much here to indulge and satisfy your taste.
The Franco-Flemish composer, Johannes Ockeghem, sang at Antwerp at the Bourbon court before joining the French royal chapel in 1451. Ockeghem spent most of his professional life at the French chapel and his output was quite prolific. He composed 14 settings of the Mass, including one of the earliest polyphonic versions of the Requiem. Ockeghem also composed numerous motets and secular songs. He was one of the most original voices in early Renaissance polyphony and his music dazzles with its ingenuity and beauty.
This is not such a bizarre cross-over as one might imagine for in the 18th century the great Irish musician Turlough O’Carolan, a blind harpist, met the Italian musician Geminiani in Dublin, and through him encountered the music of, yes, guess who, Antonio Vivaldi. So here we have a case of substituting Irish instruments for baroque ones, using baroque instruments to accompany Irish themes, by creating dialogues between Celtic and baroque instruments, or by letting all the musicians improvise. One moment we appear to be listening to a ‘straight’ baroque concerto, then all of a sudden the conventional string continuo/ripieno of the baroque ensemble (Le Orfanelle della Pieta) gives way to celtic musicians playing a jig or reel on anything from a Irish bouzouki to a fiddle. The baroque group consists of three each of first and second violins, one viola, two cellos, a bass and harpsichord while the Irish musicians play Irish fiddle, an Irish flute (like a baroque flute), tin and low whistles, Uileann pipes, Irish bouzouki, mandolins, bodhran, bones, and the Celtic harp (played here with metal strings to resemble its harpsichord counterpart in the other group).