Emotions ruffle the elegant surface of these instrumental suites by Georg Muffat - caprice, melancholy, martial fervor, amorous longing - and like ripples on a moonlit pond, they shimmer and are gone. They're only ripple deep, these musical evocations, easily recognized but not sustained. Even the titles are stylized - "Indissoluble Friendship", "Noble Youth", Chaconne of the "Lucky Stars", "Quis Hic?".. Who's There? Who indeed? The dancing master, of course! The five suites are composed of the familiar courtly dances of the 17th Century: minuets, bourees, gigues, sarabandes, gavottes, all so exquisitely graceful that one can easily visualize the dancers in their brocades and lace.
"Ensemble 415 is a chamber ensemble devoted largely to the performance of Baroque music on period instruments. The numerical reference in the group's name derives from the pitch used for tuning instruments in the Baroque era. In performing chamber music, Ensemble 415 consists of just a few players, but for larger compositions, the number expands to a minimum of 13 and can reach up to as high as 40 performers. The ensemble's repertory has been broad over the years, taking in many Baroque standards by J.S. Bach, Vivaldi, and Handel, as well as lesser known fare by Muffat and others…"
Label Hyperion has created one of the finest recordings of Muffat's instrumental music ever made: the Parley of Instruments' Muffat: Armonico Tributo. Beautifully recorded at St. Jude-on-the-Hill in London, the Parley of Instruments is jointly led by Peter Holman and Roy Goodman, neither of whom allow any whiny string playing or desultory tempi; the playing is as crisp as the music is fresh.
Schmelzer's many-sided musical talent gives us a detailed glimpse of court life in Vienna and Prague under his imperial employers Ferdinand III (1637-1657) and Leopold I (1657-1705).
For her first collaboration with the period ensemble Il Giardino Armonico, violinist Isabelle Faust performs the five Violin Concertos of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, along with three shorter concertante works. This is an extraordinary set, for the historically informed performances, the polished sound of the group, the almost palpable presence of the players, which Harmonia Mundi has captured with superior engineering, and for the unrepressed joy in the music. Faust is the center of attention, naturally, and her refined and expressive playing immediately pulls the listener in. These are far from the most demanding concertos in the repertoire, so Faust is less concerned with technical execution than with conveying the pure feeling of the music, which is delightfully buoyant and uplifting. Under the direction of Giovanni Antonini, the group provides warm and sparkling accompaniment that gives Faust all the support she needs, but there's no doubt that she sets the emotional tone for these exquisite recordings. Highly recommended, especially for devotees of Classical style at its finest.
A note of caution first to the unobservant purchaser who picks up this CD, believing, in glee, that he has stumbled across a premiere recording of Alessandro Scarlatti's Dixit Dominus, newly come to light - or, if not, possibly by his son, Domenico, usually better known for his keyboard music. These works, indeed premiere recordings, are in fact by Domenico's uncle and Alessandro's younger brother, Francesco.