Nicola Matteis: Most ravishing things

theatrum affectuum
73:18
Aeolus AE-10226

A most engaging and enjoyable issue. Nicola Matteis (c1644-49 – before 1695) is thought to have been Neapolitan in origin, but the music on this disc was published between 1682 and 1687 in London, and provides a fascinating snapshot of what was then fashionable there. There are echoes, as one would expect, of Italy – light-footed ‘fugas’ and suspension-laden ‘adagios’, but also French ‘correntes’ and even a ‘Pretty hard ground after the Scotch Humour.’ Purcell clearly knew his Matteis – there are echoes of the Scotch ground in the chorus “Come, Shepherds, lead up a lively measure” from King Arthur, for example.

Theatrum Affectuum have selected pieces from the various publications and grouped them into convincing ‘suites,’ as would no doubt have been usual at the time. In general they have scored them for recorder, violin and continuo, with the upper parts alternating – sometimes varying between alto and soprano recorder within individual ‘suites’, which is a little distracting. The playing is, however, uniformly superb, with breathtaking recorder runs from Andreas Bohlen and virtuoso violin double-stopping from Ayako Matsunaga, and extremely infectious rhythmic vitality; try the foot-tapping ‘Gavotte con divisioni’ from the fourth suite. Giangiacomo Pinardi’s guitar gets its chance to shine in the ‘Ayre’ of the first suite, and Pierre-Augustin Lay and Takashi Watanabe provide rock-steady continuo and lively ‘grounds’.

The disc also contains a couple of finely played Barsanti arrangements of Scots songs, though their mid-18th-century style sits a little uneasily with the rest of the programme. Andreas Bohlen’s sleevenotes are models of their kind – scholarly, well-written and most informative. Well worth exploring!

Alastair Harper