Hacquart Suites for Viol (opus 3, 1686)

Guido Balestracci gamba, Nicola Dal Maso violone, Rafael Bonavita archlute, Massamiliano Raschietti harpsichord/organ
73:38
Pan Classics PC 10338
Suites 6, 8-12

This is a re-release of a recording originally made in 2003, of six of the suites, re-released with nice timing to go with the publication of the 12 Suites, originally published by Hacquart in 1686 under the title of Chelys, in a modern edition, published by Güntersberg in 2013. I reviewed it in EMR issue 161, August 2014, and found the music well worth the attention of good players. In Guido Balestracci it has undoubtedly found such a one.

Predating the Güntersberg edition by 10 years, they have worked out their own bass line for some of the movements, and their solutions are sometimes very imaginative, including leaving out the bass altogether for some bars. He plays with marvellous freedom and virtuosity, always finding ways to bring out the beauty of the music, but without mannerism. That’s not to say that he plays entirely literally – he takes liberties with the notated versions, particularly in his tempi, but all is very much at the service of the music – lovely lyricism in the slow movements, and beautifully articulated rapid playing in the fast. A particularly nice touch is in the Sarabande of the C major suite, No 12, where there are divisions or variations following each statement. The lute, accompanied by the organ and 2nd bass viol, plays the ‘plain’ version beautifully, and the solo bass viol follows with the variations.

The music itself is clearly derived from the French style, the Allemandes and Sarabandes very much influenced by Marais, but, like Schenk, Hacquart was affected by the English and Italian music as well. He may not have the same melodic charm that Schenk has, but he writes so well for the instrument, that the result, in these hands, is very enjoyable listening. The continuo team of lute, 2nd bass viol and harpsichord/organ is marvellous.

The sound is very resonant, recorded in a favourable acoustic, fairly close-miked. The booklet has excellent notes, supplementing the introduction to the Güntersberg publication. One minor complaint is Nicola dal Maso is listed as playing a violone, when it’s clearly a bass viol, but that’s not sufficient not to give this one top marks throughout.

Robert Oliver