Meister: Il giardino del piacere

Ensemble Diderot, Johannes Pramsohler
66:45
Audax Records 13705

A little over five years ago (it already seems so much longer!), Musica Antiqua Köln – for so long trail-blazers of the “early music revival” – signed off with six unknown sonatas by Johann Friedrich Meister from his Il giardino del piacere  of 1695. In so many ways, the present recording marks a “changing of the guards”; as something of a protegé of Goebel, Johannes Pramsohler has, in a few short years, built a considerable reputation for not being afraid to tackle “new” repertoire (though never without both historical importance and real musical merit). So now he and his equally impressive colleagues from Ensemble Diderot mop up the six sonatas Goebel was unable to include in his final discographic offering as violinist (nos. 1, 3, 7, 8, 9 and 12 of the set). Apart from “La Musica Duodecima”, each opens with three abstract movements (while nos. 3, 7, 8 and 9 have a Fuga Allegro  between two Adagios, no. 1 has a Canon in unisono), then a sequence of dance movements. The final sonata opens with a Grave, then follow six dances. As with previous Audax recordings, the sound quality is extraordinary, capturing a wide range of dynamics – impressive as some of the virtuosity is, I especially enjoyed the slower music on this disc, where the three string players relish the sounds of their instruments so that we can, too; the violins are sufficiently different to allow us to hear the crossing lines, and Gulrim Choi relishes the moments where she can take the lead. I recall not being convinced by Goebel’s sleevenote claim for his release that MAK had truly discovered a long-last master (that being what “Meister” means in German), but on this re-acquaintance, I fear I was a little harsh – these are accomplished works that certainly deserve to be better known, and I cannot believe that this recording will not spread his reputation (and enhance those of the performers!) around the globe.

Brian Clark