Violin Sonatas by Gottfried Finger

Duo Dorado (Hazel Brooks violin, David Pollock harpsichord/organ)
Chandos Chaconne CHAN 0824

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Bohemian Gottfried Finger was just one of an army of European composers who made their way to the musical ferment of late 17th-century London, arriving in 1685 and leaving in a strop in 170,1 having come last in a musical competition! A composer of considerable talent and a catholic, Finger was snapped up by James II for his Catholic Chapel, but on the latter’s flight to the continent, Finger had to make his own way in the cut-throat world of freelance music-making. A British Library manuscript Add. 31466, a bumper collection of 66 violin sonatas, provides all of the sonatas recorded on this CD, which prove to be works in a fascinating range of styles and of limitless imagination – hard to reconcile this with the verdict on his ill-fated entry in the ‘Prize Musick’ which was deemed to be old-fashioned. It seems likely that Finger’s Catholicism and his foreign status probably weighed more heavily in his defeat than his perceived lack of talent. Hazel Brooks plays an 18th-century Viennese violin, which possesses an ideal glowing tone and crisp attack for Finger’s lyrical music, while David Pollock, playing a replica Ruttgers/Hemsch harpsichord and a continuo organ, provides a wonderfully sympathetic and responsive accompaniment. Brooks deftly ornaments the violin part, and clearly enjoys Finger’s spontaneous and often rather chromatically daring idiom. Finger was also a renowned trumpeter, and I have played a trio sonata by him for trumpet, violin and continuo on Baroque clarinet, becoming aware in the process that this was a composer with a distinctive musical voice who deserved further attention. The Duo Dorado are clearly of the same opinion, and this recording is a valuable advance in our awareness of his many musical virtues.

D. James Ross

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