Buxtehude: Trio sonatas op. 2

Arcangelo (Sophie Gent violin, Jonathan Manson viola da gamba, Thomas Dunford lute, Jonathan Cohen harpsichord)
Alpha Records aplha 738

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It is fascinating to see how the exploration of the music of Buxtehude, at one point known mainly as a composer of keyboard music, has widened our perception of this all-round Baroque genius. His contribution to the trio sonata is indeed profound, and this spirited recording of his opus 2 (BUXWV 259-265) by the four musicians of Arcangelo serves further to enhance his reputation. The combination of violin and gamba, with lute and harpsichord on the continuo, frees up the lute to contribute catchy cross-rhythms while at the same time adding substance to the accompaniments, while the contrasting timbres and ranges of the two ‘melody’ instruments is exploited to the full. Buxtehude’s flair for inventive melodic shapes, as well as his consummate craftsmanship, are very evident in this set, and these wonderfully musical performances by Arcangelo bring out the many charms of this remarkable ground-breaking repertoire. Notwithstanding their opus numbers, this and Buxtehude’s other set of seven trio sonatas (opus 1) are works of his maturity composed in the 1690s when the composer was in his 60s. So they benefit from a lifetime’s compositional experience, but more remarkably there is a stunning spontaneity and quirkiness, more readily associated with the music of youth. There are many ways into the fascinating world of the Baroque Trio Sonata, but there are few more enticing pathways than these relatively early examples, and specifically these vibrant performances.

D. James Ross

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