Cabinet of Wonders, Vol. 2

Works for the violin and basso continuo from the 18th-century Schrank II Collection, Dresden
Kinga Ujszászi violin, Tom Foster harpsichord
First Hand Records FHR121

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This CD of 18th-century music for violin and continuo associated with Dresden offers premiere recordings of works by Martino Bitti, Henricus Albicastro and Carlo Fiorelli, as well as two anonymous works, possibly by Nicolò Laurenti and Antonio Montanari. They are from a collection probably compiled by the violin virtuoso Johann Georg Pisendel, an almost exact contemporary of J S Bach. Pisendel was the leading violinist of the Dresden Hofkapelle, becoming its official concertmaster in 1730. An eclectic and assiduous collector of music, Pisendel subsequently left his library of music to the Court, where it was preserved in Schrank II, the cabinet of the title, which found its way in due course into the Saxon State and University Library in Dresden. It is indeed a cabinet of wonders, both in the range of flavours of the music it contains and the varying demands the music places on the players. These performances by Ujszászi and Foster are delightfully expressive, while the decision to have the harpsichord play the continuo part alone rather than supported by a cello lightens the texture and creates a compellingly informal and spontaneous atmosphere. It is extraordinary to think that none of this music has been recorded before, and it is a mark of the sheer volume of fine music lying tucked away in archives that nobody has hitherto touched this resource. I have enjoyed both volumes of this series, and look forward to this rich collection providing us with further volumes of unanticipated treasures.

D. James Ross

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