Florish in the Key

The solo violin London 1650-1700
Peter Sheppard Skæved
athene ath 23211

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This CD relies on several elements – firstly the activities of the 18th-century musical publishing magpie, John Walsh, who between 1700 and 1704 produced Preludes or Voluntarys – a Variety of Compositions by all the Greatest Masters in Europe. In a period in London which saw an insatiable appetite for music for the talented amateur to work away at on his own, which at the same time could open his mind to the wider potential of Europe, this collection enjoyed considerable success. Secondly, by borrowing from the best composers at the time, Walsh ensured that the quality never faltered. Thirdly, Peter Sheppard Skaerved’s imaginative accounts of the music on a wonderful 17th-century violin, the Charles II, at one point a feature of one of Charles II’s violin bands, using a little early baroque bow by Antonino Airente, are lovely airy readings, lightweight but eloquent. And fourthly, Skaerved’s comprehensive programme note evokes the period context of the music superbly. Finally, there is the choice of programme – after an engaging selection from the Walsh publication, Skaerved chooses to end the CD with a tribute to the great 17th-century violin virtuoso, Thomas Baltzar, on a wonderfully mellow 1629 Amati violin. A CD which could so easily have degenerated into the experience of the neighbour of an aspiring early 18th-century gentleman violinist constantly practising, turns out to be so much more – both a genuinely intriguing musical journey and a fascinating window opened on the world of the early violin.

D. James Ross

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