Mattheson : The Melodious Talking Fingers

Colin Booth harpsichord
Soundboard SBCD 220

This recording seems not to be available from – you can buy it at Colin’s own website

Johann Mattheson is an almost exact contemporary of Handel and Bach, the former whom he lionised and the latter whom he also admired, and had possibly also met. He is also famous for providing us in his Ehrenpforte a vivid autobiography by Telemann, whom he is also likely to have known well. He is a man more quoted than performed, although in his day he was a hugely admired composer, as well as a singer, impresario, polyglot, harpsichordist, musicologist, dancer, man about town and a renowned fencer – a burst of rage in which he attacked the young Handel with a sword might well have deprived us of the output of one of the finest of Baroque composers, but for a button which turned Mattheson’s blade aside! Much of his vast output was tragically lost in the wartime bombing of Hamburg, but among surviving collections is this set of fugues and dance music, Die Wohlklingende Finger-Sprache, extravagantly dedicated to Handel. Like Mattheson, Colin Booth is also something of a polymath, combining the careers of musicologist, performer and harpsichord builder, and plays this programme on a two-manual instrument, based on a 17th-century brass-strung original. This permits a wider than usual range of timbres, and reasonably in the light of Matheson’s flamboyant personality, Booth makes full use of this fine instrument’s possibilities. This and Mattheson’s inventive imagination ensure a thoroughly entertaining CD, particularly as the fugues become more and more complex. Booth comments that Mattheson’s music is attracting growing attention, and it is to be hoped that his contributions to chamber music, church music and the opera will find wider circulation in recordings.

D. James Ross

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