Mattheson: The Melodious Talking Fingers

Die Wohlklingende Fingersprache
Collin Booth harpsichord
Soundboard Records SBCD220

Colin Booth’s recordings are always worth looking out for and his latest is no exception, following on from his fine recording of Bach’s 48 Preludes and Fugues. His careful preparatory research is shown by his extremely informative liner notes covering Mattheson’s relations with his close contemporaries, Bach and Handel, as well as providing a running commentary on the Wohlklingende Fingersprache recorded here. This 1735 publication, dedicated to Handel, contained twelve fugues, as well as a number of shorter movements in the manner of galanterien. The fugues come in a carefully constructed key order, moving by fifths from G to E flat and back again. Some are quite extended, with two double fugues and one triple; this last is the longest at just over nine minutes here. As Booth points out, Mattheson wears his undoubted learning lightly, not being afraid to break away from strict writing now and again, while using singable subjects and a variety of musical styles. The result is an attractive programme, with the periodic insertion of the galanterien providing further contrast. Booth plays them straight, allowing the music to speak for itself. He uses the same instrument as he did for the Bach, his own enlarged copy of a 1661 French double, made by Nicholas Cellini. Its brass stringing and clear voicing allow all the contrapuntal parts to come through clearly, helped by the close recording which gives the instrument real presence. It is well worth listening to.

Noel O’Regan

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