Sonatas for three violins

Ensemble Diderot, Johannes Pramsohler
Audax Records ADX 13729

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In days of yore, when I enjoyed occasionally playing the violin, there was no repertoire I derived greater fun from that the (mostly 17th-century) music for three trebles. There is just something maigcal about adding another voice to the more usual trio texture; the harmonies can become richer, the texture more complex, and the resonance of your instrument just goes up a notch.

This, of course, is not the first time that a disc has been devoted to such music. But (and it’s a big but) HIP playing has come such a long way since the last one of real quality that this disc seems to signal a changing of the guard. All of the favourites are there: Gabrieli, Fontana, Buonamente, Schmelzer, Purcell and, of course, Pachelbel. But Messrs Pramsohler, Bernabé and Pirri also bring new delights: an arrangement of Psalm 8 by Johann Sommer (published in 1623, this is the earliest work in the programme), a fabulous sonate en quatuor by Dornel (the latest, published in 1709), a very modern sounding sonata by Giuseppe Torelli, and – one of my old favourites – the Fux sonata for just three violins! The playing is superb, the recorded sound clear as a bell, and the production standards just incredible (I can’t rate the Japanese translation, but I enjoyed practising my French and German!) What impressed most was the way music from different places was instantly distinguishable; while some groups take a “one-size-fits-all” approach, Ensemble Diderot invest as much of their considerable talent and seemingly limitless energy in making the music feel genuine.

Time after time, Audax Records just keep the stunning releases coming. If we still had the old “five stars” system, this would be a six. And they do it all while maintaining a healthy sense of humour: click HERE if you don’t believe me…

Brian Clark

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