With pieces from The Music-Book of Jacob Mestmacher
Peter Spissky & Bjarte Eike (violins); Markku Luolajan-Mikkola (viola da gamba & cello); Frode Thorsen (recorder); Kjersti Sellevåg (traverso) & Hans Knut Sveen (harpsichord)
Recorded in September 2001 & June 2003 at the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation, Bergen, Norway
CD No: TOCCATA CLASSICS TOCC 0006 Duration: 66 minutes Reviewed: October 2005
Georg von Bertouch
Reviewed by William Yeoman
These delightful trio sonatas by Georg von Bertouch (1668-1743), interspersed with pieces from The Music-Book of Jacob Mestmacher, tumble blinking into the light courtesy of Toccata Classics, a new label set up with the expressed purpose of recording unjustly neglected music of any period. All the music here is recorded for the first time. And the neglect certainly is unjust here, with Bertouchs craftsmanship evident in every phrase of the highly contrapuntal yet light-textured three-and four-movement sonatas.
Italianate in design, these sonatas compare favourably with Bachs (with whom Bertouch was a regular correspondent), thought without Bachs extensive motivic development. One would never have guessed that Bertouch, a gifted violinist, conductor and composer, was actually a career soldier, having fought in 22 battles before ending his days as commandant of Akershus Castle in Christiania (now Oslo). The Gallanterien from the Mestmacher manuscript (a family music book containing various works in different hands and passed from generation to generation) provide effective contrast through their uncomplicated dance forms.
Bergen Barokk provides extra colour by varying the instrumentation in accordance with the principles of the day; the ensemble mixes and matches violins, recorders, transverse flute, cello, viola da gamba, and harpsichord, often to beautiful effect (the opening Largo of Bertouchs G minor sonata is particularly fine). The performances overall are first-rate, though Id like to have heard more lavish ornamentation and a little more dynamic contrast. The recording is clean and just a touch dry, allowing maximum clarity among the parts. Given that Bertouch will be totally unfamiliar to all but a few listeners, the extensive booklet notes provide essential historical and musicological information. A welcome release from an important independent label.