Better known now as a hugely influential theorist and codifier of the principles and performance practice of Baroque music, Johann Mattheson (1681-1764) was not just a scholar but a highly accomplished composer. This album of 12 harpsichord suites offers ample evidence of his creative gifts. The suites were published in two volumes in London in 1714. When Handel heard of this publication, he sent for a copy and in his own words, ‘without hesitation, played it through’: no mean compliment!
Doubtless Handel recognised a kindred spirit. Mattheson’s own style is genial and fluent, tending towards the more audience-pleasing character of Handel’s suites rather than the more rigorous keyboard music of Bach. These suites also have their light-hearted and humorous moments, qualities which characterise many of Telemann’s instrumental works: indeed it’s notable how free Mattheson’s music is from the pedantic and academic character of at least some of his writing. Several suites open with a prelude of showy, toccata-like character before the standard Baroque sequence of dance movements such as vigorous and syncopated gigues and gentle sarabandes.
The last three suites are the grandest of the twelve, opening with spacious Overtures or in the case of No.10 a symphony, rejoicing in both counterpoint and a sense of high ceremony. Within the 12th are embedded adaptations of three pieces by Mattheson’s contemporary Georg Ludwig Böhm: a stylish example of the borrowing that was common practice at the time.
According to Musicweb International, Simonetto’s previous Brilliant Classics album, of suites by Pieter Bustijn (BC94187), is ‘a disc that no lover of Baroque or harpsichord music in general should be without: nearly 80 minutes of enormously appealing, high-octane invention superbly rendered by Alessandro Simonetto on a magnificent reproduction Ruckers instrument, brilliantly captured by the sound engineer - all that at Brilliant's bargain price!’
Johann Mattheson (1681-1764) is mainly remembered as a scholar, author of books on music theory, but he was also a brilliant and prolific composer. A child prodigy he learned several languages and played numerous instruments, like the keyboard, violin, gamba, flute, oboe. He was also a fine singer. He was a prolific composer of both instrumental and vocal music (he wrote several operas).
This double CD presents his 12 Suites for the Harpsichord, highly attractive music full of fluent melodies of a strong vocal quality, instrumental brilliance and warmth. His friend George Frideric Handel was greatly charmed by these suites and is said to have played them immediately upon publication in London in 1714. Alessandro Simonetto is a versatile musician, playing the harpsichord and the piano, as well as being a respected record producer. He already recorded for Brilliant Classics harpsichord music by Pieter Bustijn, which became Recording of the Month on Musicweb.