Early Music Review

By Brian Clark

Posted: November 27, 2018

REVIEW: The Battle, the Bethel & the Ball

ONE MIGHT WORRY that five of the seven works on a CD are only attributed to the composer whose name it bears, but when the attribution is sanctioned by an expert like Charles Brewer, one need have little real anxiety. While Biber was far from being the only “crazy” composer of his day (Schmelzer wrote music in 5/4 time, Valentini’s harmonic shifts are sometimes reminiscent of Prokoviev, to name but two!), the works in question do bear too many of his signature traits for there to be any serious doubt. The programme is bookended by a remarkable Sonata Jucunda a5 which pushes 17th-century harmony to the limits and the composer’s Battalia with its renowned combination of folk songs in different keys. Sandwiched in between are solo motets for soprano and baritone with distuned violin, solos for gamba and violin with continuo (the latter is the longer version of the increasingly popular Ciacona) and another attribution, this time a set of dances for two instrumental groups, which plays very cleverly with the imitative possibilities of the music. As with their previous recordings, ACRONYM (aka Anachronistic Cooperative Realizing Obscure Nuanced Yesteryear’s Masterpieces!) absolutely throw themselves into this wild world and relish every note – soprano Molly Quinn and baritone Jesse Blumberg need no introduction to regular readers of these pages, and their contribution matches the instrumentalists perfectly. The recording is beautifully clear – try the opening of track 2 (O Dulcis Jesu), where the string bass, organ and theorbo are all distinctly audible, while Molly Quinn’s voice floats effortlessly across the top. The booklet notes are brief but pertinent and translations are given of both of the sung texts. I hope I don’t have to wait too long for ACRONYM’s next release!