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GRAMOPHONE (05/2017)
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Reviewer: Charlotte Gardner

During the late 1600s, when Dieterich Buxtehude was organist of the Marienkirche in Lübeck, the town council received a wonderful letter of application from one of the city’s amateur musicians, offering his musical services. The instruments he could play in ‘a fitting manner’ were the violin, viola da gamba, violone, recorders, cornett, dulcian and ‘all manner of wind instruments’, plus the trombone and bass trombone. ‘If necessary’, he concluded, ‘I can cope with keyboard and vocal music.’

No wonder then that the stylus fantasticus of the time reached its peak under Buxtehude’s pen, because clearly even the amateur musicians in his city would have been well capable of getting their fingers around wherever his invention took him, and the intellectual energy and variety of the Lübeck environment is almost palpable in La Rêveuse’s programme of violin and viola da gamba trio sonatas. For starters, in the ensemble’s attitude to programming, because they haven’t just stuck to Buxtehude’s two published collections of sonatas but instead have raided the Uppsala University Library in Sweden for manuscripts of three sonatas he sent to an organist and court director friend in Stockholm. They’ve thrown in some context too, in the form of Becker’s Hamburg-written Sonata in D for violin and viol, and an anonymous-but-likely-to-be-Lübeck-linked viol sonata from Oxford’s Bodleian Library, which also only exists in manuscript form.

This scholarly contextual thinking and energy has also thoroughly pervaded the actual performances. Overall there’s a real sense of music happening right now; also of intellectual nimbleness. Then there’s the continuo section’s easy movement, and the nuanced, dancing lilt from Stephan Dudermel on the violin and Florence Bolton on the viola da gamba. In fact, listening to this album feels rather like being delightfully, playfully – and thoroughly willingly – seduced.


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