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GRAMOPHONE (02/2020)
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Reviewer: Lindsay Kemp

It’s been a good year for Gottfried Finger, the Moravian-born composer who moved to London in the 1680s and made a respected name for himself working alongside Purcell, Blow and the rest in the theatre, court and concert room. Earlier Duo Dorado gave us first recordings of a worthy clutch of violin sonatas (Chandos, 9/19), and now here is a disc entirely made of (principally instrumental) ‘premieres’ from across the range of his output. That makes it a better overall introduction to Finger, I guess, especially as the repertoire covers his activities in the three decades after he left England in 1701, a significant chunk of his career that included employment at the courts of the Queen of Prussia in Berlin and the Elector Palatine in Breslau, Innsbruck, Neuberg, Heidelberg and finally Mannheim. Finger’s music has an eclectic feel, then, reflecting his enthusiasm for Italian music, his upbringing as a pupil of Biber, the lively scene that was Restoration London and the instrumental colours opened up to him by the wind players (including hornists) of the German courts. One of the joys of listening to his music is hearing how he allows these influences to jostle within the same piece, as for instance in the Sonata a 6 in C which, with its trumpets and drums, begins like one of Biber’s grandiose Salzburg pieces but transitions via a Purcellian ‘drag’ to a violin-led finale. This is far from being the only example of this kind of stylistic shapeshifting, and if some movements ramble a little bit, the way the music keeps you guessing (for instance in the scatter-brained Fantasia) is part of the fun.

Robert Rawson and The Harmonious Society of Tickle-Fiddle Gentlemen (who better to play Finger?) are to be congratulated for searching out and organising this rare music and for presenting it in such an attractive way. The performances are enthusiastic and assured, with the wind players distinguishing themselves especially, though I think the recording could have given them more focus. With its fresh and varied programme, however, this disc is still a pleasure to sample.

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