Those interested in the enticing idea of virtuoso duo-harpsichord music of the High Baroque aren't getting quite what's advertised here, but this is an unusual Baroque disc for students and serious enthusiasts involved with music of the period. Bernardo Pasquini, who lived from 1637 to 1710, was celebrated both as a virtuoso (the booklet here contains a truly spectacular example of Baroque-era praise excess) and as a teacher. He was in demand in both capacities from one end of Europe to the other. The 14 sonatas on this album, most of them in the typical Italian fast-slow-fast chamber-sonata pattern, were apparently written in connection with Pasquini's pedagogical activities. They consist of a pair of figured bass lines that are like continuo parts in an ensemble sonata, with some clues as to what's supposed to be going on (such as ornamented passages) in the right hand. The sonatas were apparently intended as fill-in-the-blank guides to the difficult art of improvisation, which any Baroque keyboardist would have been expected to master. If you're thinking you'll get an Italian counterpart to some of the more spectacular keyboard music of Scarlatti or Bach, that's not really what happens here, although harpsichordists Attilio Cremonesi and Alessandro de Marchi fluently execute the ornamentation. The value of the album is that it explores something that would have been fairly common in the Baroque era, and which violinists have already experimented with to a degree, but that has rarely been touched by keyboardists. The tack Cremonesi and de Marchi take is to let their improvisatory art be hidden: the melodies sound as though they're pre-composed, and perhaps to some degree they were. At any rate, the album raises issues that will be of interest to Baroque specialists.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim