Bernardo Pasquini: Mottetti a voce sola e composizioni per organo

Alexandra Nigito

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Bernardo Pasquini: Mottetti a voce sola e composizioni per organo Review

by James Manheim

The notes for this release from the specialist Tactus label paint quite a persuasive portrait of composer and keyboardist Bernardo Pasquini's repute in his own time: Queen Christina of Sweden is said to have ordered her carriage to stop and make way when Pasquini's group approached on the road. The album includes both keyboard pieces, played without explanation on an organ although they were designated as for harpsichord, and works for voice and continuo. The booklet (in Italian, German, and English) offers contradictory testimony as to the relative importance of these; it asserts first that "Pasquini's reputation rested above all on his legendary virtuosity as a performer and composer of keyboard music," but then claims that "[t]o his contemporaries . . . Pasquini's vocal compositions were as well known as his instrumental works." Whatever the case, it is the keyboard pieces that hold the most interest. Pasquini seems to have been rather conservative as a composer, with the vocal motets looking back to the monodic style, although they apparently date from the 1680s. The keyboard pieces recorded here, published in 1702, are mostly in the styles of the seventeenth century, with a canzona, a ricercar, and various dance, variation, and ground bass forms. They have a stirring, colorful quality that perhaps accounted for Pasquini's popularity; sample the Toccata con lo Scherzo del Cucco, track 11, for a taste. The vocal pieces have an attractive harp-theorbo continuo from the Ensemble Alea Musica, but they are virtuoso vehicles to which the soloists are only intermittently adequate; the too-flexible pitch approach of soprano Camilla de Falleiro detracts from the listener's experience. Sound quality is indifferent, and in general this is a release probably of most interest to Italian Baroque specialists.

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