Bernardo Storace, apparently no relation to English composer Stephen Storace, is one of those composers for whom biographical information is almost completely lacking, and one wonders whether this has impeded the appreciation of his music historically. These harpsichord pieces come from a single manuscript, published in Venice in 1664, although Storace was apparently Sicilian. The notes for this Naxos release depict Storace as a follower of Frescobaldi, but actually the effect of these pieces is almost completely different from that of the music of the Roman master; the music on this album has few polyphonic elements, instead revealing an almost obsessive focus on the variation procedure. The large passacaglias and ciaccona add up to hundreds of variations between them, exploding distinctively into dance rhythms at the end just where you think there isn't anything more to be wrung out of the simple ground bass patterns on which they are based. Nearly all of the pieces consist of variations of one kind or another, and the technical challenges of the music are considerable. Harpsichordist Naoko Akutagawa surmounts these with ease and delivers an appropriate steely consistency on her instrument, a copy by German maker Detmar Hungerberg of a 1697 instrument from Messina, apparently Storace's home base. Brilliant and consistently dense with small note values, the music is a bit intense when these pieces are heard back to back like this, but Akutagawa offers a fine set of almost completely unknown virtuoso keyboard music here; much of it could fit easily into general programs of Baroque harpsichord music.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim