Mitzi Meyerson

Gottlieb Muffat: Componimenti Musicali per Il Cembalo

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Gottlieb Muffat was a son of Georg Muffat, whose organ and orchestral works played an important role in introducing international styles into the German tradition. The younger Muffat's works have just begun to emerge from archives; the present collection of suites was discovered in a manuscript by the American-German harpsichordist Mitzi Meyerson, who makes a superb case for them here. The booklet notes are in the form of an interview with the performer, which is commended to all who want to sharpen their ears for the abundant genre of the Baroque keyboard suite. Meyerson's enthusiasm is contagious, both verbally and at the keyboard. Her main point is that Muffat, who went east from his father's Salzburg home base and became court organist in Vienna in the middle of the eighteenth century, was, like his father, a sort of sampler-of-all-styles who tried to take listeners on a kind of musical adventure. The two discs here contain six suites for keyboard, plus a seventh work designated as a suite but simply containing a chaconne. In their outward sequences of allemandes, courantes, sarabandes, and so on, they look conventional, but when you get inside the individual movements you find unexpected contrasts and surprise effects heightened by Meyerson's unusual registrations on the harpsichord (listen to the very end of the trio of the Menuet of the fifth suite, track 7, and try to figure out how she does what she does because she isn't telling). All the opening movements are interesting; several contain fugues (which don't appear much elsewhere in the French-style repertory), and the opening Fantasie of Suite III repeatedly feints toward a chaconne bass before erupting into figuration and beginning to move more rapidly. The music is brilliant, imaginative, and a bit evocative of a hothouse court atmosphere, as if Rameau had somehow been transplanted, perhaps, from theoretical Paris to then-staid Vienna. It's a major find, and the two-manual harpsichord by iconoclastic Michigan builder Keith Hill is unusually well suited to this music. Throw in the nifty list of Muffat themes borrowed by no less than Handel, along with very pleasing graphic design from the Glossa label (check out the interior rendering of Meyerson in lips and colored leaves), and you have all the ingredients of a real Baroque find. Notes are in English, French, German, and Spanish.

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