In a time when national affiliation was necessarily written in stone, Henricus Albicastro was a genuine multi-national. Born in Bavaria to Swiss parents, Albicastro was what was then called a dilettante, not an unfocused dabbler but a musician whose day job was in another field, and in Albicastro's case that living was made astride a horse; he was a captain of the cavalry in the Dutch Republican Army in the War of the Spanish Succession. He also served as an orchestra leader at the University of Leiden in the 1680s, and as such, he is identified as "Viennensis Musicus adcademiae" in contemporary documents, suggesting his musical education occurred in Vienna. A tendency toward the use of oddball harmonic devices and especially florid violin writing indicates possible contact with the school of Biber and Muffat, but that element is miniscule compared to the influence of Arcangelo Corelli and the Italian model. Nevertheless, there are ways in which these concerti do not behave typically; there is an emphasis on tutti writing, and solo passages are sparingly used.
Pan Classics' Henrico Albicastro: 12 concerti a Quattro Op. 7 is the first opus of Albicastro recorded complete and the first substantive program of Albicastro to appear on disc since 1990. It features two combined groups, Collegium Marianum and Collegium 1704, led by harpsichordist Václav Luks and featuring violin soloist Riccardo Masahide Minasi; both ensembles hail from Prague. This recording, in fact, was made in the Rudolfinum in Prague, but in 2000; it did not come out on Pan until 2007. Seven years is a heck of a long time for anything to sit in the can, so long that since then Minasi has left Collegium 1704 and joined Il Giardino Armonico. Admittedly, it is a good, though not great recording; the combined ensembles lack cohesion. Allegros tend to be a little wilted and underpowered; slow movements fare better. However, quite a bit of Albicastro's music is highly extraordinary; witness the fall sequences in the finale of the Concerto I in F, the proto-minimalistic texture of the movement marked Tremolo, Spiccato, Adagio in the Concerto III in C, and the sweet, pop-like harmonies in the oboe-driven Adagio of Concerto IV in C minor. Therefore, there is reason to want to seek out Pan Classics' Henrico Albicastro: 12 concerti a Quattro, Op. 7, especially if Baroque instrumental music is one's bag; hopefully this won't be the last we hear from the musical Cavalier of Leiden.