This album marks a second selection of pieces recorded by performer John Kitchen on historical keyboard instruments from Scotland's Raymond Russell Collection, and either or both albums make superb choices for anyone interested in what keyboard music sounded like before the piano and before the essentially engineering-oriented procedure of equal-tempered tuning came into being. Both albums cover similar time periods (this one extending a bit farther at each end) running from the seventeenth century to pianos of the early nineteenth; the difference in this second volume is that a new set of instruments has been brought out of storage, prepared, and played. As with the earlier CD, Kitchen does a marvelous job matching the music to the instrument: there is never the feeling that a dry demonstration of the instruments is going on, but rather music and instrument seem to make each other come alive. Both albums include unusual instruments, and the chief draw here for some may be the chance to hear such novelties as an enharmonic virginal, which wrings sheer chromatic torture out of a Michelangelo Rossi toccata; a fretted clavichord, sounding like a piano played at a great distance; or a pair of English spinets -- not a spinet piano but a small harpsichord-like instrument that served a similarly domestic purpose. The quasi-popular music Kitchen unearths for these instruments is especially interesting. Some is by Purcell, and some comes from a 1765 collection called The Harpsichord or Spinet Miscellany that, from the evidence of the pieces here, included some very inventive transcriptions of Scottish songs. The tunings vary by instrument and pitch ranges from a low of a'=406 on a Parisian double-manual harpsichord to a strikingly high a'=466 on one of the spinets. Pity the poor individual cursed with perfect pitch during those days! The illustrations in the booklet, beautiful photographs of each instrument, are worth the purchase price by themselves and make the actual CD, rather than simply downloadable tracks, worth seeking out, although the listener who gets only the music will not be disappointed, either. A superlative historical-instrument release.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Suite for keyboard (Suite de piece), Vol.2, No.4 in D minor, HWV 437|
|The Second Part of Musick's Handmaid, lessons (12) for harpsichord|
|The Harpsichord or Spinnet Miscellany, for harpsichord or spinet|
|Musikalische Nebenstunden, for clavichord|
|Polonaises mélancoliques (6), for piano, Op 17|
|Monatliche Clavir Früchte: November, for keyboard, GWV 119|