David Plantier

Johann Jakob Walther: Hortulus Chelicus Mainz, 1688

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Johann Jakob Walther, not to be confused with organist Johann Gottfried Walther, was a violinist and composer of the late seventeenth century who worked in the city of Mainz in southwestern Germany. Both Walthers influenced Bach; the publication called Hortulus Chelicus (Garden of the Lyre) excerpted here exemplified the tradition of violin virtuosity on which Bach drew in his unaccompanied sonatas and partitas. But this music, and indeed the entire tradition of which it is part, has only recently re-emerged into public view. Baroque violinist David Plantier, recording with an accompanying group of fellow graduates of Switzerland's Schola Cantorum, is making this music a specialty. The best on this disc is saved for last: the lengthily named Serenata a un Coro di violini, Organo tremulante, Chitarrino, Piva, Due Trombe e Timpani, Lira tedesca e Harpa smorzata per un violino solo in D major, actually for violin and continuo like the rest of the music, features hugely enjoyable imitations by the single violin of the instruments named: a group of violins, an organ, a small lute, bagpipes, trombones, timpani, hurdy-gurydy, and harp. The following Passacaglia No. 7 in D minor that closes the disc is an impressive pull-out-the-stops display that composers seemed to reserve for the Italian ground-bass patterns. The suites and aria prior to these works on the disc are less interesting for general listeners than the booklet makes them out to be; Biber, who is somewhat taken to task for his use of scordatura (which Walther avoids), is more colorful, whereas the music here has something of a study-like quality. It will, of course, be of strong interest to lovers of the Baroque violin, however, and Plantier is a superbly agile player capable of producing the large variety of tone colors this music needs. The bright sound, recorded in a large public hall in Basel, Switzerland, is attractive and brings out small details in Plantier's performances.

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