Assi Karttunen

Memento Mori Froberger

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The keyboard works of Johann Jacob Froberger (1616-1667) have attracted some top-notch recordings over the past several years. They have some of the same combination of majesty and intellectual complexity that gives Bach's keyboard music its particular flavor, and, again like Bach, Froberger has a way of making so much happen in a dance suite that you forget you're listening to sarabandes and allemandes and courantes. The present single-disc compilation of Froberger's keyboard music by Finnish harpsichordist Assi Karttunen makes a fine choice for the listener who wants to begin exploring this German-Austrian composer who (and here the Bach comparison breaks down) absorbed the elements of a truly international style as he traveled around Europe. Karttunen includes several of Froberger's most famous pieces and focuses on a certain deeply philosophical quality that's characteristic of his music. Three pieces are designated as laments, and one of these, unusually, is a self-directed funeral work in advance -- the "Méditation, faite sur la morte future la quelle se joue lentement avec discretion: Memento Mori Froberger" (Meditation made on future death, which should be played slowly and with discretion: Memento Mori Froberger). This is quite a melancholy piece, with a sort of clotted quality that Karttunen beautifully captures. Technically well-equipped enough to give observers of the early music scene reason to wonder whether Finns will be conquering the Baroque as they have other periods, she is a highly expressive player. Occasionally she diverges into passages of tempo freedom that seem unwilling to let the rich density of Froberger's music speak for itself, but she gives a good rendering of its essentially personal quality. The sound, from a Finnish church, is clear enough but a bit too remote for Froberger's gutsy sounds.

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