The cover of this disc fails to mention what for most listeners may be the main attraction: the "moeder & kind" or mother-and-child virginal used for a majority of the compositions. Quite rare (only three working examples are known to exist), it features a miniature keyboard, above the main one, that can emerge or be recessed by the player as needed. Keyboardist Guy Penson uses it here (the manuscript specifies no particular instrument) in antiphonal passages and in the top register; sample track 21, the Almande Brun Smeedelyn, for an example of how the instrument can spice up a piece of virginal music. The nicely illustrated booklet includes several gorgeous photos of the instrument used. For nonspecialists, those are more interesting than the text, which recounts some of the detective work surrounding the Susanne van Soldt Virginal Book, a collection of hand-copied virginal music, not a publication. The mostly anonymous music is multinational, consisting of the sort of popular dances that appear in many other early collections of instrumental music, but a more distinctive component is a group of Dutch psalm harmonizations suggesting that the owner, wherever she may have traveled, was a Dutch Protestant. Both virginals used, the mother-and-child example and a more conventional single-manual Dutch model, are fine contemporary copies of instruments from the early seventeenth century by the famed Ruckers firm; they're powerful voices, beautifully recorded. For an occasional break from virginal music, just as Ms. Van Soldt might have taken, solo recorder pieces are included; the heavy but informative booklet also explores the links between the early Dutch keyboard and recorder repertories. The end result is a disc that will be novel and very pleasing for devotees of early keyboard music.
Review by James Manheim
|Allemande la Nonette, de Frans Galliard, for keyboard|