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Kudos to ATMA for passing up the obvious marketing hook on this terrific recording of instrumental music by early-Baroque Italian composers. The hook? The composers were Jewish. The fact that the information is communicated in François Filiatrault's excellent liner notes rather than in blazing copy on the cover says something about this classy production: it's understated and beautiful- I could only imagine what a label like Dorian Sono Luminus would do in similar circumstances.
As you would expect there's music by Salomone Rossi, the remarkable Mantuan violinist and singer whose vocal collection The Songs of Solomon opened many listeners ears to the world of Baroque Jewish music. This time out it's Rossi's superb instrumental music (the guy pretty much invented the trio sonata) in performances that feature some of the best string playing I've heard in quite a while. The crisp articulation in the Sonata sopra l'aria d'un balletto is brilliant and should do much to shut up the ninnies who still whine about period performance string playing.
There's also music by Giovanni and Augustine Bassano. The two composers share the same surname but there is no evidence that they were related. Jews were expelled from the city of Bassano del Grappa at the beginning of the 16th century and many took refuge in Venice where they assumed Bassano as their family name. The music from both is marvelous. Giovanni's plaintive Ricercata ottava showcases Margaret Little's gorgeous treble viol tone, and his Ricercare terza features Francis Colpron's sweetly singing recorder. Augustine's Pavanna & Galliarda is a model of elegance with some tasty cornet and recorder playing by Colpron and Matthew Jennejohn.
Eric Milnes, who led New York Baroque in Rossi's Songs of Solomon on the now-defunct PGM label, is at the helm of La Bande Montréal. This is an ensemble of A-list players from a city which has supplanted Boston as the epicenter of North American early music. This is a winner!
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