“Perla Baroca: Early Italian Masterpieces” = Works of BERTALI, CASTELLO, CIMA, FONTANA, FRESCOBALDI, GABRIELI & others [Tracklist follows] – Rachel Podger, violin, w/ keyboard & theorbo – Channel Classics

“Perla Baroca: Early Italian Masterpieces” = BERTALI: Chaconne; CASTELLO: Sonata seconda; CIMA: Sonata a due, Milano 1610; FONTANA: Sonata seconda; FRESCOBALDI: Toccata Prima; Toccata per Spinettina e Violino; GABRIELI, A: Ricercar del primo tono (III/1); LEONARDA: Sonata duodecima; MARINI: Sonata quarta per sonar con due corde; MEALLI: Sonata Sesta (Op. 4, 1690) La Vinciolina; UCCELLINI: Sonata over Toccata Quinta a violino solo ‘detta la Laura Rilucente’ – Rachel Podger, violin/ Marcin Swiatkiewicz, harpsichord & organ/ Daniele Caminiti, theorbo – Channel Classics multichannel SACD CCS SA 36014, 69:45 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] ****:

This beautifully recorded disc demonstrates just how much creativity and talent was present in the Italian instrumental schools approaching the cusp of the Baroque era. This period is often overlooked in lieu of the more prominent composers in the current repertory, but listening to all of these pieces shows just how glorious things really were in sunny Italy during the mid-seventeenth century.

Rachel Podger and company have selected excellent examples of the best of the best of the period, one of the most important being the Sonata Duodecima of Isabella Leonarda, one of the most prolific composers of the period (reputedly over 200 compositions to her name) as well as one of the highlights of this disc. Leonarda is doubly important because these are thought to be the earliest sonatas published by a woman, even more remarkable as she was subject to the restrictions of the Collegio di Sant’Orsola, a convent that she entered in 1636, and remained for the rest of her life. Andreas Gabrieli is represented as a pivotal figure who from this point on wrote only instrumental works, while the Chiacona of Antonio Bertali certainly stands as one of the most famous works of the period. Yet, all of these pieces are deserving of a hearing, whether famous or not, and Podger has done us a great service in presenting them in such sterling surround sound, performed to perfection.

—Steven Ritter

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