This is the latest and greatest from the delectable playing of the ever-inventive Rachel Barton Pine and her cohorts of Trio Settecento, John Mark Rozendaal (cello) and David Schrader (harpsichord), now in their tenth year together. One has to admire Pine, who is always trying the adventurous or coming up with top-grade ideas for concept projects. This album is one of those.
The idea behind this album is the new renaissance that occurred in Italy, first in Florence and then Venice, of the human voice and the type of humanistic and florid writing that would be done for it. This writing spilled out into the instrumental scene as well, most notably for the violin. Trio Settecento takes us on a journey of this progress through the arts, starting with Dario Castello’s short sonata all the way through the sonata with the “double” passacaglia (including also, strangely enough, a chaconne as well, so as to not short either Spain or Italy) of Veracini. So we get to see the inexorable movement of the violin assuming the human and singing properties of the voice while simultaneously being exploited more and more for its amazing technical properties as well. Looking at the head note you might not assume the connection, but after reading the excellent notes the concept becomes clear, though even devoid of concept the wonderful music-making on this disc captures the heart anyway.
Though Pine claims in her introduction that her approach to baroque music is one of historical appreciation of phrasing and ornamentation combined with a contemporary approach to vibrato, I must disagree. There is far less of the latter here than I detect in her album of Handel Sonatas done a few years back, and she seems to be slowly slipping into the period instrument camp. However, much as I would like to have heard more vibrato in these works, I cannot fault the playing, and she seems completely enamored of reveling in the correct style of the period, while at the same time communicating this revelry to us. This is a terrific album in great sound by folks who really know what they are doing, and well worth your investment.
— Steven Ritter