CARLOS IGNAZIO MONZA: Harpsichord Music – Terence Charlston, harpsichord – Deux-Elles CHARLES NOBLET: Nouvelles suites de pieces de clavecin (1756) – Charlotte Mattax Moersch, harpsichord – Centaur

by | Jan 16, 2010 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

CARLOS IGNAZIO MONZA: Harpsichord Music – Suites in E Major, C minor, D Major, C Major; Two Preludes and Fugues; Toccata con lo Scherzo – Terence Charlston, harpsichord – Deux-Elles DXL 1117, 67:00 ****:
CHARLES NOBLET: Nouvelles suites de pieces de clavecin (1756) – Premiere & Deuxieme Suites – Charlotte Mattax Moersch, harpsichord – Centaur CRC 3005, 58:35 [Distr. by Qualiton] ****:

Talk about obscure!  But in a way, not really, because musicologists recently discovered that some of the music of hapless 18th century composer Monza was passed off for centuries by unscrupulous publishers as the work of the celebrated Pergolesi.  In fact, Stravinsky identified two pieces by Monza which he used in his Pulcinella ballet as being composed by Pergolesi.

The court at Turin, Italy where Monza labored, had Francophile tastes and so all of these suites make use of the French dance titles such as Courante, Sarabande etc.  The works are in an interesting style midway between French and Italian, and often make use of repeated notes between the two hands, similar to Rameau. Some of the pieces may remind one of earlier Italian keyboard music, such as of Allessandro Scarlatti, but others have the wilder rhythms and hand-crossings of Domenico Scarlatti.  The first of the suites, in E Major, sounds remarkably like Handel’s well-known suite in the same key.

Skilled harpsichordist Charlston recorded in a church in the UK and the acoustics are natural and not too closely recorded. The Noblet suites are also well-recorded, in a hall at the University of Illinois.

Noblet was born about 20 years later than Monza, in Northern France. He was an organist, but also doubled on harpsichord at the Royal Opera in Paris. He came to composed later in his life, specializing in large-scale vocal sacred works.  His volume of harpsichord suites was dedicated to the Secretary of State under Louis XV.  The two suites carry characteristic titles something in the style of Couperin – “L’Indolente,” “La Caressante,” and so on.  Exotic and unusual nationalities and personalities seemed to interest him. They are highly theatrical, with slow movements sounding like vocal airs and high-energy fast movements. Harpsichordist Moersch is a specialist in 17th century French music and has toured with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra.

Both these CDs will be of interest to collectors looking for off-the-beaten-track early keyboard music.

 – John Sunier

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