“Claviorgan Wonderland” – Works of COUPERIN, BACH, BYRD, SCARLATTI, SOLER, BULL, Others (TrackList follows) – Claudio Brizi – Camerata CMCD-28244, 77:54 [Distr. by Albany] *****:
DOMENICO SCARLATTI: Mandolin Sonatas: G K91, E minor K81, G minor K88, D minor K90, D minor K77, D minor K89 – Artemandoline: Mari Fe Favon, Baroque mandolin/ Manuel Munoz, Baroque guitar/ Jean-daniel Haro, viola da gamba/ Jean-Christophe Leclere, harpsichord – Brilliant Classics 94477, 47:10 [Distr. by Naxos] ****:
First, the claviorgan is not a historical instrument of the Baroque period—it was invented only recently by harpsichordist and organist Claudio Brizi and sounds a great deal more like those two instruments together than the pedal piano recordings we recently reviewed.
It is a musical wonder and should appeal to all who are interested in non-standard music machines—as were all sorts of composers: Liszt, Handel, Rossini, and Schumann among them. It was designed to be somewhat portable, and is both a harpsichord and a small organ housed inside a single shell. Italian keyboardist Brizi brings us a century and half of music which might have been played on such an instrument—if one existed then.
Some of the pieces make more use of one of the two keyboard instruments. For example, the harpsichord is foremost in the Scarlatti works, but the “tutti” organ in the Bach works suggests the contrasts between the large vs. the small groups in Baroque music. Often the organ handles the melody while the harpsichord plays the continuo role. Neither keyboard is the usual instrument: the harpsichord, for example, has two extra customizable notes in the bass and one in the descant, so you may hear some deep bass notes which even the most sophisticated classic harpsichord doesn’t have.
The organ has a keyboard of 55 notes and a pedalboard of 30 notes. The harpsichord section has 62 note on two manuals with three registers and a lute split between treble and bass. Different tuning systems are used in the various pieces. In addition to the expected works by well-known composers such as Bach, there are some obscure keyboard pieces of the Baroque by people like Abraham van den Kerckhoven.
Domenico Scarlatti’s 555-odd harpsichord sonatas have been transcribed for all sorts of instruments: piano, accordion, guitar, etc. However, five of these works were written differently from the other sonatas in that they only had a figured bass, not written-out notes for the harpsichord. The melody is always in the right hand, and some mandolinists believe these works were actually written for the Baroque mandolin. In fact, one of these sonatas, K89, has the title “Sonatina per mandolino e cimbalo.” The performers have also add a sixth sonatas, K77, which does not have the figure bass and has longer values, but with the addition of a bowed instrument they feel it goes with the other five sonatas.
Being an occasional harpsichordist and enjoying the Scarlatti Sonatas above all other works for the instrument, I greatly enjoyed this disc. It reminded me primarily of the discs of transcriptions of the Scarlatti Sonatas for one or more guitars.In fact, the mandolinist here was formerly a member of the Trio de Guitares de Paris. She teaches mandolin, chamber music and guitar in Luxembourg. Sonics are first rate and this is an unexpected program of music which again should appeal to those into non-standard music.