J.C.F. FISCHER: Musicalisches Blumen-Büschlein (Various Musical Flowers) – Suites Nos. 1 thru 8 – Olga Martynova, harpsichord – Caro Mitis multichannel SACD CM 0012006, 79:34 [Distr. by Albany] ****:

Fischer, who lived until 1746, was a composer highly prized by J.S. Bach, who kept copies of some of his music. He spent most of his career at the court of the Duke of Saxe-Lauenburg, though he spent some time in France, where he picked up the best of the highly ornamental French keyboard style and applied it to German keyboard works. Musicologists today equate Fischer with the great composers of keyboard music of the period, such as Bach and Froberger.

These eight suites are definitely in the French style, all opening with a Praeludium and most having Bourrees, Menuets and Gavottes.  Major and minor suites alternate in the set, and all the movements – whether just a couple or many – are in the same key.  The gallant dances which Fischer uses in many of the suites were just beginning to appear in keyboard suites by French composers at the time. An unusual one is found in the second suite – a Canaries in 6/8 time – which comes from the Canary Islands. I find the first four suites listenable but rather dull, whereas things pick up in the fifth, which after its Praeludium turns into a highly virtuoso air with variations. Most of the suites sound not that difficult to play, but they seem to marry the French and German styles beautifully. Fischer closes the eighth suite (of just two sections) in a more spectacular fashion with a royal-sounding Chaconne, as used by Lully in the French court to end theater performances.

The surround sonics are clean and natural, as are all the efforts for this Russian label by recordists Polyhymnia International.  Martynova is one of the leading Russian harpsichordists, and we have her to thank for bringing this rare 18th century keyboard music to collectors’ attention.

 — John Sunier