JACOB KLEIN: Scordatura Sonatas – C Major, D Major, A minor & B minor for cello and basso continuo; Duet in G Major for two cellos; Sonatas in E Major and F sharp minor for cello and basso continuo – Pavel Serbin & Alexander Gulin, cellos/ Hans Knut Sveen, harpsichord – Caro Mitis multichannel SACD CM 0052007, 56:51 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] ****:
Jacob Klein was a Dutch “dilettante” parttime composer who lived from 1688 to 1748. He was known as Jacob Klein the Younger and was related to several musicians and dancers of his time, as well a painters. There appears to be no connection to Russia, as with some of the other early music composers which have been recorded on the Caro Mitis Russian label. Klein was a merchant of some sort; details are not known. Musically, he was clearly a cellist and wrote many works for the instrument. Musicologists feel he substituted the newer cello for the old-fashioned viola da gamba, which was then going out of style. Scordatura is the practice of a work composed for a different tuning of a particular instrument.
He wrote and published a total of 36 sonatas for varying chamber combinations: oboe and figured bass, violin and figured bass, cello and figured bass, and for a pair of cellos. Only three sets of six have survived to the present, and the seven selections here are taken from these. Klein didn’t just toss off these works as a side interest, as many amateur musicians. He created meticulously-designed works of some imagination, with a clear tonal and metrical plan. His music is lively and flexible, with interesting interweavings of lively dotted rhythms and contrasting cadences. All the sonatas are in different keys – the composer evidently had something in mind like Bach’s WTC, but since we have only part of them Klein’s overall plan is not clear.
In the second sonata, in D Major, Klein does something unique for the time: the piece starts in D Major but ends in D minor – nobody did that then. The second two of the big sonatas that make up most of the album have many changes of texture and tempo and are filled with musical/theatrical images. The Duet in G Major for two cellos is a short suite of dance tunes. All in all Klein’s music has a warmth and imaginative quality that sets it apart from more run-of-the-mill works of this period. The playing is of great skill. Nearly all of these are world premiere recordings, made in Moscow, and a fine addition to the growing catalog of albums on this label by the leading Russian early music group Pratum Integrum.
– John Sunier