Here is an instant “desert island” release from Manfred Eicher’s ECM New Series label: Performed by Stephen Stubbs and his Teatro Lirico ensemble, it is a program of sonatas and dances from 17th century Italy and Slovakia. In addition to works by composers including Caccini, Cazzati, Corelli, Farina and Foscarini, there are hypnotic improvisations on the Folia bass and a wonderful 15-minute suite based on Pestry zbornik, an anonymous Slovak manuscript dated around 1676.
The first four pieces of this marvelous Slovak suite are taken from Dresden composer Johann Caspar Horn’s Drei Grosse Angenehme Balleten, while the three other pieces, in a “local style,” have been treated by the performers as folk music. With its seductive modalities suggesting Moorish as well as Central European accents, every classical radio station that plays the Suite can be guaranteed of creating early music listeners for life!
Recorded in the just right acoustic of the Propstei St. Gerold in Austria, site of many of ECM’s recordings, the recital is as beautifully recorded as it is played and must certainly be in the library of every early music lover. Remember their names: Maxine Eilander (Spanish and Italian harps), Milos Valent (violin and viola), Erin Headley (viola da gamba and lirone), and Stephen Stubbs (Baroque guitar and chitarrone). The lirone, incidentally, is the bass member of the lira family of instruments – a bowed string instrument with between 9 and 16 gut strings. It is held between the legs in the manner of a cello and its neck is generally fretted. Good liner notes by Mr. Stubbs.
– Laurence Vittes