Andrew Manze and Richard Egarr
Pandolfi: Complete Violin Sonatas
Harmonia Mundi (www.harmoniamundi.com)

cd cover British artists both, violinist Andrew Manze and harpsichordist Richard Egarr traveled to California to record an album of this obscure Italian composers only known works, two 6-part suites, in the manner described as "stylus phantasticus". On the surface, Pandolfi's writing is not overtly radical for the time (1660): it is tonal, romantic, florid; in short, the fanciful music of breeding. However, it is different as repeated listenings reveal a complicated, even abstract, kind of operatic melodrama. Manze speculates that each of the 12 sonatas might have showcased the talents of a musician Pandolfi knew personally, (each has a different dedicatee), as if to suggest portraiture or satire? Whatever, it is not uncommon for melodies to move with honeyed deliberateness in one moment and virtuosic bluster in the next, while walking an intriguingly unpredictable line of time.

The space between these two extremes is filled with a grace and poetry that are all Manze's, and his commanding capacity for ornamentation is amazing. These 80 minutes betray Pandolfi to have likely been an impetuous genius, a dandy, avant-garde. Combine the idiosyncrasy of the composing and Manze's spectacular embellishments, as expected of a baroque interpreter, and this recording becomes quite special. And whether debatably note-heavy or showy in places, it is still sweet and rare music, particularly from a harmonic perspective. By the way, Manze cautions his audience to nibble on one, maybe two, of these sonatas at a time, so heady and quickly sating is the music. For those who care about the engineering: this has typical airy, no-limit HM sound with plenty of warm dark space. Yet as Manze's violin is fairly pinpointed in the soundstage, Egarr's harpsichord doesn't present nearly as stable an image. - Steve Taylor

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