Magazine article Gramophone

'Schabernack'

Magazine article Gramophone

'Schabernack'

Article excerpt

'Schabernack'

'A Treasure Trove of Musical Jokes' Biber Battalia a 10. Harmonia artificiosa-ariosa Partia IV Fux Les combattans, K323. Pour le coucou Schmelzer Arie con la mattacina. Sonata Cu Cu. Spoglia di Pagagi Walther Hortus chelicus--No 15, Scherzo d'augelli con il cuccu Les Passions de l'Ame / Meret Liithi vn Deutsche Harmonia Mundi (F) 88985 41549-2 (57' * DDD)

Given how rare it is to find a centuries-old instrumental work to be really, genuinely funny, it's tempting to take Schabemack's cover promise of 'a treasure trove of musical jokes' with a pinch of salt. However, Meret Luthi is remarkably gifted at delivering what she's outlined on the tin, as her ensemble's 'exotic violin music' debut disc revealed so enjoyably (12/13). So, while the schabemacks or 'pranks' here won't quite have you guffawing, it's certainly all delivered with a merry wink I'm finding impossible to tire of, whether the music is referencing stock commedia dell'arte characters, imitating birdcalls or simply providing a backdrop to madcap festivities.

As a result, while sheer rarity value is undeniably one of this disc's draws given that much of its music exists only in manuscript form, the more-recorded repertoire is equally rewarding thanks to Liithi's playful teasings-out of jokes missed by other fine baroque bands. Take her delicious upwards-scooping portamento tickles in the Presto of Biber's Battalia a 10, for instance. This particular battalia also serves to illustrate the degree of clever storytelling happening across the programme; note how robust martial thwack is eschewed in the 'Der Mars' movement in favour of something far more reined-in and elegant, meaning that when the stops are pulled out for 'Die Schlacht' we're being offered something new. …

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