Friday 1 April 2016

Journey, a 70th birthday retrospective - Trevor Pinnock looks back with infectious enthusiasm

Trevor Pinnock - Journey - Linn Records
Journey: Cabezon, Byrd, Tallis, Bull, Sweelinck, Bach, Frescobaldi, Handel, Scarlatti; Trevor Pinnock; Linn records
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on Mar 13 2016
Star rating: 4.0

Highly personal and very engaging recital from the distinguished harpsichordist

On this new recital disc from Linn Records, Journey a 70th birthday retrospective, veteran harpsichord player Trevor Pinnock takes us on a journey through 200 years of harpsichord music from Antonio de Cabezon to Domenico Scarlatti with stops along the way for music by William Byrd, Thomas Tallis, John Bull, Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck, JS Bach, Girolamo Frescobaldi and George Frideric Handel. The whole is played, recital-like, on the same harpsichord (albeit with two different tunings), a 1982 model built by David Jacques Way of Stonington, Connecticut and modelled on a mid 18th century instrument by the French builder Henri Hemsch. It is an instrument that Pinnock has played for the last 40 years.

At first sight the programme seems a  trifle eclectic, but the booklet articles by John Butt and by Trevor Pinnock, reveal twin themes running through the recital.

Trevor Pinnock in recital at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse
Trevor Pinnock in recital at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse
Historically the programme moves from a generic entablature accompanying vocal music, through music written for non-specific keyboard to repertoire especially for the harpsichord. So we can trace the development of the harpsichord as a specific keyboard instrument. The other journey is rather charmingly Trevor Pinnock's own. His describes his first piano lessons with pianist Ronald Smith's sister, and how many of the pieces on the disc relate to his own development as a player. Byrd's The Carman's Whistle being discovered as a choir boy at Canterbury Cathedral, Bach's French Suites which he discovered via George Malcolm's vinyl discs, or the music of Cabazon which he learned via the great Colombian harpsichordist Rafael Puyana.

What holds this all together though is the vivacity and brilliance of Pinnock's playing. The instrument makes a richly resonant sound with quite an appealing depth of tone and we hear it in two tunings, meantone for the earlier music and unequal temperament for the later. Working with this, Pinnock brings remarkable range of colours to the music and never fails to engage. There is showy brilliance where needed, in the dazzling Scarlatti for instance, and grandeur too in the Handel chaconne (the longest movement on the disc), with a lovely mellow grandeur and elegance to the Frescobaldi. There are some lovely dance-based moments in Bach's French Suite but a gravity too, which takes you a long way from these dance origins. The disc opens with the melancholy elegance of Antonio de Cabezon's differencias, a composer whose own journeys through Europe inspired the programme.

But overall the feeling is of an engaging vitality, this is playing which really draws you in. And it is playing which belies Pinnock's years, there is none of the grand manner instead there is an infectious enthusiasm and joyful sense of character.

Antonio de Cabezon (c1510-1566) - Differencias sobre 'El canto del caballero'
William Byrd (c1540-1632) - The Carman's Whistle
Thomas Tallis (c1505-1585) - O ye tender babes
John Bull (1562/3-1628) - The King's Hunt
Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck (1562-1621) - Variation on 'Mein junges Leben had ein End' SwWV 324
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) - French Suite No. 6 in E major BWV 81
Girolamo Frescobaldi (1583-1643) - Toccata nona
Girolamo Frescobaldi (1583-1643) - Balletto primo e secondo from Toccate d'intavolatura di cimbale et organo (1637)
George Frideric Handel (1685-1759) - Chaconne in G major HWV435
Domenico Scarlatti (1685-1757) - Three sontatas in D major K. 490-92
Recorded at Colyer-Ferguson Concert Hall, University of Kent in Canterbury, 20-21 August 2014.
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