Romanesca / Andrew Manze / Nigel North / John Toll - Violin Sonatas (1994), 6/10

Simply gorgeous violin sonatas from Biber performed with grace by the Romanesca ensemble. Most are lustrous, some more frantic, yet they all have some form of poise. There is a regal, medieval color that paints a vivid picture stemming from the instrumental palette, consisting of Manze’s baroque violin, Nigel North’s lute and theorbo, and John Toll’s harpsichord and organ. The album, for reason of said thematic sound and in conjunction with the outstanding compositions, does an excellent job of supplanting you in its antediluvian time, just as an outstanding piece of art or entertainment can. Of course, the technical execution is outstanding and deserves just as much praise as the album’s thematic successes. The trio are very much in sync and support each other with delicate touches where needed, reading between the lines of Biber’s passages to find the optimal balance in harmony. It’s rarely truly thrilling in the way modern classical can intend to be, but more of a true long form recording, eight sections of sonatas clocking in at just over two hours. The recognizable latter half of “Aria e Variatio”, for example, is fairly energetic and moving, but balances its excitement with its regal refinement, as do most passages. The driving melodies like those in “Musketeer’s March” and “Allemande” are equally as effective as its moody ones such as “Gavotte” (Finale), again the balance is outstanding. The only factor detracting from its effectiveness is its length, but simply breaking up the experience into its separate sonatas can rectify that issue. I personally have an affinity for chamber music for its intimacy, so that gives it a boost in my own view, but it also elevates the style of recording quite well. Ultimately just some charming baroque compositions, executed very well and with an outstanding thematic consistency.