Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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Len Mullenger:

Bernardo STORACE
Selva di varie per cimbalo et organo
Francesco Cera (harpsichord & spinet)
Tactus TC 60901 [69.30]

Almost nothing is known about this original composer from the 17th Century, because of the continuous earthquakes which afflicted Messina until the beginning of the 20th Century. One copy has survived of a large collection of his music, printed in Venice in 1664, and including all the pieces given here. It consists of a vast florilegium of variations based upon most of the popular tunes of the time. Storace is able to sustain long sets of variations without even modulating. His Passagagli sopra A la mi re varies the decending tetrachord ninety-eight times, reminiscent of Frescobaldi's Cento partite sopra Passagagli.

Francesco Cera was noted by S&H in a London organ recital Musica Transalpina , and this CD fully vindicates the good impression which remained. He plays a copy of a Cristofori harpsichord once belonging to Prince Ferdinando de Medici, a forthright, rather pungent-toned instrument. For contrast there is a sweeter toned spinet, a copy of a 1663 Neapolitan instrument. Various authentic tunings (meantone, a Sicilian and a Siracusan temperament) are used, and these give an added piquancy for those with sharp ears.

With unknown music it is always hard to determine the contribution of composer and performer to the success of a realisation. I found this an absorbing and inspiring CD. Cera maintains a steady underlying pulse and holds the interest through the eleven pieces with subtleties of attack and delay, eschewing changes of register which an older generation of harpsichordists relied upon for variety. I played it straight through - which is unusual for me with collections of shorter pieces.

Cera celebrates the 'infinite creativity' of this mysterious figure in the liner essay, and I hope that the Parte seconda of this Selva will be recorded in due course. From hearing it without access to the score, I endorse the title page's statement that the music would be equally suitable for organists to be encouraged to explore.

Peter Grahame Woolf

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