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Musica Barocca a Due
Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
Sonata in D minor Op. 1 No. 8 RV 64 [11:14]
Adam FALCKENHAGEN (1697-1761)
Duetto in G major [9:30]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
English Suite No. 3 in G minor BWV 808 [20:01]
Domenico SCARLATTI (1685-1757)
Sonata in B minor K.87 [7:05]
Johann Sebastian BACH
Prelude in C minor BWV 909 [1:32]
Fugue in G minor BWV 1000 [5:18]
Domenico CIMAROSA (1749-1801)
Sonata in G minor [3:40]
Hanna Annala (guitar)
Mari Mäntylä (decacorde)
rec. 2011, Hauho Church
ALBA ABCD 358 [59:35]

Your initial attraction to this release may be the result of seeing a less familiar name for one of the instruments played, the decacorde. This is a 10-string variant on the standard guitar which has a deeper resonance, evidenced straight away by the mellifluous harmonies which emerge in the opening Preludio of Vivaldi’s delicious Sonata Op. 1 No. 8 RV 64. An equality of expression and nuance is also in evidence from the interactions and exchanges further on in the piece. With gorgeous recorded sound this programme is off to a promising start.
 
I like the contrasts in colour both performers achieve in each movement of the opening Vivaldi Sonata, and they also prove themselves more than trustworthy in the German Baroque school. Adam Falckenhagen is less of a household name that Vivaldi, but his Duetto is a delightful three movement work which sounds perfect in its uplifting dance-like character.
 
J.S. Bach’s music has been arranged for all kinds of instruments, and having the English Suite No. 3 in this setting is by no means an unattractive prospect. Superficially everything is fine, but to my ears this is the least successful piece on this programme. The layering of notes in the Prélude is sometimes a bit much from two guitars, and while it can be pretty spectacular in effect it doesn’t really enhance or ‘add’ to my personal appreciation of the music itself. Less dense movements such as the Allemande work better, though in becoming a chamber rather than a solo work I sometimes feel there is something missing in its character. The great Sarabande becomes something almost entirely new in these sonorities, raising the stakes in any consideration of the overall result. The intensity of expression is considerable here, creating a sparing musical landscape into which new dissonances are thrown through the sustain of these resonating strings. In all there are marvellous things to be experienced in this version, but in my humble opinion the music or the arrangement doesn’t always play to the strengths of this instrumental combination.
 
The sweetly performed Scarlatti Sonata K. 87 is recorded with a narrower stereo image so presumably from a different session. This and the Bach Prelude and Fugue sound more like solo efforts as a result, though this is not indicated in the booklet. These pieces are all a little below par in comparison with the rest, though played decently enough in their own way. The final Cimarosa Sonata restores the full-fat spread of sound, and is great fun with its little damped-string effects and sprightly energy.
 
While not an entirely perfect disc, this release has enough to recommend it to guitar fans and those keen to explore some less familiar musical byways. Booklet notes in English and Finnish are compact but quite sufficient. Mari Mäntylä also has a solo album out on ABCD 261 which deserves attention. The richness of the lower strings from the decacorde adds a great deal to this combination and would be a great bonus for any multi-guitar consort.
 
Dominy Clements
 

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