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Arcangelo CORELLI (1653-1713)
Sonata in D major for violin and basso continuo, Op.5 No.1 [11:49]
Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681-1767)
Sonata in A major for violin and basso continuo (Tafelmusik) TWV 41:A4 [12:48]
Jean-Marie LECLAIR (1697-1764)
Sonata in E minor for violin and basso continuo, Op.9 No.6 [17:43]
Georg Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759)
Sonata in A major for violin and basso continuo, HWV 371 [11:48]
Giovanni Henrico ALBICASTRO (c.1660-c.1730)
Sonata ‘La Follia’ in G minor, Op.5 No.6 [11:02]
Johannes Pramsohler (violin); Philippe Grisvard (harpsichord)
rec. February 2013, Studio Stolberger Strasse, Cologne
AUDAX RECORDS ADX13700 [65:22]

Audax are really pushing the boat out here in an artist-led typographical blitz. Violinist Johannes Pramsohler, is a rising star of historically informed practice in violin playing. A student of Jack Glickman on the conventional instrument, it took a career-changing meeting with Rachel Podger to bring about an abrupt immersion in baroque procedure. The reason why his name is in font size that dwarfs that of the poor composers is that this is his label. He has enlisted an older luminary, Reinhard Goebel to write the sleeve-notes. Harpsichordist Philippe Grisvard is his distinguished collaborator. Things are set for a programme of largely well-known sonatas.
These are often rather explosive performances. The Corelli opens with a harpsichord detonation and carries on from there. Pramsohler’s attack is relentless and a product of maximum vitality and energy levels but what it doesn’t offer is much real relaxation into phrases. Contrast him with Andrew Manze’s take with Richard Egarr, who offer a far more circumspect and structurally sensitive approach. Yet for all that he refuses to indulge rubati, Pramsohler does bring phrasal continuity to a remarkable degree, a fluidity that slices through the music. He is certainly quite loose in the second movement – Manze and Egarr are tighter - and this brings a rugged, communicative esprit, as well as a youthful extroversion.
The Corelli serves notice of Pramsohler and Grisvard’s way, which will be anathema to admirers of modern set-up performances. Handel’s famous D major Sonata is subject to relentless decoration, brash articulation and an invasive approach that lifts it bodily from the printed page. This helps the finale which can often sound repetitive and dull in lesser hands. That said, there is such a variety of decoration, trills and of bowing that ennui is securely kept at bay. His mannerism of slowing down is something of an indulgence but maybe it is right to overlook it. Those who revere Szigeti’s old Columbia 78 of this from the 1930s will not be surprised to hear that this performance is almost unrecognisable.
Leclair’s E minor sonata marries security of technique with due trenchancy, during which one notices that he is quite full-toned for a baroque fiddle player. Thanks to Telemann we have an admixture of wit which is elsewhere sometimes in short supply. The A major sonata is brief but kept alive through rhythmic impetus and stylistic nicety. He reserves his most resinous and abrasive bowing in this recital for the final piece, Albicastro’s La Follia, an appropriately exciting series of variations, once again played with reserves of power and volatile musicianship.
It ends a recital of ceaseless striving for the essence of the baroque ideal. I’m happy to trade some of the more remorseless features of the playing for the exultant dynamism of much else. I would however stress that this is not a disc for the timorous or indeed those sated by the more extreme interventions of baroque violinists, who may find some of the ornaments and decorations just too much.
Jonathan Woolf