, February 2011
Franz Richter wrote two sets of six sonatas for the combinations of harpsichord, cello and then flute or violin. This is the set published slightly later; as this release is entitled ‘Volume 1’, it is a safe bet that at least the rest of this six will be forthcoming—also, we hope, the six of the earlier group. The date given above is the date of publication of a new, revised edition—the composition of the sonatas may or may not predate this by anything up to five years. In any case, however, the exact dates are rather immaterial, given Richter’s tendency to eschew the latest trends in music—the works here are still Baroque, with little sign of the coming Classical age.
In each of the three sonatas the flute and harpsichord are given fairly equal prominence. The flute part is far from virtuosic—as a conservative, Richter did not approve of virtuosity for its own sake—and the harpsichord in fact sometimes takes the lead, with extended passages of rich, occasionally even dense, music. The cello takes more of an accompaniment/continuo role, though it does have more material than is typical of high Baroque. The overall effect is of an expert, not to mention beautiful, blend of textures.
The three sonatas are fairly similar to each other structurally. They each have a long mid-tempo opening movement, a larghetto middle, and a five-and-a-half minute upbeat final movement. There is also an undeniable similarity of music—superficially at least, one sonata sounds much like another. Nevertheless, this is not superficial music—each sonata is packed with melody, invention and expression, with a style and feel reminiscent of early C.P.E. Bach.
The sound quality is reasonable, with an ideal balance between the three soloists—the harpsichord and flute set a little forward of the cello, as befitting their prominence—and with very little ‘respiratory noise’ from them. There is however the presence of an almost constant very deep hum to reckon with, presumably due to electrical interference somewhere during recording. However, it is only properly noticeable during the quietest moments, especially through headphones, and many ears may not even notice it.
The three Finnish soloists all play period instrument replicas. They have first-rate credentials and play with great sensitivity throughout. For admirers of music of the era, this disc represents an appealing prospect—and Richter absolutely deserves much greater exposure.