Early Music America
, June 2011
When you hear the term stylus fantasticus, you probably think of the keyboard music of Frescobaldi, Froberger, and Buxtehude, or violin music by Italian (Fontana, Castello, Marini, Pandolfi Mealli) and Northern European (Biber, Schmelzer) virtuosi. The improvisatory flair that ignited the style seems well-suited to those instruments. Indeed, some of the most significant recordings of this repertoire in recent years have been made by harpsichordists, organists, and violinists. Well, roll over Andrew Manze and tell Christophe Rousset the news, because here comes a terrific selection of pieces in the stylus fantasticus performed by Le Concert Brisé led by cornetto virtuoso William Dongois.
On this live recording, Dongois, harpsichordist Carsten Lohff, and lutenist Éric Bellocq are featured in Giovanni Pandolfi Mealli’s Six Sonatas, Op. 3, with Lohff and Bellocq soloing in music by Johann Jacob Froberger (1616–1667). Intended for the violin, the sonatas of Pandolfi Mealli (fl. 1660–69) play really well on the cornetto, and Dongois makes the most of music that gives him plenty of opportunities to stretch out and weave soaring flights of fancy over a solid, if conservative, continuo. There are lots of high points, as when Dongois and Lohff engage in some 17th-century-style call-and-response with the echo effects in the Sonata La Stella. Dongois is superb and plays with a fluid, focused straight tone that’s irresistible, a sound that can be brilliantly bright but also as mellow as Miles. The jazz analogy is not forced; this is a music that lives on its improvisatory flair and Le Concert Brisé deliver. THe Carpe Diem record label is new to me, but I like the natural, not-too-closely miked sound quality and sharp-looking packaging.