Palladians / The Palladian Ensemble - Held By The Ears -

Artist Quality: 10 / Sound Quality: 10

The name of Italian/English composer Nicola Matteis (d. 1714) may not ring any bells with most listeners, but once heard his music--primarily suites or "setts" of instrumental "ayres"--makes a memorable mark if only for its catchy melodies and rhythms, its often unusual turns of harmony, and for its occasional virtuosic technical flights. Its impact is especially vivid in these crisply articulated renditions by the instrumental quartet known as the Palladian Ensemble--presented in sound so realistic and vibrant that you almost feel the physical presence of the performers. If you enjoy the sound of recorders, violin, bass viol, and plucked strings such as guitar, theorbo, and lute, you'll be perfectly happy listening to these collections of dance-like tunes and light-spirited songs.

To fill out the program, the ensemble intersperses Matteis' works with "music that seems in some indefinable way to be related: the Scottish folktunes of his time." In their own arrangements, the Palladians offer lute songs (from the Straloch and Rowallan lute books) and various airs, including the lovely "Dumbarton's Drums" and the lively "Bonny Christie". Recorder player Pamela Thorby is particularly notable for her brilliant melodic realizations and imaginative ornamentation--and for her nearly impossible technical feats: listen to the dizzying "Aria Burlesca con molto bizzarie" and you'll see what I mean. Her partners are equally adept and together they deliver performances that show the freedom and spontaneity that only comes from intimate knowledge of the music and long experience with your colleagues. There's nothing earth-shaking here--but there's enough toe-tapping, spirit-uplifting music to warrant a warm recommendation for listeners who either like their baroque music on the light side or their folk music treated with respectful, artful imagination.

01 July 2003