Frescobaldi Keyboard Works Volume 4

Expressive playing, full of harmonic extravagances, rhythmic flexibility, experimental techniques and technical challenges.

Lester has received considerable acclaim for his recent mammoth seven-volume Complete Scarlatti Sonatas, also on Nimbus. With this series Lester, with his consummate musicianship and carefully considered interpretations, adduces further evidence to the thesis that Frescobaldi is a key figure in the history of music, not only for the fact that he was one of the very first to focus his talents on instrumental music, but also as one of the greatest keyboard composers of the early 1600s, beginning with his watershed First Book of Toccatas of 1616, and expatiated in the Second Book, as he broke with tradition to create a new quasi-improvisatory, expressive style of playing, full of harmonic extravagances, rhythmic flexibility, experimental techniques and technical challenges.



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Richard Lester has created two supporting videos to accompany this series. In two 20 minute programmes he expands on several aspects critical to the interpretation of his music – meantone tuning and early fingering systems. Demonstrating on the Boni ‘split’ key harpsichord of 1619, he illustrates how the use of such apparently subtle differences can dramatically alter our appreciation of Frescobaldi’s complex musical language. In the second video he unveils the beauty of the 1588 Antegnati organ in Almenno, San Salvatore, Italy. Watch Richard Lester's videos on youtube 'The Nimbus Channel'


‘If you enjoyed the first CD, this second will exceed your expectations. Now to have available as accomplished a projected series of recordings as this is truly a treat. Here is a performance and recording enterprise that deserves landmark status of its own. Unhesitatingly recommended.’ Mark Sealey. Classical Net ‘Part of the attractiveness of these discs stems from Lester’s study of and employment of contemporary fingering techniques and of period ornamentation. Much of the music looks like the work of a dull dog as it stands on the printed page but not when you hear it played. The letter killeth but the spirit which Lester imparts giveth life.’

Brian Wilson.

Half of the pieces in Lester's programme are drawn from the Second Book of Toccate, Canzone (Rome, 1627/1637), the rest from other publications during Frescobaldi's lifetime, except track 4, which comes straight from manuscript. All works are played on the 1588 organ in San Salvatore, Italy, apart from the final two, which - somewhat incongruously - revert to harpsichord, though again an authentic instrument from 1619. More information about the instruments played by Lester during this series is available on the official series website
  This CD offers a first chance in Lester's series to hear Frescobaldi the "miraculous organist." The instrument used for this recording was built by Costanzo Antegnati in the late 16th century at the church of St Nicola near Almenno in northern Italy, and very likely played by Frescobaldi himself. Though the organ itself is a little rough around the edges, Frescobaldi's music for it is riveting, often astoundingly modern in its harmonics. Though these works are still clearly devotional in the main, audiences must have been startled by some of the chords and sequences; yet his amazing popularity as an organist indicates that this new style and sound was quickly accepted by contemporaries and benefactors alike.
The accompanying booklet contains fascinating notes of a different kind by Lester, with sections on historical context, the pieces themselves, the instrument and period technique. Again, recording details - other than that Raymond Fenton did the business - have disappointingly been left out. The booklet describes this disc in fact as a 'compilation', with the recordings being licensed from Privilège Accord. Sound quality is fairly good, although there is still just a little background hiss in evidence at the beginnings and ends of tracks, and the organ recordings have a slight 'underwater' quality to them. 

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