Passacaglias & Chaconnes
Pieter-Jan Belder, harpsichord
Brilliant Classics, 95656. 77’58
This is a collection of pieces recorded on the margins of other recording sessions from 2012 to 2017. Three harpsichord are used, all modern, after Giusti, Blanchet and Ruckers. All the pieces use an ostinato, or ground, bass. The Passacaglia comes from the Spanish phrase for walking down the street: passer la called. The Chaconne (or Ciaccona) originated in the New World, and was described by Alex Ross as having been a “sexily swirling dance”. Other forms are the English term Ground, used by Tomkins and Purcell, the Passamezzo, used in Picchi’s Pass’e Mezzo, an Italian folk dance based on two different chordal progressions.
The choice of pieces ranges widely in date and geographical location. The harpsichord and recording dates are ordered seemingly randomly, resulting in occasional hiccups between tracks. The most substantial tracks are Belder’s own transcription of Bach’s famous D minot Chacconne from the 2nd Violin Partita, Soler’s extravagant an lively Fandango and Frescobaldi’s multi-sectional Cento partite sopra passacaglia from his 1637 first book of Toccatas. Muffat’s powerful and harmonically intense organ Passacaglia in G minor also appears in a harpsichord version.
Other pieces that might be less well-known, but are well worth the exposure are the Tomkins Ground, Storace’s Ciaconna, and Louis Couperin’s Passacaille in C.
Although the background to the recording might be a little questionable, and there could have been other ways of ordering the pieces, perhaps combining the harpsichord and/or recording venues, this is a successful look at one of the most important of Baroque musical foundations.