Harmonia Mundi Gold is a mid-price reissue label that features some of Harmonia Mundi’s most attractive recordings: the Monteverdi Vespers performed by Collegium Vocale Gent under Herreweghe (HMG501247/48), the Bartok Violin Sonatas with Isabelle Faust (HMG508334/35), Gesualdo Madrigals performed by les Arts Florissants directed by William Christie (HMG501268), and many more. Although there is a noticeable focus on pre-eighteenth century music, the label also offers CDs of Baroque music sung by Andreas Scholl, Brahms secular choruses, Alkan chamber music, and other attractive repertoire.
When I first heard Andrew Manze performing the violin music of Giovanni Antonio Pandolfi Mealli, (fl. 1660-69—Channel Classics CCS5894) I could scarcely believe that this was authentic seventeenth century music, so wayward it seemed. But this HMG release makes it clear that Pandolfi’s music really is that strange, and that his musical personality, at least as mediated through the temperament of Manze, is as fascinating as I had first suspected. Almost nothing is known of Pandolfi the man, not unusually for a composer of his era, but the music suggests an iconoclast, and possibly a sonic portraitist—the dedications of the sonatas hint at caricature. As Manze remarks in the liner notes: “an inquisitive listener might be forgiven for thinking that he was invented by a mischievous musicologist one wet Wednesday”. What is undeniable is that these dozen sonatas are wonderfully engaging and unlikely music, never quite predictable, but always intriguing. Manze gives fiery, committed performances which are persuasive in their conviction—we are constantly tossed from one energetic mood to another. Even in its pensive moments Pandolfi’s music radiates a boisterous turbulence, which is effectively underlined by Richard Egarr’s characterful continuo playing. Such genial and yet affecting music has a very unusual charm and deserves to be better known.