Confluence by Ensemble Collina

Collina Confluence 300 72Ensemble Collina, Confluence (Acis APL 01744), 2016.

Confluence is the first recording by the early music group Ensemble Collina. The quartet consists of Leah Peroutka, violin, Brent Wissick, viola da gamba, Michael Kris, trombone, and Elaine Funaro, harpsichord and organ. For their inaugural recording, they have chosen thirteen seventeenth-century works.

The disc opens with the Sonata à 3 in E minor, the first of three works on the album by German composer Andreas Oswald. Kris, who teaches low brass and chamber music at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, shines here, with great expression and panache. Peroutka, who teaches at the same institution, is featured in Oswald's Sonata Violino Solo, where she demonstrates her precision and mastery of her instrument. As the group mentions in the album's program notes, Oswald's sonatas are "rare examples of chamber music from seventeenth-century Weimar."
The liner notes also reveal that the anonymous Sonata Trombono Solo & Basso included on the recording is one of only two solo sonatas for trombone from the seventeenth century. Found in the manuscript collection of the Scala Muices in the library of Saint Thomas Augistina Monastero in Brno, Czech Republic, this work is written in four distinct sections. The composition is rendered beautifully by Kris on trombone and Funaro on organ. In particular, Kris's soaring cantabile lines in the upper register made for a most enjoyable performance.

The interplay of the violin and trombone is especially effective in the playful Canzon à 2 "La Pichi" by Venetian composer Giovanni Riccio. The two solo voices match articulation and intonation beautifully, blending their sounds in spectacular perfection. In particular, this reviewer enjoyed the precision of the repeated-pitch trillo/huffing in the later part of the work.

Funaro switches to organ for Adam Jarzębski's beautiful Concerto Primo, where he has a prominent role laying the foundation for the other voices. This early Baroque work by Polish composer Jarzębski presents a simple texture with the free exchange of melodic ideas, finding all the voices coming together at the end of the piece for a dramatic and effective conclusion.

The disc also includes two works by Italian composer-organist Giovanni Cima: Sonata à 2 and Capriccio. The latter in particular showcases Peroutka and Kris in a most congenial collaboration, with sparing accompaniment by Funaro on harpsichord. The final track on the disc is German organist-composer Andreas Oswald's Sonata à 3 in F Major.

Throughout the disc, the group's sharp and persuasive playing is most engaging. Extensive liner notes provide detailed information on the composers and artists. Solid engineering by Washington DC-based Arts Laurete Recording provides for a high-quality listening experience. This disc is highly recommended for connoisseurs of seventeenth-century chamber music.

-- Jason Dovel, assistant professor of trumpet, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY