Antonio Bertali: Sonatas by William Dongois

Le Concert Brise, Antonio Bertali: Sonatas. Accent recordings (ACC24260), 2013.

Personnel: William Dongois, cornetto (straight treble by Henri Gohin, 2007 after an 18th C. German model; cornettino by Gohin, 2008 and mute cornetto by Gohin, 2007); Stefan Legee, sackbut (Edward Meinl after Drewelwecz, 1595); Anne Schumann, violin; Monika Fischaleck, dulcian; Hadrien Jourdan and Carsten Lohff, harpsichord and organ; Matthias Spaeter, archlute.

Antonio Bertali (1605–1669) was born in Verona and served in the imperial court orchestra in Vienna. William Dongois provides fascinating information in his liner notes about the extent to which he went to assemble music by Bertali for this recording. His work revealed a particularly virtuosic coda for the Ciaconna per violin solo which was found only in a manuscript from a library in Wolfenbuttel. The inclusion of this coda (that it is indeed by Bertali is dubious) is indicative of the “panorama of German music from Austria and Northern Germany” presented on this recording. The thoroughness with which Dongois researches and discussed this is consistent with the performances on the recording.

To say that they are masterful does not begin to give them their proper credit. This music is treacherously technical and is performed with perfection, grace, abandon, yet always with warmth and heart. Dongois employs treble cornetto as well as cornettino yet the difference is imperceptible. Note also that he uses the mute cornetto as well as cornettino on the last track achieving great beauty in his choice of phrases for each. I want to draw particular attention to the Sonata for Cornetto and Organ, in which Dongois’ fabulous technique is paired with his continuous eloquent and gentle phrasing over three octaves. This recording will delight the listener on many levels. I cannot recommend it too strongly.

-- James Miller