Eighteenth-century American harpsichord music isn't something you hear everyday, but the delightful sounds of Enlightenment in the New World can be appreciated by any keyboard lover. Using a French harpsichord built in 1774, Olivier Baumont performs lively (not to mention "enlightened") works by seldom-heard composers William Selby, Alexander Reinagle, Victor Pelissier, someone named simply Mr. Newman, and a few others. There's nothing monumental here–James Hewitt's "Yankee Doodle with 9 Variations" may be too silly to fully appreciate–but the playing is exquisite and there are some great discoveries.
'Galant pleasures' seems an apt description for this release, which presents a charming selection of works written for the mandolin in 18th-century Paris. Indeed, it was around this time that a number of plucked instruments came into vogue, and the mandolin in particular found great success among the nobility and middle classes, taking part in an atmosphere of intellect and refinement that prompted a new artistic direction in music of the period, revolutionising audiences' tastes and sensibilities along the way.
The London Baroque's traversal of the Baroque trio sonata across its various developments over time and into diverse national styles enters somewhat arcane territory here with a program of English trio sonatas of the 18th century. The program is chronological, at least by publication (the Op. 5 set of trio sonatas by Handel, though published in 1759, was assembled from earlier music from a variety of genres), and the pieces represented run from one of the first English examples of the trio sonata to Classical-style music in which the harpsichord continuo is almost superfluous.
London Baroque offers another installment in its ongoing European Trio Sonata series, this time devoted to 18th-century Italy; as with the ensemble’s previous efforts the program features generally excellent performances of lesser-known repertoire. Ten years ago I reviewed a similar 18th-century Italian program by this same group titled “Stravaganze Napoletane”, also on BIS, and was generally impressed with the performances–except for one piece: Domenico Gallo’s Sonata No. 1 in G major.