The baker's dozen of Sonatas featured here originate in a little known but richly rewarding manuscript held at the British Library. Not all 66 in that set are by Gottfried Finger (1655-1730) but those which are represent a fascinating body of work assembled in London by the Moravian-born musician, even if some of it was actually written before his arrival. On either side of their compilation came the two events for which Finger is perhaps best remembered today, In 1690 he had published the first set of solo sonatas to have appeared in England and which established his reputation as an influential composer. But then in 1701 he came last in the famous Prize Musick competition in setting the libretto The Judgement of Paris to music, losing out to John Weldon, John Eccles, and Daniel Purcell, prompting him to leave the country in a fit of pique.
These Sonatas, at least, stand as eloquent testimony to his fertile imagination, as ably realised by Duo Dorado. Having come to musical maturity in mid-17th century central Europe, it is unsurprising that the fantastical flourishes displayed by the violin in some of these works are reminiscent of Biber's similar compositions in his various collections of Sonatas, as in the racing figures of a section of the B-flat Sonata (no.46 in the manuscript) which hold no fear for Hazel Brooks. But Finger also looked further south to Italy and the seminal works by Corelli with their well-ordered melodic lyricism. Particularly in those Sonatas here in which David Pollock chooses to accompany Brooks on a gentle-toned continuo organ, a dignified restraint is created which recalls Corelli's Sonate da Chiesa or the keyboard works for religious contemplation by Domenico Zipoli. (as in Sonatas RI136 and RI137, or Nos. 47 and 54, respectively, in the manuscript).
The Sonatas do not display any settled or consistent structure, but rather comprise a whimsical series of contrasting sections, of differing lengths, rhythms, and mood. Brooks remains admirably unfazed by that, threading one section to another as a seamless unity. Indeed those successive passages are rarely marked in the score by anything more than a change in time signature, rather than any specific tempo markings, and so on the disc each Sonata is allocated one track, rather than divided up into multiple tracks for its composite sections which are rarely long enough to constitute a 'movement'.
Brooks coaxes an enticing range of timbres and musical qualities from her violin across whole Sonatas, and not just within individual sections, amply demonstrating their particular characters. To take just three consecutive examples (tracks 3 to 5; RI129, RI125 and RI124, respectively), her crisp and lively execution of RI129 brings out its bright D-major key; RI125 in B-flat is more metallic like a viol, whilst RI124 in the same key is warmer in tone.
Together, this selection casts an irresistible light on the musical scene in the Restoration period beyond Purcell and before the arrival of Handel on these shores.