High Praise for Rondeau Mélancolique

‘The three artists deliver very fine performances. László Rósza produces a beautiful tone and his performance is characterised by subtlety, for instance in his treatment of dynamics and the application of notes inégales and the flattement (finger vibrato). Jonathan Rees impresses with an intensive interpretation of De Sainte-Colombe’s suite; the opening prélude is performed in an improvisatory manner. Alex McCartney plays the suite by De Visée in an elegant and refined manner, with a clear articulation.
This disc will give every lover of baroque music much pleasure.’

-MusicWeb International, Johan van Veen

‘[A] very pleasing collection of late seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century works.
They begin with the delightful Suite No. 5 by Pierre Danican Philidor (1681-1731), with its tender, melancholic slow movements including a particularly beautiful Sarabande, contrasting with the more urgent quicker movements. The blend between the three instruments is perfectly judged, and in the final Gigue, Rózsa enjoys the more virtuosic, dancing lines given to the recorder.
A solo Suite by M. de Sainte-Colombe (c.1640-1700) for the viola da gamba follows, and Rees performs this stylish work with great presence and intensity… Rees’ warm tone and command of its demands are highly persuasive.
McCartney has a solo spot next, with a Suite for the theorbo by Robert de Visée (c.1655-1732/33). This has wonderful melodic lines, which McCartney articulates over the harmonies with great precision, making this a particular highlight of the disc. All three return with a Sonata by Charles Buterne (c.1710-c.1760), and its short central Italian-style Allegro allows for a great virtuosic show from Rózsa. The disc is concluded with two nightingale-inspired pieces. The birdlike ornamentation of the recorder is delicate and tender in Le rossignol-en-amour by François Couperin (1668-1733), and McCartney’s gentle introduction on the guitar to Pourquoy, doux rossignol by Jean-Baptiste de Bousset (1662-1725) sets up a beautifully bitter-sweet conclusion to this delightful collection.’

– Classical Notes

[I]ntimate, delicate and sensuous music of the often flamboyant and dramatic of the French Baroque courts from the time of Louix XIV onwards into the mid-17th-century.

The seven composers represent both the traditional French style, the Italian-influenced style, and the ultimate fusion of styles championed by the likes of François Couperin. Although the seven pieces aren’t arranged in chronological order, or in order of the Italian influence, the programme makes for a coherent whole.

Although the acoustic is probably slightly livelier than that of the chambers in which the music was originally performed, it works well. The volume of the recorder is well balanced against the supporting continuo players.

– Early Music Reviews +, Andrew Benson-Wilson

‘This is a very engaging programme, presenting mostly suites and a sonata by a number of composers including Philidor, Hotteterrre and Buterne together with shorter pieces by Couperin and de Bousset. The combination of instruments makes for great listening.’

– Lark Reviews

Remarkable Reviews for Fantasia Incantata

‘These works are meant to sound as impulsive as improvisations, while also allowing their performers free rein in expression, ornamentation, and counterpoint—an opportunity that Stoffer and McCartney seize with fervor.

They revel in the violin’s power to simulate the human voice, a power that Stoffer raises to ecstatic heights. In slow movements, she leans lightly on long-held notes to make them moan and sigh or ululate with vibrato; on low, grainy notes, her violin growls; and she dashes and skitters through compressed flurries of virtuosic figures. Meanwhile, McCartney virtually shreds his accompaniments with fervent plucking and percussive strumming.

The album’s highlights include the wide-ranging forms, embracing both church and chamber music, of G. A. Pandolfi Mealli’s sonata “La Cesta,” from 1660, on which Stoffer and McCartney span extremes of ethereal calm and profane excitement.’

– The New Yorker, Richard Brody

‘This impressive recording by Ensemble Libro Primo (Sabine Stoffer & Alex McCartney) features 17th-century music for violin and theorbo written in the Stylus Phantasticus[.] … [The] sense of improvisatory performance infuses these performances with drama and excitement. One example is the solo violin Passagio Rotto by N. Matteis. Matteis was praised by Roger North for his “eloquent, expressive style“: words that accurately describe Sabine Stoffer’s own delightful playing.

Also included are two groups of theorbo pieces by Kapsberger, played with exquisite delicacy by Alex McCartney. Notable amongst these harmonically innovative pieces are the Gagliarda from the 1620 Terzo quarto d’intavolatura di chitarrone, and the impressive Passacaglia from Kapsberger’s 1640 Libro quarto.

Although it was recorded in Glasgow Cathedral, the acoustic sounds intimate and suits the music well.’

– Early Music Reviews +, Andrew Benson-Wilson

‘All the works were written as vehicles for those instrumentalists’ own prodigious virtuosity. As treated here by Stoffer and McCartney, they are stunning, highly inventive and the finest examples today of technically demanding works played with ease. Both play as though they have this music in their veins, so assured and full of flair are these performances.’

– The Whole Note

‘[T]his ancient music comes alive in fresh performances.’

– Lark Reviews

‘Stoffer and McCartney combine touching simplicity with full-on virtuosity, McCartney strumming syncopated rhythms like a guitarist at the works core climax.
Stoffer shows herself to be an accomplished performer and interpreter, relishing the virtuosic demands, and McCartney moves seamlessly between an accompanying role and more foreground duetting as the music requires. An impressive debut disc for the ensemble, with surely more to follow.’

– Classical Notes