Before coming to Sweden, the Italian-born harpsichordist Anna Paradiso knew little about Johan Helmich Roman, often called 'the father of Swedish music'. Here she soon realized that if Roman's music was Swedish, it was also Italian – and specifically Neapolitan: the restlessness of the harmonic idiom, the continuous melodic shifts and the theatrical character. Considering the distance between Stockholm and Naples, this might seem farfetched, but we know that Roman encountered a number of Italian musicians while studying in London 1716-1721, and when in the 1730s he was able take a two-year sabbatical from his post as Kapellmeister at the Royal Court, his goal was Ischia near Naples. Roman's collection of Twelve Keyboard Sonatas was preserved in a manuscript assembled around 1748, but had most likely been composed in the course of the two decades before that. (One movement in Sonata III is labelled 'a Napoli', placing it in the autumn of 1736.) Consisting of between three and seven movements, the pieces have been referred to both as ‘suites’ and ‘sonatas’. Whatever the label, the collection is a fascinating testimony of a period of great stylistic diversity and change, as observed by a composer who, although geographically relegated to the outskirts of Europe, remained wide-open to new developments. In these recordings, Anna Paradiso emphasizes this aspect, performing the sonatas on three different instruments – a French and an Italian harpsichord and a copy of a Swedish clavichord from 1742 – with well-judged ornamentations and use of rubato. A previous release, with the first seven sonatas of the set, was described as ‘exceptional’, by the reviewer on allmusic.com, who went on to hope that ‘the remaining sonatas will be released in short order by Paradiso and BIS.’ That hope is here fulfilled, with the addition of an earlier keyboard sonata by Roman, as well as one by his Swedish contemporary Johan Agrell.
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