In the early 17th century a number of now forgotten violin soloists toured Europe, commanding enormous salaries and following ever more prestigeous offers of employment. Some were so valued for their playing that they were granted nobility, and more than one was described as “the most famous artist for the violin that the world has yet produced.”
Courts and cities would hire these superstars in order to have them astonish and awe their guests with their performances. One of the more astonishing pieces on this disc is the unaccompanied Fantasia by Étienne Nau, which is found in a manuscript now in Berlin. Composed around 1620, the Fantasia begins with an imitation of an organ tremulant and then goes on to sample almost every color on the violin’s palette.