Two talented young performers trained at Juilliard and elsewhere form the AKOYA duo, which specializes in baroque music. Quebec-born Naomi Dumas, now based in Switzerland, met American harpsichordist Caitlyn Koester while studying historical performance at Juilliard. AKOYA was born out of this meeting, and here they present their very first album, a beautifully-crafted set of Sonatas for violin and harpsichord by Christoph Graupner (1683-1760), a little-known (but less and less so) figure who was nevertheless one of the great composers of his time. With several thousand works in his catalogue (1,400 cantatas, 113 symphonies, 50 concertos, hundreds of keyboard pieces, etc.!), this prolific creator surpassed even Bach in quantity, without suffering in quality.
These sonatas, full of refined elegance, bear witness to an immense skill rooted in a synthesis of the different styles prevalent in Baroque North Germany. Graupner played a part (as can be seen in these sonatas) in emancipating the harpsichord from its role as a strict continuo. The composer allowed the keyboard a great deal of freedom, enabling it to organize the structure of the music with greater involvement. Its solid participation in the thematic arches allows the melodic spires to propel themselves effectively.
Simple and relatively short, these sonatas are not only effective in conveying delicate and reserved emotions, but also easy to approach for the layman.
The performances of the AKOYA duo, backed here and there by the excellent Amanda Keesmaat on cello, deserve a warm mention.
A splendid album that sheds a welcome light on a still under-exploited area of German Baroque.