From the title, one might expect that this release by Norwegian Baroque violinist Bjarte Eike is an exploration of the well-trodden theme of melancholy in British music in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. In fact it is that, but it's much more besides. The Image of Melancholy is an experiment with the form in at least three ways, and it should appeal greatly to listeners of a speculative frame of mind. First, Eike and his small Barokksolistene ensemble expand the historical picture in both space and time, mixing traditional music from Scandinavia and beyond (even from Slovakia) with compositions by Dowland, Holborne, and Byrd, and adding Baroque pieces such as one of Biber's Mystery Sonatas that are not precisely "melancholy" but certainly play off the concept in arresting ways.
This was one of the first digital version (the very first?) of Tchaikovsky's violin concerto and remains pretty competitive though perhaps not a first choice. Kremer's playing is surely polished and technically impressive; the phrasing is wonderful and the tone beautiful. Still, it is unfortunately a little short on charm and expressive depth - Tchaikovsky's concerto isn't really the most appropriate vehicle neither for classical restraint nor almost curmudgeonly introspective approaches; it is peripatetic grand drama and passion and heart-on-sleeve through and through and despite Kremer's sweetness of tone he never manages to scale the heights or plunge the emotional abysses of the music.
The Sablé festival, held annually in Sablé-sur-Sarthe in France, has its own recording concern that it uses primarily to expose young early music artists and to support the most interesting of their projects; the Zig-Zag Territoires label provides an outlet for this endeavor. Here is a wholly worthy enterprise: the group Gli Incogniti – led by the fabulous young violinist Amandine Beyer – in a program drawn from various works of mysterious late seventeenth-century violinist Nicola Matteis, its title, False Consonances of Melancholy, fashioned after one of his publications, but not limited to its contents.