Friday, December 31, 2010

Albicastro: 12 Concerti a 4 Op.7 - Collegium Marianum, Coll. 1704

Henrico Albicastro
12 Concerti a Quattro Op.7
Collegium Marianum, Collegium 1704
Pan Classics 10124

This Czech Republic production, recorded in 2000 in the Dvořák Hall of Prague’s Rudolfinum, combines the forces of two Czech period-instruments ensembles-Collegium Marianum and Collegium 1704, which, according to the credits, frequently collaborate on larger projects.

Stylistically, Giovanni Henrico (Henricus) Albicastro (c. 1660–1730) falls roughly into the period midway between Corelli and Vivaldi, except that he wasn’t Italian. The name was made up, a nom de plume for Johann Heinrich von Weissenburg. Nobody seems to know for sure or to agree on exactly when he was born or died (some saying as late as 1738) or, for that matter where. Most sources, including Thomas Krümpelmann’s booklet note, place Albicastro’s birth in Switzerland. Others say the Netherlands, and at least one article I came across insists on Bavaria, even naming the village of Pappenheim, as Albicastro’s place of origin. What is known for fact is that sometime after 1686 his name begins cropping up in the Netherlands on publications of trio sonata and concerto collections printed in Amsterdam and Bruges.

While details surrounding Albicastro’s background and training remain a mystery, it’s not difficult to surmise how a Swiss/Bavarian/Dutch musician living in the Netherlands in the first half of the 17th century morphed into an essentially Italian Baroque composer. Amsterdam was at that time an important center of the music publishing industry. Corelli’s famous set of 12 Concerti grossi, op. 6, saw their first printing there in 1714 by the firm of Etienne Roger. Nor was Corelli the only Italian composer whose works were being published in Amsterdam. In 1715, Roger printed Albinoni’s op. 7 Concertos; and even earlier, in 1711, Vivaldi sent his L’estro armonico directly to the same publishing house for printing. Albicastro had to have seen these scores and possibly have heard them performed. So thoroughly did he absorb the Italian style and manner that his own op. 7 heard on these discs is indistinguishable from the models he emulated.

Albicastro’s 12 Concerti a quattro occupy a kind of middle or transitional ground between the concerto grosso proper and the solo concerto formats. There is not the same formalized division between the solos or concertino group and the larger ripieno as one expects in a true concerto grosso. A solo violin-sometimes an oboe-is cast in the role of the contrasting or alternating concertino. These are not yet, however, full-blown solo concertos in the manner of Vivaldi. Albicastro’s approach seems to lie somewhere along the evolutionary path that led from the former to the latter.

If you are fond of Corelli and Vivaldi and everything in Italian concerted instrumental music in between, you will enjoy Albicastro’s concertos. They are energetic, bracing, buoyant, and full of that wonderful Italian cantabile melody that sings of Italy’s sun-drenched vineyards and eternal hills, even if they were written in flat, waterlogged Holland.

Readers who know of my general disinclination towards period instruments, especially in music written after circa 1760, will be pleased to know that the ensembles involved in these recordings exhibit none of the bad habits or eccentricities that are often associated with such performing bodies. Tempos are never too brisk; there is no swelling on notes or abrupt attenuations at ends of phrases and cadences; there is no astringency to the sound of the strings or nasality in the sound of the oboes. This is well-behaved and highly cultivated playing.

According to the insert, this is the first complete recording of Albicastro’s op. 7; and as far as I know it has remained the only one since it was set down nearly a decade ago. It is highly recommended and without reservations.

Jerry Dubins, Fanfare

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Tartini: Concertos for Violin and Orchesta Vol.2 - Vashegyi

Giuseppe Tartini
Concertos for Violin and Orchesta Vol.2
László Paulik, Orfeo Orchestra, György Vashegyi
Hungaroton HCD 32234

Classics Today Rating: 10/10

At last, a disc of Tartini violin music that doesn't include the Devil's Trill sonata! (For some reason, that G minor work has been turning up a lot lately.) No, this is a group of concertos, and before the first has concluded you're wondering why (with all due respect) Vivaldi gets so much attention when music of this quality and inventiveness is around. One reason may be a question of quantity and historical misfortune: until recently dozens of Tartini's 200 known violin concertos were believed lost, but the four performed here were recently discovered "at the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris." And since during his lifetime (1692-1770) Tartini was primarily known as a violinist (he led his own orchestra at Padova Cathedral) and author of both a theoretical work, Trattato di musica (treatise of music), and an important summary of violin pedagogy and technique (Regole per arrivare a saper ben suonar il violino), his compositions were not widely appreciated and disseminated as they should have been. In fact, because of Tartini's unsystematic manner of composing and publishing (or simply not publishing), it's now impossible to produce a reliable chronology of his compositions. Nevertheless, the music doesn't lie--and this is wonderful music, by any standard.

And what better advocate could this underrated and relatively neglected composer have than the brilliant virtuoso violinist László Paulik (the Andrew Manze of Hungary), who performs these often dazzling, technically fearsome, melodically beautiful pieces as if born to them? He spins ornaments--often just a lightning-quick little run or almost imperceptible turn or trill--as effortlessly as breathing. And they're never gratuitous--they always fit perfectly into the context of the line. The slow movement of the E major concerto is as lovely as any by Handel or Bach, and the most virtuosic passages are as demanding--and in Paulik's hands as satisfying--as any written by the period's more illustrious composers. Tartini knew nothing if not how to get the maximum out of a theme--and his thematic ideas were sufficiently fertile to produce a body of works that don't have that recurring ring of familiarity for which Vivaldi is somewhat justifiably maligned. Tartini had a habit of suspending the action with an extended violin cadenza (as at the end of the Andante of the F major concerto), and he'd lighten the orchestral texture to emphasize the melody (the beginning of the Allegro of the same work) and just as quickly follow with a tutti dance-style section--and then jump back to a double-stop-filled cadenza. And speaking of cadenzas, Paulik provides his own here, and each is a captivating bit of soloistic drama that demands repeated listening. Paulik's partners are fully in tune--in every respect--with the soloist and with Tartini's ingratiating scores. The sound is ideal--especially complementary to Paulik's soaring, singing tone and to the careful balances and clean articulation of the orchestra.

David Vernier, Classics Today.com

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Tartini: Four Concertos for Violin and Orchesta - Vashegyi

Giuseppe Tartini
Four Concertos for Violin and Orchesta
László Paulik, Orfeo Orchestra, György Vashegyi
Hungaroton HCD 32045

There is great cause for celebration here with these two volumes of Tartin Violin Concertos. Recorded at the Hungaroton Studio in Budapest the first volume from 2001 comprises what are claimed to be première recordings of all four Concertos and the second volume from 2003 includes première recordings of the two Concertos, D 7 and D 20. It seems that the manuscripts of all eight scores were discovered at the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris and were edited for these recording sessions by the multi-talented György Vashegyi.

The Orfeo Chamber Orchestra are a period instrument chamber ensemble of around fourteen or fifteen players. They were founded in Budapest in 1991. Founder György Vashegyi directs from either harpsichord or organ.

Hungarian-born in 1966 violin soloist Paulik László studied at the prestigious Ferenc Liszt Academy of Music in Budapest. His study continued in Wien and under the tutelage of Simon Standage at the Academy of Early Music in Dresden. Whilst still a student at the Academy he was a founding member of the Concerto Armonico Chamber Orchestra and since 1992 has been Concertmaster of the Orfeo Chamber Orchestra. On these discs László wrote all the cadenzas on the first volume and that for the D 90 score on volume two.

Márta Katona in the Hungaroton booklet notes explains how Tartini’s Violin Concertos follow the established Vivaldian three movement design of Allegro-Adagio-Allegro. The central movement is usually presented in a contrasting key with the outer movements being based on the standard tutti-retornello arrangement, occasionally interrupted by a substantial solo passage.

Giuseppe Tartini, born in Pirano (now Piran) on the Adriatic in Italy (now Slovenia) in 1692 was preparing for a career in the priesthood and attended in 1709 the University of Padua where he studied theology, philosophy and literature. Following conflict with the church authorities over his marriage to a woman deemed unsuitable, Tartini was banished from Padua and fled to the Monastery of Assisi. There he studied music between 1711-14 with the famous Czech musician Bohuslav Matěj Černohorský and played violin in the orchestra at the Ancona Opera House. In 1721 in Padua, Tartini was appointed the first violin and maestro di cappella at the Basilica of Saint Anthony in Padua, a posting that he held for the rest of his life; apart from a short break. At Saint Anthony’s he was given the dispensation to play in other orchestras and was allowed some travel. Tartini did leave his post at the Basilica of Saint Anthony for three years to travel to Prague with the cellist Antonio Vandini and was involved with the Count Kinsky Orchestra where he remained until 1726. He was soon to return to Padua and the Basilica.

Tartini in 1728 established a violin school in Padua named the Scuolla delle Nazioni (School of the Nations), taking in students from all over Europe. His reputation as a composer spread to the Germany territories; France and England and throughout the remaining twenty years of his life he concentrated on his music treatises more than composition. Between the years 1739 to 1741 he visited many Italian cities including Naples and in Rome at the request of Pope Clement XII he composed a Miserere, for four, five, and eight voices, which was performed by the Sistine choir 1768. The prolific Tartini become one of the foremost Italian instrumental composers, writing over four hundred works, including mainly Violin Concertos; Sonatas and Trio Sonatas. A catalogue of Tartini’s concertos was created in 1935 by Greek musicologist Minos Dounias and catalogued according to tonality as there are very few actual composition dates available.

It is fascinating to see the progression of Tartini’s concerto model as he began to slowly extend the expressive possibilities of his music in terms of more sophisticated technique by cultivating the transition from the late-Baroque to the early developments of the Classical era. He returned later to a more austere conception of structure but still displaying a deepening of thought and an enrichment of expression.

Tartini broke little new ground in terms of great innovation but did make some advancements to the conventional concerto form, for example: a brief stanza at the start of the concerto; heightened use of ornamentation and increased technical virtuosity for the soloist became dominant features. Beside the solo violin passages he introduced a new ‘inaugural capriccio’ section in the Allegro movements to allow the soloist further opportunity to display technique.

Particularly successful are Tartini’s beautiful slow movements that frequently plumb real emotional depths, yet still maintain a reverential grace and dignity. The more I hear Tartini, especially in these recordings, the more I hold the view that, although, he does not have Vivaldi’s innate gift for melody he has a deeper soul.

I have not for some time enjoyed releases as much as these two. The interpretations from László using a Jahann Hentschl violin (c.1750) are of an exceptional standard with assured and expressive playing of purity and precision of intonation that at times takes the breath away. In the Allegros he displays astonishing virtuosity of great elegance with clean textures and articulation. I especially loved the heavenly sounds he displays and the high degree of emotional intensity in the contemplative and affecting Adagios. The sensitive support is impeccable displaying a wide spectrum of orchestral colours.

The presentation of these discs is first class including interesting and detailed annotation. This is complemented by crystal clear and immediate sound quality of demonstration standard. László is one of Hungary’s best kept secrets and he deserves to be heard by a wider audience. These discs take a treasured place in my collection.

Michael Cookson, MusicWeb International

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Johann Sebastian Bach: Harpsichord Works - Trevor Pinnock

Johann Sebastian Bach
Chromatic Fantasia & Fugue, 3 Preludes & Fugues,
English Suite No.3, French Suite No.5
Trevor Pinnock
Archiv 435 795-2

In this programme of familiar Bach works the most captivating performance is that of the Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue. Employing a harpsichord of magnificently rich sonority (by the American builder David Jacques Way "after Hemsch and others"), Pinnock gives this a dramatic reading, the declamation of the Fantasia brilliantly improvisatory in effect and the everstartling chromatic modulations savoured to the full, the Fugue relentlessly climbing and building up the tension to the end. The G minor English Suite and G major French Suite offer, besides Pinnock's engagingly vital rhythmic sense, some stylistic insights, particularly as regards doubledotting conventions and decorations on repeats— delightfully vivacious in the Courante of the English Suite and elaborately ornate in the Sarabande of the French Suite—which makes us hear these well-known movements with fresh ears.

With the preludes and fugues from the 48, however, we seem to see a different artist. Admittedly Bach designated them (at least the first book) as "for the use of young musicians desirous of learning", but here the preludes are played with dismaying objectivity and didacticism, almost dead straight without any concessions to shaping or to niceties of touch, phrasing or quasi-accentuation. Until its last line the C major is machine-like, the gracefully written E flat with its reflection of lutenist style is stiff, and astonishingly enough even the sighing motives of the galant F minor are coldly impassive. Fortunately amends are made with the liveliness of the E flat fugue and the sprightliness of that in F. The quality of the recording is excellent.

Lionel Salter, Gramophone Magazine

Monday, December 27, 2010

Hellendaal: 6 Concerti Grossi - Manze, ECBO, Roy Goodman

Pieter Hellendaal
6 Concerti Grossi
Manze, The European Community Baroque Orchestra, Goodman
Channel Classics CCS 3492

Pieter Hellendaal is one of those curiously elusive figures from the past, whose life, spent industriously in a musical backwater, left little impression on history, but whose surviving music, although modest in quantity, is of surprising quality. This is the first complete recording of his osagnificant Six Grand Concertos op. 3 (t75g), undoubtedly one of the finest sets of concerti grossi published in England during the eighteenth century, though surely one of the most unjustly neglected today. The son of a Rotterdam candle-maker, Ftellendaal's prodigious talents as a violinist were recognised at an early age when the Secretary of Amsterdam, Mattheus Lestevenon, sent bins (aged barely sixteen) to study in Italy with the virtuoso violinist and composer Guiseppe Tartium. After his return to Amsterdam in the early 1740's he published some of the fruits of his studies: two engaging sets of six sonatas for violin and continuo. He continued his studies at the University of Leiden between 1749 and 1751, playing at the frequent gatherings of music-loving academics to earn his living. A free-lance life-style playing in Leiden and at The Hague suited him for a while, but with apparently little prospect of a permanent position in his native country he emigrated to 'Little Holland' across the ocean sometime late in 1751. London newspapers of the time provide conspicious evidence that Hellendaal successfully pursued his career as a violinist in the capital for eight years, appearing frequently as a soloist in such prestigious concert venues as Hickford's Rooms on Brewer Street, and, as on 13 February 1754, playing solos between the acts of Handel's Aci.s and Ga/ateo. Towards the end of 1759 he travelled to Oxford where the local paper recorded that on 5 November "Mr. Hellendaal from London will lead the Concert and play a Solo on the Violin"....


Sunday, December 26, 2010

Sammartini: Six Symphonies - Aradia Ensemble, Kevin Mallon

Giovanni Battista Sammartini
Six Symphonies
Aradia Ensemble, Kevin Mallon
Naxos 8.557298

The younger of the two Sammartini brothers, Giovanni Battista spent the whole of his life in Milan where he produced a prodigious output of some 450 vocal and instrumental works, numbered 'J-C' after Jenkins and Churgin, who catalogued the output of the composer. His 67 surviving symphonies reflect the changes that took place as baroque techniques gave way to those associated with the classical. The six symphonies heard on this disc range in style and scoring from the early works for strings and continuo, including the C minor, J-C 9, with its dramatic first movement, to those of clear pre-classical form (J-C 62 and J-C 4) from around 1750, which include prominent parts for horns and trumpets.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Boyce: Overtures 1-9 - Cantilena, Adrian Shepherd

William Boyce
Overtures 1-9
Cantilena, Adrian Shepherd
Chandos CHAN 6531

A Penguin Guide * * * Recording.

Chandos reissues offer rare repertoire, including a collection of nine Boyce overtures unique to the CD catalogue. They come from a group of 12 published by the composer in 1770, their musical material deriving from various birthday and New Year odes, although the music, of course, is orchestral. Their late-baroque style is robust, with bright scoring for horns and trumpets and flutes and oboes giving added colour. There is a flavour of the Handel of the Water Music, but the flutes take the music forward in time. There are usually three or four sections to each piece, often with sub-divisions of tempos within movements, and the writing is attractively fresh and tuneful. The performances by Cantilena are full of character, yet spontaneously sprightly; the recording is excellent, although rather forward, but clean-timbred and full with a good ambience. Most enjoyable.

Gramophone Magazine

Boyce: The 3 Concerti Grossi, Overtures 10-12 - Cantilena

William Boyce
The 3 Concerti Grossi, Overtures 10-12
Cantilena, Adrian Shepherd
Chandos CHAN 6541

A Penguin Guide * * * Recording.

A worthwhile reissue on Collect is that of the three Concerti grossi of Boyce; inventive and rewarding works, full of character. I have gained much pleasure from this music, which was new to me, and it is very well played by Cantilena under Adrian Shepherd. Just try, if you can, the opening Moderato of the first of these concertos (in B flat major) and you will be tempted to explore further. As a fill-up Chandos have added Nos. 10-12 from Boyc,e's set of Overtures MBTD6531; (1) CHAN6531). The first nine were reissued earlier and were welcomed by me last October. The final three are no less enjoyable, with some fine horn playing in Nos. 10 and 12 and trumpets regally prominent in the former. Excellent sound.

Gramophone Magazine

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Telemann: Suites, Concerto in D - The English Concert, Pinnock

Georg Philipp Telemann
Suites, Concerto in D Major
The English Concert, Trevor Pinnock
Archiv 439 893-2

Telemann: Suiten - The English Concert, Trevor Pinnock

Georg Philipp Telemann
The English Concert, Trevor Pinnock
Archiv 437 558-2

This is a great piece for any one who likes grand baroque style music. It features the oboe and hunting horn. The oboe is one of my favorite instruments and these three pieces are excellent for any one who likes the reed horns.

Amazon.com Customer Review

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Debussy Preludes - Nelson Freire

Claude Debussy
Nelson Freire

Nelson Freire turns to Debussy for a disc of supreme naturalness and affection

Like another great pianist of the day, Emanuel Ax, Nelson Freire in his very different way calls to mind that phrase “the art that conceals art”. There is nothing flashy in his playing. Yet, as with his recent Brahms disc, everything is just right. Here there is beauty as well as darkness and one emerges with the sense of a great composer served entirely and completely.

-- Gramophone [4/2009]

Couperin: The Virtuoso Harpsichord Vol 2 - Anton Heiller

A small complement to Sankerib's massive Couperin post a few weeks ago... different harpsichord sound, different style of playing.

Mention of Anton Heiller brings to mind his interpretations of organ works by Bach, Buxtehude, and Reger. His facet as a harpsichordist is less familiar and recordings are harder to come by. I first heard a fragment from this CD on the radio and eventually found a copy.

Additional information from another source:
Producer: Karl Wolleitner. Digital Remastering/SBM Transfer: Katsuhiko Naito
Recorded: Vienna Austria, 1959
Originally released as BG 619
Cover: Harpsichord by Girolamo Zenti, Rome, 1658/ Inside: harpsichord by Antonio Scotti, Milan, 1753
Art Direction: Fred Holtz
(I don't know if these harpsichords were used in the recording or are only for the covers; there are no liner notes).

Review at ClassicsToday

Vanguard recording long out of print, but can be obtained from Arkiv.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

JC. Bach: 3 Qunitets, Sextet - The English Concert, Pinnock

Johann Christian Bach
3 Qunitets, Sextet
The English Concert, Trevor Pinnock
Archiv 423 385-2

Here is charming and completely diverting music. These melodious chamber works by Johann Christian Bach, known as "The London Bach" overflow with catchy melodies that will put a smile on the face of any music lover. This is not music with a message other than to entertain and the youngest son of Johann Sebastian was an imaginative composer who embraced the new Classical era. He was among the earliest masters to perform solos on the then newfangled pianoforte. Mozart took lessons from J.C. Bach and was much influenced by him. Trevor Pinnock and The English Concert play these beguiling works with a sense of joy and delight.

Greg La Traille, ArkivMusic

Monday, December 20, 2010

Johann Sebastian Bach: 6 Partitas - Trevor Pinnock

Johann Sebastian Bach
6 Partitas
Trevor Pinnock
Archiv 415 493-2

Bach clearly set great store by the Partitas, gathering them together as the first book of his Clavier-Ubung and publishing it in 1731 as his Op. I, as we still do today. The Partitas still march on but recordings are (often regrettably) apt to fall by the wayside, in this case leaving only one set (de la Porte on Hyperion) by a harpsichordist (LP only) and three by pianists (Andras Schiff on Decca—LP 411 732-1DH2, CD 411 732-2DH2, 8/ 85; Gould on LP only—CBS 77289, 2/73; Steuerman on LP only—Philips/I MS 412 546/7-1, 8/85). We can thus hardly complain that two new sets should have arrived at the same time. Pinnock (as harpsichordist) is the first to compress them on to two records, by omitting numerous repeats and setting some pretty lively tempos, an exercise of greater economic than artistic merit. Presumably in order to adapt acceptably to the LP format, the running order is changed—Nos. 1, 2, 4/5, 3, 6, a regrouping that may mildly irritate those who listen with the score in hand—and which might have been rectified (but is not) on the CDs, thus making them more 'user-friendly'. Another, more amiable 'hiccup' occurs in Partitas Nos. 4 and 6: in each, Gilbert places the Aria after the Sarabande,' where it does not interrupt the basic sequence of Allemande-Courante-Sarabande (c.f. French Suite No, 4, BWV815), maintaining that the published order was aimed at avoiding awkward page-turns. I find the result convincing.

Of the three harpsichordists, Pinnock is the most given to extremes of tempo, well ahead of the field in the Courantes/Correntes (that in Partita No. 1 is uncomfortably rushed) and sundry other movements but the back-marker in the Allemandes of Partitas Nos. 4-6, the Gigue of No. 6 (rather laboured) and the Sarabandes of Partitas Nos. 4-6. At this level tempos are as much an expression of personality as, for instance, the approach to embellishment; de la Porte stands between the more mercurial and fast-fingered Pin nock and the less demonstrative but thoughtfully expressive Gilbert. All three add such ornaments as seem to be implied in terms of stress, beyond which limits lies a minefield in these works where the written ornamentation comes as close to selfsufficiency as one may find. Gilbert is very circumspect, making his only significant venture in the Sarabande of Partita No. 5, but Pinnock and, even more, de la Porte, take their courage in both hands with many happy diminutions—the latter does so even in the already-florid Sarabande of No. 6, enhancing its majestic outpouring (the upward sweep in bar 4 of the B section is memorable). The use of inegales is an area in which all three players find common ground, notably in the problematical Gigue of Partita No. 6. On the whole, all three make conservative use of changes of registration, reserving them for repeats, but Pinnock displays a love of the buff stop in several galanteries and de la Porte shows her only eccentricity in her kaleidoscopic treatment of the Rondeaux of Partita No. 2.

The instruments all serve well the basic purpose of tonal richness and textural clarity, and are superbly recorded: a copy of the Couchet-Taskin from the Raymond Russell Collection by Michael Johnson (de la Porte), a Couchet-Taskin-Blanchet (1671-1778—Gilbert), and a copy of a Hemsch (c.1760) by David Way (Pinnock).

If economics are a significant factor, choose Pinnock's ebullient set. Otherwise settle for de la Porte, or, if you feel that what you want is the text, the whole text and nothing (barring a few logically-added ornaments) but the text, then go for Gilbert. Collectively, the three recordings show the variety of ways in which the Partitas, like most other great music, may validly be treated. In a Desert-Island situation I'd choose de la Porte, but that is a personal reaction rather than a solid recommendation.

J.D., Gramophone Magazine

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Bruckner: Complete Symphonies - Eugen Jochum

Bruckner: Complete Symphonies - Eugen Jochum, Berliner Phiharmoniker, Symphonie-Orchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks

9 CD's (.ape+.cue+.log)

Bruckner is my first musical love (the 4th symphony was the first classical composition which really got me hooked). This is the first set of his complete symphonies I bought.

Paul Winter Consort - Wintersong

This is for you, Sank... I once gave you one track of this CD as a contribution to a gift collection your friends at MIMIC put together for you. I know you will enjoy this. Scoredaddy

Dedicated to the spirit of giving and forgiving, this fine musical work from 1986 includes traditional songs from Sweden, Italy, England, France, Germany, the Appalachians as well as Bach's "Joy," plus "Beautiful Star" by Odetta. Instrumental in its entirety, Wintersong is music for dancing, loving, and being alive, full of joy and lyricism.

This music is nothing short of a spiritual experience. It paints so many beautiful pictures. When listening to "Swedish Song" you can almost feel the frost on the leaves as they blow on a winter's day in the forest. It carries you along with it's rich depth. So beautiful. Although an album of "Wintersongs", they are all warm ones, and range from bright celebration to heavenly reflection. Paul Winter has created the most beautiful treatments of these songs the world has ever heard. Background vocals, sparcely used, add to the warmth and incredible harmony of sound on peices like "Beautiful Star". Light some candles, turn out the lights and listen to "Little One" and "Dance of the Golden Bough". The purest Love will fill your being. C. Pencil

1 Tomorrow Is My Dancing Day 3:08
Bells [Orchestral] - Ted Moore
Cello - Eugene Friesen
Flute - Rhonda Larson
Guitar [Steel String] - Dan Carillo*
Piano, Organ - Paul Halley
Saxophone [Soprano] - Paul Winter (2)
Talking Drum [Donno], Bells - Neil Clark

2 Swedish Song 3:36
Cello - Eugene Friesen
Piano - Paul Halley
Saxophone [Soprano] - Paul Winter (2)
Written-By - Gustaf Nordqvist

3 The Cherry Tree 3:29
Cello - Eugene Friesen
English Horn - Nancy Rumbel
Flute - Rhonda Larson
Guitar [Steel String] - Dan Carillo*
Piano, Harpsichord - Paul Halley
Saxophone [Soprano] - Paul Winter (2)

4 Little One 3:10
Cello - Eugene Friesen
Piano - Paul Halley
Saxophone [Soprano] - Paul Winter (2)

5 Peasant Revels 4:11
Cello - Eugene Friesen
Flute - Rhonda Larson
Guitar [Steel String] - Dan Carillo*
Percussion - Ted Moore
Piano, Organ - Paul Halley
Saxophone [Soprano] - Paul Winter (2)

6 Dance Of The Golden Bough 5:47
Cello - Eugene Friesen
Piano, Harpsichord - Paul Halley
Saxophone [Soprano] - Paul Winter (2)

7 Beautiful Star 4:28
Cello - Eugene Friesen
Flute - Rhonda Larson
Guitar [Classical] - Oscar Castro-Neves
Guitar [Steel String] - Dan Carillo*
Percussion - Neil Clark
Piano - Paul Halley
Saxophone [Soprano] - Paul Winter (2)
Written-By - Odetta

8 Wintersong 3:42
Piano, Organ - Paul Halley
Saxophone [Soprano] - Paul Winter (2)

9 Joy 4:10
Bass - Russ Landau
Cello - Eugene Friesen
Composed By - J.S. Bach*
Cuica, Whistle - Marcio Sapel
Drums [Snare] - Guilherme Franco
Flute - Rhonda Larson
Guitar [Classical] - Oscar Castro-Neves
Oboe, English Horn - Nancy Rumbel
Saxophone [Soprano] - Paul Winter (2)
Surdo, Percussion [Hand] - Ted Moore

Recorded in New York City's Cathedral of St. John the Divine

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Händel: Overtures - The English Concert, Trevor Pinnock

George Frideric Händel
The English Concert, Trevor Pinnock
Archiv 419 219-2

These overtures or instrumental introductions to operas, oratorios, cantatas, and anthems are a grand collection. The use of the bassoon and oboe on many of the selections balanced the violins and organ. The organ is integrated into several of the movements of these overtures in a complementary way, never become the primary focus except in the Act 1 Sinfonia for Saul in the organ solo and then later in the Second Act Sinfonia, the Wedding Symphony, where it is playful and is perfectly complimented by the more stately strings and oboes, which seemed to me to be a reversal of musical roles. The Wedding Symphony prepares the audience for the marriage of David to Michal. The overture from Alceste with surprising flourishes from the trumpet is a wise opening movement, since it is full of energy. The piece was meant to be the opening movement for a masque, usually based on a mythological or allegorical theme. The overture from Agrippina is sublime with an emphasis on the oboe and violin. The longest overture on the CD was the 5 movement overture to Il pastor fido. The 5 movements of the Il pastor fido alternate between slower tempo and dance forms. Actually the selections contain some surprises that demonstrate Handel's virtuosity and experimentation, his complexity and structural abilities.

C.B. Collins Jr., Amazon.com Customer Review

Vivaldi: L'estro Armonico - 12 Concertos Op.3 - EG, Fabio Biondi

Antonio Vivaldi
L'estro Armonico - 12 Concertos Op.3
Europa Galante, Fabio Biondi
Virgin 5 45315 2

This was the great collection of 12 varied and exciting violin concertos that turned Bach on to concerto writing. In fact, he transcribed several of these works for solo harpsichord, organ--even for harpsichords and orchestra. What fascinated him most was the balanced, three-movement form, the brilliance of the solo passages, the tunefulness of the music generally, and Vivaldi's seemingly inexhaustible storehouse of invention. When a composer ventured to publish a collection such as this, he was making a major statement. This is one of the really big ones in Baroque music, and it's performed with splendid authority and an unrivaled sense of sheer joy.

David Hurwitz, Amazon.com Editorial Review

Vivaldi: Il cimento dell'armonia e dell'invertione - EG, Biondi

Antonio Vivaldi
Il cimento dell'armonia e dell'invertione
Europa Galante, Fabio Biondi
Virgin 5 45465 2

Another Four Seasons, but this one shoots to the top of the list. Fabio Biondi's imaginative playing is full of spunk and vigor, delineating Vivaldi's scene-painting without overdoing it. His band matches him with rhythmic vitality; this is one Vivaldi set that holds your interest from start to finish.

In his program notes, Biondi explains the use of the "Manchester" manuscript of the Four Seasons, which was closer to the composer's intentions than editions published later, and he discusses the manuscript sources for the other works. The Four Seasons are the first four concertos of Vivaldi's Opus 8 set of a dozen, titled Il cimento dell'armonia e dell'inventione (The Trial of Harmony and Invention). The others may not share the Seasons' popularity, but they're of comparable excellence, especially in performances as exciting as these. First-rate sound, close-up and immediate, underscores the vibrancy of the performances. Biondi's 1991 Four Seasons on Opus 111 is still in the catalog, but this one scores because Virgin includes the complete Opus 8 on two discs for the price of one.

Dan Davis, Amazon.com Editorial Review

Avison: 12 Concerti Grossi - The Avison Ensemble, Beznosiuk

Charles Avison
12 Concerti Grossi after Geminiani's Sonatas for Violin and Basso Continue, Op.1
The Avison Ensemble, Pavlo Beznosiuk
Divine Art dda21210

Charles Avison (1709-1770) was born in Newcastle and can be considered the greatest composer of his time of orchestral concertos. He wrote more than 50 works in the genre – the best known are his orchestra transcriptions of Scarlatti sonatas - as well as chamber music, accompanied keyboard sonatas and vocal compositions.

The existence of his concerto arrangements of Geminiani’s Sonatas for Violin and Basso Continuo, op. 1 (1716) were unknown until quite recently, and presented here as world premiere recordings. In fact Avison seems to have only arranged eleven of the twelve, but Pavlo Beznosiuk has written his own concerto of the missing work, No. 11 in similar style. All are scored for string ensemble in the Italian concerto-gross style.

It has been established that Avison met and studied with the Italian master in London, who had moved there in 1714. There are numerous documented references to this end.

Comprised of some of Europe's leading musicians and soloists and in addition to playing other works from the baroque and early classical periods, the Avison Ensemble promotes chamber concerts and is furthering the revival of the once famous Newcastle Subscription Concerts, originally established and promoted by Charles Avison himself.

The Ensemble have chosen to perform on period instruments in order to recreate as closely as possible the distinctive 'sound world' that Charles Avison would have known.


Friday, December 17, 2010

Vivaldi: Le Quattro Stagion - Salvatore Accardo, ISSI di Napoli

Antonio Vivaldi
Le Quattro Stagion
Salvatore Accardo, I Solisti delle Settimane Internazionale di Napoli
Philips 422 065-2

This is, including a few oddballs, the 39th CD version of Vivaldi's Big Four (the LP count is even higher): "What, another one?" do I hear you say? Well, yes - but numbers aren't everything. In an earlier selection of Vivaldi concertos (EMI (D CDC7 49320-2, 10/88) Accardo celebrated the art of Stradivarius by using four 'matched' priceless violins and here he continues to do so with one per season: Cremonese, ex-Reynier, Firebird and Hart (ex-Francescatti), in that order. The pleasure of playing these instruments is shared by the ripieno violinists, all five of whom get their solo places in the Venetian sun in RV55I and 580, not overshadowed by their distinguished maestro. Such opulence of sound might have unfortunate consequences for this music but, thanks to the modest size of the band ( and the buon gusto of all concerned, it does not; as with the best potato chips, crispness and lightness prevail and the cooking fat of vibrato is sufficient to please the palate, but not to cloy it. Though several of the flanking movements are a little leisurely, the slow ones are fractionally quicker than usual in tempo, but you are likely to notice it only if you consult the clock - and, as I said, numbers aren't everything. As in the earlier EMI recording, the harpsichordist (Bruno Canino) is very much in evidence and usually with something of his own to say; in the second movement of "Autumn" he does considerably more than arpeggiate, and he deftly echoes Accardo's embellishments in the second movement of "Winter". Some may feel that he 'talks' too much, but I find it an amiable peccadillo - if such it be.

This is a recording that happily bridges the divide between 'middle of the road' and 'authentic' and one that should please devotees of either species; it conveys, vividly but not theatrically, the spirit of the music - and without misrepresentation. This splendidly engineered recording is not, by the way, the first all-Stradivarius Four Seasons; that distinction belongs to Ruggiero Ricci (MCA MUCSI IS, 9/68-nla). As if all this were not enough, there is the unusual bonus of the multiple concertos; most other recordings of The Four Seasons contain nothing more.

J. D., Gramophone Magazine

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Scarlatti: Concerti & Sinfonie - Europa Galante, Fabio Biondi

Alessandro & Domenico Scarlatti
Concerti & Sinfonie
Europa Galante, Fabio Biondi
Virgin 5 45495 2

This recording presents music by two Scarlattis: Alessandro (1660-1725), composer of innumerable vocal and chamber works, and his son Domenico (1685-1757), famous mostly for his several hundred keyboard sonatas. Alessandro is represented by six Concerti Grossi, a Sonata, and a Sinfonia; Domenico by three Sinfonias. All feature solo instruments: harp, recorder, and most prominently, violins and continuo cello. Alessandro fostered his son's talent, but the two eventually, perhaps inevitably, became rivals, and Domenico left his native Rome for Portugal and then Spain. Most of Alessandro's music recorded here is somber, solemn, and mournful, full of dissonances and sighing suspensions; four of the six concerti are in minor, but the two in major are bright and sprightly. One of the highlights is the slow, pastoral Finale of No. 6. They vary greatly in form, character, and texture; there is much masterful counterpoint, pungent rhythmic inventiveness, and a chromaticism that seems ahead of its time.

Europa Galante, an excellent Italian period-instrument group, is distinguished by its successful blending of meticulous technical and ensemble execution with musical spontaneity. Notable among the soloists are cellist Maurizio Naddeo and recorder player Petr Zeifart. Violinist Fabio Biondi, the group's director, is outstanding for his virtuosity, beautiful tone, and daring, inventive ornamentation. He deserves our gratitude for rescuing these unfamiliar works from undeserved neglect.

Edith Eisler, Amazon.com Editorial Review

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Händel: Coronation Anthems - The English Concert, Pinnock

George Frideric Händel
Coronation Anthems
Choir of Westminster Abbey, The English Concert, Trevor Pinnock, Simon Preston
Archiv 410 030-2

Not just any Coronation Anthems either.

I had not heard the LP of this recording of Handel's Coronation Anthems and so was able to approach the CD without preconception. A thrilling experience it turned out to be, too, for although I had heard Compact Discs in demonstration surroundings, such an artificial experience made much less of an impact on my ears than that of listening domestically. The recording quality of these anthems is superb. Roger Fiske enjoyed them very much and I am able to add little that is constructive to his original review.

I confess that, at first, my heart sank at the thought of having to accommodate yet another piece of 'hardware'—1 believe that is the current term for this sort of equipment—in an already well-filled home; but installation proved to be so easy, and the mechanism by which, at the slightest touch, the disc moves in and out on a tray, so childishly diverting, that I was won over in about 90 seconds. If a brief word about the performances themselves is required then I can only say that their rivals on Argo are simply not in the same league. Roger Fiske remarked on the cleanness of sound on the LP; I do hope he will have an opportunity of hearing the CD version, since everything that he noted about that is further emphasized here. Strongly recommended if and when you have the equipment.

N.A., Gramophone Magazine

Monday, December 13, 2010

Vivaldi: Le Quattro Stagioni - The English Concert, Pinnock

Antonio Vivaldi
Le Quattro Stagioni
The English Concert, Simon Standage, Trevor Pinnock
Archiv 400 045-2

Not just any Le Quattro Stagioni.

Just for my own interest-though no, perhaps for that of others too-I've been looking into the phenomenon of the Four Seasons' rampaging popularity. I find that the very first LP version to be normally available in this country (which it fell to me to review in this magazine) was a 1951 mono issue by Miinchinger on Decca: there was then a gap of three-and-a-half years before a trickle of alternative recordings appeared. When, by 1962, 13 had been clocked up there was another three-and-a-half years' pause, after which the trickle became a torrent, the most prolific years being 1973 and 1977, each boasting five new recordings. The present version by Pinnock's English Concert (which had previously played the work on CRD) is the 55th to be issued; but understandable questions as to the need to have continued adding to the number were well answered by NA in his review of the LP. Not only is this a performance, on period instruments (including a theorbo), of uncommon vitality and graphic vividness, with stylish ornamentation by the soloist; it also, uniquely, uses a set of parts (now in Manchester) once belonging to Cardinal Ottoboni, which as well as being more correct over such things as accidentals also includes a few interesting variants. Add to this an extremely clear and well-balanced recording, a surface blessedly free from all extraneous noises and the removal of a stray note that disturbed NA, and the justification becomes evident. The 55th version in this form is a very strong recommendation indeed.

L.S., Gramophone Magazine

Geminiani: La Folia & other Concertos & Sonatas - Purcell Band

Francesco Geminiani
La Folia & other Concertos & Sonatas
The Purcell Quartet, The Purcell Band
Helios CDH55234

The Purcell Quartet play with dedication and spirit.
(The Penguin Guide to Compact Discs)

This is a reissue – and a welcome one – on Hyperion’s Helios label; it’s a collection of string pieces by the late Baroque composer Francesco Geminiani. First released twenty years ago, it makes a valid and representative introduction to some of the strengths of Geminiani. At the same time the selection highlights the skills and interpretative powers of performers, many of whom were just beginning to make names for themselves in the 1980s and are now firmly established as specialists in their fields. Indeed the Purcell Quartet was in the middle of a wider series of chamber music based on La Folia.

Geminiani’s Concerto Grosso is actually the only work on this disc so based. It’s beautifully played here, though. There is energy, a sailing and uplifting movement in what’s already a lively and extrovert theme. The other Concerto Grosso, the G Minor Opus 7 number 2, is tackled just as stylishly and should convince anyone sceptical of Geminiani’s place in the canon that his blend of thematic thrift and apposite instrumentation admirably vindicates his champions’ faith in the composer’s inventiveness and technical adeptness.

There are three Trio Sonatas here. Number 3 in F Major seems at time to be holding back and has the most delightful, subtle melodies. Number 5 in A Minor has just as much sophistication, variety and emerges through gentle curves and swayings of sound; the opening movement has some exciting yet controlled counterpoint. And number 6 in D Minor has an almost Handelian middle movement and much uplifting yet not unserious ripieno and thrusting passages which reveal the beauty of these dedicated players’ string sound.

The thing you’ll probably notice as you settle into the first few tracks is the sedate pace - a marked slowness of tempi. This is all to the good - for the unrushed unfolding of thematic ideas and supporting instrumentation allow the music to breathe, and every nuance to be fully audible. Indeed there is a dignity and gravitas to, for example, the F Major’s gentle statement and counter-statement; they make it sound more classical than spontaneous. Yet the execution here is far from predictable or dull. Similarly the gentle, walking pace with which each of the players sets out the theme of La Folia itself has the effect, almost, of a first time hearing. Most welcome.

Elizabeth Wallfisch hits some high spots and sends shivers down the spine with her performance of the Opus 1 number 3 solo sonata in E Minor; Catherine Mackintosh similarly does opus 4 number 12 proud – though with perhaps not quite the same self-confidence as Wallfisch.

So there’s a pleasing array of textures, musical ideas and harmonic depth on this CD. It bears repeating that this is music originally meant for amateur, ‘local’ performance (and consumption). Its flavour has been suavely picked up and handled very well by these consummate professionals. The lasting impression remains of unspectacular detachment; the music is played with a generous seriousness that nevertheless never cloys nor draws attention to itself. It’s stately and almost regal at times. Maybe that’s chiefly because tempi are a tiny bit slower than we have become used to in intervening years. But really none the worse for that – we can savour every turn and phrase.

The fact that these dozen accomplished musicians haven’t thereby rendered the music in any way ‘precious’ must originate in their evident exuberance, and enjoyment of knowing and presenting it. There’s a genuineness and gentle familiarity in their playing that makes them superb ambassadors for what Geminiani was aiming at – and what he usually so successfully achieved: persuasive, thoughtful and accessible music of great originality and subtle beauty.

Geminiani (who studied with Corelli in Rome) seems to have been a bit… ‘needy’ where conducting and organizing his own music was concerned; Burney put his failings down to a shaky sense of tempi! He was more adept at re-arranging (his) music when necessary – indeed it is the 1739 revision of his Opus 1 from 1716 that we hear on this CD. The musicians here play with never a hint of such shortcomings thereby lifting the music into a more refined, almost rarefied, sphere. But, again, this steadiness is a big plus where music of such delicacy is concerned.

The liner notes are somewhat on the sparse side; the sound is more than adequate if a little closely recorded, and the quantity not all that generous at little more than 50 minutes. All in all this is a disc that can be thoroughly recommended. Listening to it carefully and with renewed attention (there’s always something new at each hearing… a delayed harpsichord entry, an apposite rallentando, a striking counterplay of closing chords) will bring hours of pleasure.

Mark Sealey

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Johann Sebastian Bach: Works for Harpsichord - Ton Koopman

Especially for Sank

WARNING I: listening to the Italian Concerto you might unespectedly start dancing Tarantella!
WARNING II: listening to the Italian Concerto you might all of a sudden start thinking: "this Bach dude is the greatest composer who ever lived". You'd probably be righty right

Bach: Works for Harpsichord - Ton Koopman (.ape+.cue+.log)

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Geminiani: Six Concerti grossi op.3 - AAM, Christopher Hogwood

Francesco Geminiani
Six Concerti grossi op.3
The Academy of Ancient Music, Christopher Hogwood
L'Oiseau-Lyre 478 0024

I thoroughly enjoyed making the acquaintance of the Academy of Ancient Music of the 1970s again. Having been rather rude about some of the earlier efforts from the period-performance school in my review of Volume II of Naïve’s series of Vivaldi Cello Concertos (OP30457) I must immediately make an exception of the recordings which Christopher Hogwood made with the AAM, including the present reissue. In fact, by the date of this recording, 1976, the ‘authentic’ movement was well under way and the strident playing to which I referred was already rather a thing of the past; indeed, the only AAM recording which I recall with some discomfort is that of Handel’s Water Music, made at a time when the playing of period wind instruments left something to be desired.

Geminiani’s orchestral music is much less well known that of Corelli, whose disciple he largely was, though he was no slavish imitator. In these Op.3 concerti, for example, his addition of the viola goes beyond his model. Even his twelve Concerti Grossi, Op.5, ostensibly ‘after’ Corelli’s Trio Sonatas with the same opus number, are no mere straight orchestrations of the master. This is thoroughly enjoyable music; don’t let the apparent preponderance of minor keys put you off – the music is attractively varied, and the performances are to match.

A more recent rival version from Europa Galante and Fabio Biondi (Opus 111 OPS30-172) offers a very different kind of performance – like most modern Italian interpreters, Biondi plays his baroque forbears in a much more aggressive manner than you will find on the AAM reissue. In some moods, I find such an approach exhilarating – see, for example, my review of the Vivaldi Op.8 concertos by Accademia Bizantina on Arts – but the AAM versions are much the safer bet. In any case, the Opus 111 CD is currently deleted though, I expect, it will appear in due course at mid price.

If I describe these AAM performances as more comfortable to live with, I don’t mean to imply that they are in any way slack. They were revelatory in their day and they still sound well. They resemble the ‘old school’ of the Academy of St Martin’s, which was a powerful force for good in its day, rather than the older ‘old school’ of I Musici or the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra. That we can still listen with enjoyment to this 30+ year-old take on baroque music is as much a tribute to Jaap Schröder, already an associate of the likes of Gustav Leonhardt and Frans Brüggen, as it is to the AAM and Christopher Hogwood – this was one of their first collaborations, if not the first. I’m pleased to see Warner reissuing some of Schröder’s earlier recordings for Telefunken – more, please, and may we have some of his Seon label recordings back, too, please, Sony?

The recording hardly shows its age or its ADD origins at all – it does full justice to the performances – and Lindsay Kemp’s notes in the booklet, though brief, are informative about both the formation of the AAM and their association with Jaap Schröder as well as about the music. I thought it was a comparatively recent phenomenon to have a near-inaudible continuo but this reissue indicates that this kind of recording balance dates back to the mid-1970s. Perhaps the engineers employed a different mix for the original LPs or my memory is playing tricks again.

There are also versions of the Op.3 concertos on Naxos: nos.1-4 are available with the Op.2 concertos on 8.553019, nos. 5 and 6 with the Op.7 concertos on 8.553020. I haven’t heard these versions with the Capella Istropolitana/Jaroslav Krček, but their other baroque recording which I have heard have been more than reliable – their two CDs of Corelli’s Op.6 are particularly recommendable. There is also a 2-CD set with Camerata Bern on Novalis 1507162, coupled with Tartini, which I have seen recommended. Either of these should serve well those who prefer modern instruments.

The short playing time detracts from the mid-price at which the CD is reissued – surely Decca could have eked it out with some other AAM material from the same period. In that respect, the Naxos couplings offer much better value.

Since Geminiani was an Italian resident in London, the use of one of Canaletto’s paintings of London is appropriate, though this particular one, showing St Paul’s with the royal barge – and looking for all the world like the ducal vessel in Venice – has been somewhat over-exposed on CD covers. It’s used on the Harmonia Mundi set of Geminiani’s Op.5 and a Naim CD entitled A London Concert, which also includes music by Geminiani.

If this CD makes you want to explore Geminiani further, try the Op.5 Concerti Grossi after Corelli, to which I referred earlier. In fact, I would be inclined to recommend that you get to know Op.5 first, but that’s merely a reflection of the order in which I got to know the music. The second disc of the excellent 2-CD set of Op.5 by the more recent incarnation of the Academy of Ancient Music, directed by Andrew Manze (HMU90 7261.62) is also available at budget price (Concertos 7-12, HMX290 7262). The old standby with I Musici on Philips Duo 438 766-2 appears to be deleted, though it has worn much better than many of their recordings and it’s well worth looking out for second-hand copies.

As Geminiani orchestrated Corelli, so his works in turn were employed to the same end by the English composer Avison for his Concerti Grossi after Geminiani, recently recorded by The Avison Ensemble on Divine Art DDA21210 – see Johan van Veen’s review: I especially endorse his advice not to listen to all twelve concertos in one go.

Brian Wilson, MusicWeb-International

Friday, December 10, 2010

Bonporti: Cinque Concerti a Quattro Op. XI - I Virtuosi Italiani

Francesco Antonio Bonporti
Cinque Concerti a Quattro Op. XI
I Virtuosi Italiani
Pierre Verany PV790094

There might not be any reviews available but without a doubt this
is my personal favorite recording of these marvelous concertos.
- Sankerib

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Muffat: Armonico Tributo - Opus X Ensemble, Petri T. Mattson

Georg Muffat
Armonico Tributo
Opus X Ensemble, Petri Tapio Mattson

Classics Today rating: 9/9

When Georg Muffat was studying in Rome, his teacher Bernardo Pasquini introduced him to his colleague and collaborator Arcangelo Corelli. One evening after hearing a performance of Corelli's Op. 6 Concerti Grossi at the composer's home, Muffat was inspired to try his hand at the form, and this set of five chamber sonatas titled Armonico tributo was the result. Like Corelli's concertos, Muffat's efforts are consistently well crafted, harmonically rich, and as pre-Bach Baroque fare goes, exceptionally satisfying. Unlike Corelli however, who was more versatile and diverse with international stylistic elements, Muffat intentionally rooted Armonico tributo in the aesthetics of another one of his former teachers--Jean Baptiste Lully. Tinged with an effective, knowing sense of the potential of northern-school sonority, these works feature a slow to moderately paced elegance and refinement, showing little of the vibrant, more extravagant virtuosic runs Corelli scored in his model.

The Finnish ensemble Opus X delivers spirited, very well played performances. Since Muffat encouraged groups of three or more members to have a go at these sonatas, recordings of Armonico tributo have varied considerably, with instrumentation and interpretation more a question of taste than correctness per se. As a nonet, Opus X is certainly one of the larger ensembles to record the work, and many listeners will enjoy its grand conception. Likewise, the very different, more crisply articulated performance by the septet Ars Antiqua Austria on Symphonia (type Q3795 in review search) also should delight fans of this repertoire.

John Greene, ClassicsToday.com

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

CPE Bach: 4 Hamburg Sinfonias - FLCO, János Rolla

Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach
4 Hamburg Sinfonias
Franz Liszt Chamber Orchestra, János Rolla
Apex 2564 60369 2

No review available.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Tartini: Violin Concertos - Piero Toso, I Solisti Veneti, Scimone

Giuseppe Tartini
Violin Concertos
Piero Toso, I Solisti Veneti, Claudio Scimone
Apex 2564 60152 2

A Penguin Guide * * * * Recording.

Recordings of Tartini’s works have progressed considerably both in number and style since these were made in 1970 using modern instruments. I recall their original release but do not have them in my collection. At that time recordings of Tartini (with the exception of the Devil’s Trill sonata) were as rare as ‘hen’s teeth‘. This issue is slowly being addressed as Tartini recordings are now much more commonly available on disc. In fact, at my last count the period instrument ensemble L’arte Dell’Arco, under director/violinist Giovanni Guglielmo, for the Genoa-based Dynamic label have now released 14 volumes of Tartini’s works.

I have read that of the 200 or so known Tartini violin concertos as many as 70 are thought to be missing. However a small number of the lost concertos were discovered recently in the Bibliothèque Nationale, in Paris and have now been recorded. The five concertos on this Apex release give a good cross-section of the violin concertos composed across Tartini’s life. There is no reliable chronology for Tartini’s compositions which is a consistent problem. A number of his works were published in his lifetime but only a relative small amount with his authorisation, so the timescale between composition and publication remains unclear.

Tartini’s concertos generally follow the established three movement design of Vivaldi’s Allegro-Adagio-Allegro. The central movement is usually presented in a contrasting key with the outer movements being based on the standard tutti-ritornello alternation, occasionally interrupted by a substantial solo passage.

It is fascinating to see the progression of Tartini’s concerto-model as he began to slowly develop the expressive possibilities of his music in terms of more sophisticated technique. He returned later to a more austere conception of structure but still displaying a deepening of thought and an enrichment of expression.

Tartini broke little new ground in terms of innovation but did make some reforms to the conventional concerto form. For example the use of a capriccio section, a brief stanza at the start of the concerto, fuller use of ornamentations and increased technical virtuosity for the soloist all became dominant features. Particularly successful are Tartini’s beautiful slow movements that frequently plumb real emotional depths and display a meditative and intense passion, yet still maintaining grace and dignity. The more I hear Tartini’s works the more I hold the view that although he does not have Vivaldi’s innate gift for melody Tartini’s music has a deeper soul.

On this Apex recording the playing of violin soloist Piero Toso matches his impeccable credentials. Toso is on fine form in these concertos, displaying a lovely tone throughout but tends to come across more as a technician rather than a showman using dazzling pyrotechnics. His playing is measured, concentrated and I’m sure deeply felt, but for my taste I would have liked a few risks to have been taken. In fact the whole recording, as fine as it is, could have been ratcheted-up a few notches to provide a more exciting experience.

The ensemble I solisti Veneti using modern instruments, give a controlled performance, under the experienced direction of Claudio Scimone. Perhaps the proceedings are too controlled overall, as in the Allegro movements I would have preferred the soloist and director to have agreed the adoption of a more liberal tempo. The warm recorded sound is adequate but comes across as slightly cloudy. To enhance the colour of the individual instruments the recording would have really benefited from a sharper detail.

Although playing different violin concertos to those contained on this release there is a superb recording that was released last year on Hungaroton 32045 that provides a marvellous example of how Tartini’s music can really sparkle and display a wide range of colours. Using period instruments the Orfeo Orchestra under the direction of Gyorgy Vashegyi with violin soloist Laszlo Paulik give a groundbreaking performance that made me see Tartini in a new light. To be candid this Apex recording pales by comparison.

These are tried and tested performances on modern instruments that received fine reviews when first released but now there are several newer recordings that portray Tartini in an improved light. In short this Apex recording would not be my first choice if I desired a recording of a sample of Tartini’s violin concertos.

Michael Cookson, MusicWeb-International

Tartini: 3 Violin Concertos, 5 Violin Sonatas, Cello Concerto

Giuseppe Tartini
3 Violin Concertos, 5 Violin Sonatas, Cello Concerto
Toso, Zannerini, Amoyal, I Solisti Veneti, Claudio Scimone
Apex 2564 61693-2

A Penguin Guide * * * * Recording.

This is part of an Apex reissue series devoted to the recordings of I soloisti Veneti and their director Claudio Scimone. As with many of the others – Tartini with Piero Toso, Vivaldi with Jean-Pierre Rampal and Albinoni – the recordings were made in the 1970s. This one has a difference of opinion; the jewel box claims 1979 for the Amoyal Sonatas but the booklet notes claim 1977. It’s good in any case to welcome them back to the fold.

It’s the Frenchman who bears the greatest burden in this set, which makes the democratic artwork so unrepresentative and the blizzard of blank pages in the booklet does speak of a certain level of ungenerosity. Toso is a good fiddle player but he’s not in Amoyal’s class – so I’d have preferred some typographical credit for the man who has nearly both these discs to himself, the excellent and eloquent Amoyal. His tight silvery tone illumines the E minor Concerto even if a recurring problem of the disc is immediately apparent; he’s been placed rather too far forward of I soloisti Veneti for entirely comfortable listening and they do sound rather distant behind him. His elegant phrasing and the cloudy veil that Scimone summons from the orchestra give expressive feeling to the slow movements. Amoyal even enlivens proceedings with some discreet portamenti; his cadenza in the opening Allegro of the G major Concerto is also suitably grand. Toso proves a commendable soloist in the D minor and cellist Zannerini despatches the A major well enough – though there’s an odd moment of pitch lurch in the finale. Good performances these in the main though the bass attacks are somewhat over forceful and the luscious orchestral string tone can be rather unremitting.

The second disc has the sonatas and not just the Devil’s Trill. There’s good balance between the trio and I was taken by the genial and warm way they span the Affettuoso first movement of the G major, not as easy a feat as it may seem. Amoyal varies his vibrato cannily in the Adagio of the F major – slowing appreciably to good effect - and his trill and bowing are on good form in the same sonata’s finale. It’s certainly of value to hear an essentially modern minded fiddler playing with a quasi-authentic set up of harpsichord and anchoring cello. To my ears, though, his anti-virtuosic performance doesn’t really take flight in the Devil’s Trill – but then perhaps that was part of the musical point he was making.

Jonathan Woolf, MusicWeb-International

Albinoni: Oboe and Violin Concertos - I Solisti Veneti, Scimone

Tomaso Albinoni
Oboe and Violin Concertos
Pierre Pierlot, Jaques Chambon, Piero Toso, I Solisti Veneti, Claudio Scimone
Apex 0927 49020 2

A Penguin Guide * * * Recording.

Very little of Albinoni’s immense output of compositions has survived, unlike those of his better known contemporary Vivaldi. The two composers even lived and worked in close proximity in Venice. However, it is said that Albinoni’s instrumental music, unlike that of Vivaldi, is almost a by-product of his operatic music, with long breathed and eminently singable lines which remind many commentators of operatic ‘bel canto’. Albinoni was a most proficient singer and was fortunate to have a comfortable private income which allowed him to pursue a full time musical career, including the composition of over 50 operas.

On this Apex release seven of the twelve opus 9 concertos published in Amsterdam in 1722 are included, and they are indeed fine works. All the concertos are in the three movement fast, slow, fast, form that Albinoni was probably the first composer to use consistently in his concertos. Often accused of displaying a lack of harmonic finesse, these opus 9 concertos bear testament to Albinoni’s melodic gifts together with a pronounced individuality which was most probably due to the relative insularity of his life.

The highlight of the disc is the haunting and meditative adagio from the popular oboe concerto No. 2, which I feel must have been the inspiration and model for the main theme from Geoffrey Burgon’s 1980’s score to the TV drama Brideshead Revisited. In addition, the concerto No. 3 for double oboe is most appealing and proves to be a inventive work. In particular, the opening allegro is notable for the consistent flow of its musical line. For me, the concerto No. 1 for solo violin is the weakest and least memorable of all the concertos on this release, particularly when compared to those concertos for the oboe, which are clearly of a high melodic standard.

Pierre Pierlot, the oboe soloist, has a beautiful tone, and his playing is distinguished and easily conveys the spirit of the music. In addition, Jacques Chambon in the double oboe concertos and Piero Toso in the two violin concertos are expressive and fluent in their interpretations. Under the persuasive direction of Claudio Scimone the performance of the ensemble I Solisti Veneti invite admiration, displaying how assured they are in this repertoire.

The performances are naturally caught and mainly well recorded; however I would have preferred slightly more prominence in the bass line harmonies. The disc’s total timing of just over 71 minutes is generous but unfortunately Apex have provided sparse booklet notes and there is no information concerning the recording venue and dates. For the quality of the music, the standard of performance and the modest cost this disc will prove a welcome addition to any collection of late baroque music.

Michael Cookson, MusicWeb-International

Albinoni: Concertos Op.10 Nos.7-12 - I Solisti Veneti, Scimone

Tomaso Albinoni
Concertos Op.10 Nos.7-12
I Solisti Veneti, Claudio Scimone
Apex 2564 61256-2

A Sankerib Super Ultra Extra Plus Recording.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Albinoni: Concertos Op.10 Nos. 1-6 - I Solisti Veneti, Scimone

Tomaso Albinoni
Concertos Op.10 Nos. 1-6
I Solisti Veneti, Claudio Scimone
Apex 2564 61136-2

A Penguin Guide * * * Recording.

Four of the Op. 10 set are violin concertos (Nos. 6, 8, 10 and 12) and three are concerti grossi with a small concertino group and have non-fugal last movements. They radiate simple vitality, a love of life and a youthful exuberance that belies the composer's age. The playing is warm and musical, and the recording is made in an ample acoustic.

The Penguin Guide

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Veracini: 5 Ouvertures - Musica Antiqua Köln, Reinhard Goebel

Francesco Maria Veracini
5 Ouvertures
Musica Antiqua Köln, Reinhard Goebel
Archiv 439 937-2

Veracini's music is little known, but the neglect is as unjustified as the traditional unfavourable comparison with Vivaldi. Something of the particularity of his performing manner was noticed during Veracini's lifetime by the English historian Charles Burney, who once remarked that "by travelling all over Europe he formed a style of playing peculiar to himself". The same might be said of his composing, which far from being simply an assimilation of contemporary modes speaks with a sharply individual voice that constantly surprises with its freshness and originality.

The players of Cologne Musica Antigua have latterly become persuasive advocates for some of the darker corners of the Italian concerto repertory that lie between the twin poles of Corelli and Vivaldi, and they approach Veracini with all the passion and vitality that have characterized some of their finest recordings of this repertory. As usual they use either period instruments or modern copies, and Reinhard Goebel's informed and committed direction teases out all the subtlety of Veracini's rich and varied textures. String tone is attractively alive and has been carefully varied to underscore all the variety of sound and timbre in the writing. In short, these are authoritative and commanding performances of bold if at times quirky music that no enthusiastic connoisseur of the period can afford to miss. Outstanding.

N.A., Gramophone Magazine

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Early English Organ Music - Simon Preston, Trevor Pinnock

Early English Organ Music
Simon Preston, Trevor Pinnock
Archiv 415 675-2

Anonymous: I smile to see how you devise. Byrd: Fantasia in C major. Tomkins: Voluntary in C major. Gibbons: Fantasia No. 10 in A minor. Purcell: Voluntary in G major, Z720. Farrant (attrib.): Felix namque. Bull: Prelude in D minor; In Nomine No. 11 in A minor. Stanley: Voluntary No. 10 in A minor. Greene: Voluntary in G major. Boyce: Voluntary No. 1 in 0 major. S. Wesley: Duet for Organ in C major.

English organ music before the mid-nineteenth century tended to commune with itself and must indeed often have given satisfaction to a mere audience of one, the player. The widely-acclaimed exceptions are the eighteenth-century concertos with orchestra, with Handel as the presiding genius, and the often exciting voluntaries of John Stanley, whose popularity with congregations must have been bad news for a tired verger wanting his supper. But these well-planted forms wilted and dropped when handled by lesser masters. It took a special sympathy to be able to exploit the capabilities of England's modest little organs. The even smaller organs available to composers of the sixteenth century were well suited to personal devotion in church or private pleasure at home. The organ Simon Preston plays for the earlier (Farrant to Purcell) pieces was bought for Knole House about 1605. Preston brings us as near to the heart of this music as we will ever get without playing ourselves. His technical mastery makes light of incredible difficulties and we are close enough to hear the various parts of the instrument spring smartly to life at his bidding. What is amazing is that the layout of the organ makes it necessary for the player to perform standing up—and in close proximity to the (human) blower too.

From Stanley to Sam Wesley we are hearing the Samuel Green organ at Armitage in Staffordshire, the one Preston used for the Handel concertos (also on Archiv Produktion). Though technically ideal for this programme, I find it tasty only in parts and its temperament makes certain regions of the Wesley duet (a splendid partnership, Preston and Pinnock) sound slightly sour. But I must not make too much of this, since it must be the elixir of life to some. There is absolutely no doubt of the quality of all these performances and the balance is excellent. Compact Disc ensures that no detail is missed, musical or mechanical. I suppose Farrant is the justification for the picture of St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle, on the cover. It's perhaps misleading to show a majestic instrument of a much later date than the ones recorded.

G.R., Gramohphone Magazine

Pisendel: Dresden Concertos - Müllejans, FBO, von der Goltz

Johann Georg Pisendel
Dresden Concertos
Petra Müllejans, Freiburger Barockorchester, Gottfried von der Goltz
Carus 83.301

A number of recent recordings--mostly from the Carus label--have focused long-deserved attention on the music and composers who helped make Dresden and its court orchestra the musical envy of Europe during the first half of the 18th century. Names such as Heinichen, Zelenka, and Hasse join with Johann Pisendel as part of an illustrious band of resident musicians who besides their compositional activities served in various influential positions, from Court Kapellmeister (Heinichen, Hasse) to orchestra concert master (Pisendel) and double bass player (Zelenka). Pisendel’s works, relatively few in number and all of it instrumental, are exemplified by his orchestral pieces that today are called “concertos” but actually reflect a structure more akin to Bach’s Brandenburgs than to any of Vivaldi’s similarly identified works. That is, they are--with a few exceptions--“concertos for several instruments” rather than showcases for a single soloist.

However, musically speaking, the melodic and rhythmic writing is clearly in the straightforward idiom of Vivaldi rather than the more texturally and structurally complex mode of Bach. This feature is so pronounced that early in the first track, a Concerto in G for winds and strings, you’ll be inclined to guess (correctly) that this guy must have studied with the Italian master. But just when you think you’ve got Pisendel pegged, you find yourself in the middle of his Fantasie, Imitation des Caractères de la Danse, a six-and-one-half-minute multi-sectional work whose quickly paced, delightful series of dances indeed captures a decidedly French Baroque flavor (with a Passepied movement that sounds like a refugee from the Nutcracker’s second-act character dances!). And then there’s the lovely Handelian-style Largo in the midst of the Concerto in G minor--an outstanding work overall that has many nice moments for solo violin.

The highlight of the program has to be the three-movement Concerto in D for violin solo, two horns, two oboes, bassoon, and strings. Not only does the violin have some outstanding music to play (especially in the Andante), but so do the horns and winds, amounting to a truly engaging masterpiece that warrants more serious attention by chamber groups. The horns have even more chance to shine on the disc’s final track, another Concerto in D, this time a single Allegro movement, joined by flutes, oboes, bassoon, and strings. The performers, notably the two violin soloists (Petra Müllejans and Gottfried von der Goltz) and horn players (Teunis van der Zwart and Erwin Wieringa), are excellent; the ensemble, as we’ve come to expect, is absolutely world-class. The sound is vibrant and detailed, allowing the horns a delicious bite and the strings a reedy warmth. Baroque orchestra fans shouldn’t miss this one.

David Vernier, ClassicsToday.com

Friday, December 3, 2010

Bach: The Brandenburg Concertos - ASMF, Neville Marriner

Johann Sebastian Bach
The Brandenburg Concertos
Academy of St Martin in the Fields, Neville Marriner
Decca 468 549-2

A most stylish performance. This is a most enjoyable recording (made in 1980). The performance by Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields led by Neville Marriner, at the peak of their powers, is very stylish and the tempi are well judged.

Some world-famous soloists participate - Henryk Szeryng (violin), Michala Petri (recorder), Jean-Pierre Rampal (flute) and Heinz Holliger (oboe).

There are many "period performance" recordings of this work by now, some of which are good. However, when you listen to a performance using modern instruments like this one under review, I wonder if period performance enthusiasts (including myself) are missing something important for the sake of pursuing "authenticity". Here in this performance, there are no problems of edgy tones of gut strings, dubious intonation of wind instruments and (occasionally) excessively fast tempi. All the notes appear to flow naturally.

The recording is very good. Strongly recommended.

KazM, Amazon costumer