Monday, May 31, 2010

CPE Bach: 6 Symphonies Wq.182 - AAM, Christopher Hogwood

Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach
6 Symphonies Wq.182
The Academy of Ancient Music, Christopher Hogwood
L'Oiseau-Lyre 417 124-2

No review but... Trust me eh! ;-)


Antonio Vivaldi
12 Concertos, Op. 8
Il Cimento dell'Armonia e dell'Inventione
Academy of Ancient Music, Christopher Hogwood
L'Oiseau-Lyre 417 515-2

I found plenty to enjoy in these Vivaldi performances when they were first released on LP some three-and-a-half years ago. This is the set which includes the Four Seasons and many readers may already have encountered those concertos in the present version since they have been released on a separate LP and CD. In this new issue Vivaldi's opus is presented complete. The ten violin concertos are split up between five soloists, each of whom takes two works; the remaining concertos are scored for oboe or violin and Christopher Hogwood sensibly allots them to the oboe since the solo part strongly suggests that Vivaldi had it foremost in mind.

Different soloists for different concertos make for interesting listening and Hogwood, furthermore, adds to the variety with imaginative continuo realizations which effectively enhance texture and exploit sonority. This aspect of the interpretations is, for me, the most consistently rewarding one, though I hasten to add that solo and ripieno playing is, in all but one or two instances, refined and characterful. The oboist is the Swiss player, Michel Piguet, who gives gentle, lightly-articulated performances. In general I liked his ornamentation and he introduces an affecting pathos to the slow movement of the D minor Concerto, RV454. The finale fares a little less well; Piguet hurries his solo passages and the tutti-ritornellos, lively though they are, lack the bold assertiveness suggested in the writing. The attractive C major Concerto comes off delightfully and I enjoyed the mischievous little trills in the tuttis.

To sum up: I found myself enjoying these performances as much if not more than I did the first time round. The LP recorded sound was good but textures are clearer and sonorities more resonant in the CD format. A sparkling performance of the fine eleventh Concerto, RV2 10, such as we have here, may well tip the scales if you are questioning the wisdom of acquiring yet another Four Seasons. As I have already said, though, there is no shortage of enjoyable music-making here. Recommended. N.A. grammophone.net

Il Cimento dell' Armonia e dell' Inventione 12 Concertos,Op.8

L'Oiseau-Lyre - Florilegium - Digital


ALISON BURY - Rogeri 1699, Cremona
JOHN HOLLOWA Y - Mariani 1650
MONICA HUGGETT - Rowland Ross 1977 (Stradivarius 1688)
CATHERINE MACKINTOSH - Rowland Ross 1978 (Amati)
MICHEL PIGUET - Bernhard Schermer 1982 Oean Joseph Hyacinth, Rottenburgh 18th century)

Continuo instruments: Harpsichord, Chamber organ, Theorbo, Baroque guitar, Archlute

Record Producer: PETER WADLAND
Sound Engineer: JOHN DUNKERLEY
Recording Location: Kingsway Hall, London, November/December 1982

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Vivaldi: La Cetra, 12 Concertos Op.9 - Standage, Hogwood

Antonio Vivaldi
La Cetra, 12 Concertos Op.9
Standage, The Academy of Ancient Music, Hogwood
L'Oiseau-Lyre 421 366-2

Vivaldi's last great set of printed concertos was La ceira ("The lyre"), published by Le Céne in Amsterdam in 1727. All but one of the 12 concertos are for solo violin; the exception is the ninth in the set, in B fiat (RV530), which is scored for two solo violins. Two others, in A major (RV348) and B minor (RV39I), the last concertos respectively, in each of the two books of six which constituted the original publication, require scordtura or retuning of the solo violin. Less innovative than L'esiro armonico, Vivaldi's first set of printed concertos, La cetra, nevertheless provides fine examples of the composer's mature style in works which contain rich diversity of character and whose musical charms grow rather than diminish upon acquaintance. Of all the sets of his concertos which as a teenager with an insatiable appetite for baroque music I borrowed from public libraries, it was and is still La ceira which remains dearest in my affections. How fortunate I am, therefore, to be the recipient of two outstandingly fine performances within the space of as many years. Each set has its own strong and less strong features, its own markedly differentiated character and very much its own sound, thereby providing a rewardingly complementary view of the music.

As I have remarked in previous issues of Viva Idi concertos performed by the Academy of Ancient Music, Christopher Hogwood has an infectiously robust approach emphasized not only by lively tempos, crisp articulation and a distinctively bright sound but also by his imaginatively realized continuo lines. Here we have not only harpsichord or organ and cello but also archlute, theorbo and, in two concertos, a baroque guitar. The rival EMI set with the Raglan Baroque Players directed by Nicholas Kraemer is comparable in this respect though it does not employ a baroque guitar. Both directors field an ensemble of similar though not identical size with small discrepancies in certain preferred types of instrument. Hogwood uses a single cellist and a double-bass while Kraemer has two cellists for the tuttis and a violone. Hogwood's fundament, if I may put it that way, is thus marginally more resonant and pronounced than Kraemer's and his continuo group generally are more closely balanced than that in the other set. Throughout, Hogwood prefers slightly brisker tempos to those of Kraemer.

These are some of the more striking differences between the two sets, but of course it is in the playing of the two soloists, Simon Standage in the new version and Monica Huggett in the earlier one, that the greater contrasts lie and, in which, doubtless, factions will arise and differing schools of thought be born. Standage's sound is the brighter of the two and his approach is often more overtly demonstrative, even more passionate than that of Huggett. Standage has no fear of the extravagant gesture where he feels it is required and there is something of the demonic virtuoso about his playing which engenders considerable excitement in the mind and ears of a listener. In short, there is an infectious vitality which embraces Standage's playing and in which he is fervently and sometimes loudly backed up by the ensemble. Huggett's playing, at least on this occasion, has a greater warmth and sweetness of sound and she seems to me to offer more in the way of studied interpretations. I feel, too, that she conveys more of the music's poetry in the slow movements than Standage. Her intonation is more secure, though with artists of this calibre the matter is a marginal one, and her readings by and large have greater refinement and more delicately contrived poise. In short, Huggett's performances are, in the end, more beautiful in sound and more subtly crafted in phrase though, perhaps, at the expense of spontaneity and excitement, two qualities in which Standage excels. Take for instance, the infectious 12/8 allegro finale of the Sixth Concerto in A major (RV348) where the irrepressible high spirits of Standage and the band, together with a more convincing tempo, comfortably win the day.

In summary, here are two wonderfully imaginative accounts of La cetra with a combined wealth of ideas which make each one indispensable to me. The reflective and introspective NA inclines strongly towards Monica Huggett's playing whilst the passionate, excitable part of him responds to Simon Standage. There is hardly a moment of routine playing from soloist or orchestra in either of them.

N.A., Gramophone.net