La Petite Bande recorded its set during the late 1970s and these are performances which do considerable justice to the music. Brisker tempos, lighter bass string playing and an altogether more imaginative approach to continuo realization bring these concertos alive to an extent hardly realised by I Musici. Sigiswald Kuijken, the leader and director of La Petite Bande, includes a theorbo in his continuo group and this is invariably an effective addition. Both sets field a secure and lively concertino group of two violins, cello and continuo but listeners may well find that the warmer sound and greater degree of finesse provided by the concertino of I Musici is more to their liking than the thinner, wirier textures of the other. Having said that, I should add that in matters of baroque style, as in its more highly developed spirit of fantasy, La Petite Bande offers far and away the more satisfying performances.
Albinoni might be described as a specialist in the medium of the Concerto a cinque, of which he composed 54, published at intervals during almost half his productive life. The first six appeared in his Op 2 (1700), together with six sonatas from which they inherited some structural features, and were followed in 1707 by the 12 of Op 5. They were 'halfway houses' on the road to the violin concerto per se as we know it – and as Vivaldi established it four years later.Virtuoso passages for a solo violin appear only en passant in flanking movements and 'symmetrically' in the Adagios of Nos 3, 6, 9 and 12. Each Concerto is in three-movement form and all the finales are fugal, as they are in the Op 2, though in their simplicity they sound rather like rondos.
Although his name might not rate very highly on the recognition meter even of classical music buffs, Franz Tunder was a consequential entity in the early history of the German Baroque. Tunder served as organist at the Marienkirche in Lübeck from 1641 to his death in 1667, and during that time instituted the Abendmusiken, the first series of public concerts to take place in Germany. Seventeen vocal "concertos" exist from Tunder's pen and they were created for these special events; little more than half of them appear on this generous and well-performed CPO disc, Franz Tunder: Concerti. Conductor Hermann Max leads Das Kleine Konzert and the singing group Rheinische Kantorei in 10 concerti, which uses a variety of singers in frontline combinations. Tunder must have had some good basses in his chorus, as they have most of the hardest music in the Concerti, and five of these ten works are sung by bass or basses alone. Both men used here, Ekkehard Abele and Yoshitaka Ogasawara, do an excellent job. The string parts are crisp and do not dawdle, and Max never allows the music to get too grandiose, wisely keeping it within the boundaries of the chamber idiom to which it belongs. The music is never ornately busy and has a relaxed, soothing effect.
Hille Perl is widely regarded as one of the leading viola da gambists in the world. Because of the prominence of her instrument in the Baroque era, her repertory is rich in works from that period, with the names, J.S. Bach, Telemann, Marin Marais, Sainte-Colombe, and other 17th and 18th century composers headlining her concert programs and recordings. Perl also plays the treble viol, the seven-string bass viol, Baroque guitar, Lirone, and Xarana.
For fans of the classical mandolin, here is a disc of the best works for the instrument by Antonio Vivaldi, the best friend the mandolin ever had. And for the rest of the world, here is a disc of colorful Baroque concertos by Antonio Vivaldi, the best friend the Baroque concerto ever had. After all, Vivaldi may have been the mandolin's best friend, but even he could only compose so many mandolin concertos.
Never judge a CD by its cover; nothing about this album's tacky artwork nor the scanty information on its back will prepare the listener for the truly delectable contents inside. The refined period performances of Vivaldi's chamber concertos by the fabulous L'Astrée ensemble make this album a delightful experience, and despite Opus 111's questionable packaging, the label deserves high marks for providing exquisite sound quality and for devoting serious attention to a worthy project.
Despite the use of period instruments, including some fine blaring natural horns, this couldn't be called a historically informed performance of Handel's Royal Fireworks Music, HWV 351. The work was not composed for a pleasant onboard afternoon musicale like the Water Music, but instead was part of an event that would have been one of the top items on CNN Headline News for 1749: the celebration of the Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle, brokered by King George II.
This disc brings together recordings made in the 1980's as part of a reduction of three original discs down to two. At the same time, the original fine recordings have been remastered to good effect with added depth and space. This makes a particularly important improvement to the Coronation Anthems which previously came over as sonically lacking ideal breadth, depth and recorded weight in Zadok. The ears adjusted after that.