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.
Italian master Baldassare Galuppi's catalog is so heavy with opera, sacred vocal works, and solo harpsichord pieces that it tends to dwarf his tiny output of purely instrumental music, a good deal of which awaits proper documentation. The odd-numbered set of seven Concerti a Quattro recorded here by Genoa-based newcomers Ensemble Il Falcone on the Italian Dynamic label originate not with a published set, but a set of manuscript parts in the Biblioteca Estense in Modena. The first printed editions of these concerti came out in the early '60s, and a few have been recorded as separate items, with L'Offerta Musicale being the first to release a recording of the whole set for Tactus in 2000. According to Dynamic, neither of the two published editions was pressed into use here; the music is played from the original manuscript parts. Ensemble Il Falcone also uses "original instruments," but we are not told anything about them, a pity, as the instruments definitely have a distinctive sound.
Italian historical-performance specialist violinist Frederico Guglielmo has led several different ensembles and offered various interpretive styles, as violinist and as conductor, in his approach to the violin music of the Baroque in Italy and beyond. His take on Handel's Water Music is brisk and rhythmic, but this collection of orchestral and solo violin music by the virtuoso Francesco Maria Veracini, whom the historian Charles Burney described as "capo pazzo," or crazy in the head, is a good deal quieter and more circumspect, with a small, violin-heavy ensemble that allows the wind parts to show through in the two orchestral overtures included.
This release, helmed by prolific Ukrainian-British violinist Pavlo Beznosiuk, might better be titled Scarlatti-Avison; the original music is by Domenico Scarlatti, as arranged by British composer Charles Avison just a few years after the fact. The eighteenth century was a time in which musical recycling, either by an original composer or by others, was an entirely acceptable practice, and the beginnings of the practice of reducing orchestral works for keyboard date from this period also.
The Stabat Mater is a 13th-century Catholic hymn to Mary, which portrays her suffering as Jesus Christ's mother during his crucifixion. Its author may be either the Franciscan friar Jacopone da Todi or Pope Innocent III. The title comes from its first line, Stabat Mater dolorosa, which means "the sorrowful mother was standing". The hymn is sung at the liturgy on the memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows. The Stabat Mater has been set to music by many Western composers.
…I Solisti Italiani continues, both spiritually and sonically, where the original Virtuosi di Roma left off, with creamy, expert, middle-of-the-road performances of Baroque and Classical period music, and occasional 20th-century pieces as well. The ensemble is small - only 12 players, without conductor - but the sound is full and caloric, the playing dapper and disciplined.