The Concerto Grosso is a popular Baroque form, in which two instrumental groups complete against each other: a small group of soloists and the tutti of the orchestral group. It is the forerunner of the solo concerto form, which features only one solo instrument. This set present the complete Concerti Grossi by Pietro Antonio Locatelli, modelled on the popular concerti grossi of his teacher Corelli. The writing as might be expected from Locatelli the devil violinist, is highly virtuosic and brilliant, inventive in harmony and counterpoint, written to impress and entertain.
The release of Concerti Grossi Opus 6 marks the beginning of Linn and The Avison Ensemble’s commitment to record Corelli’s complete chamber music. Arcangelo Corelli was one of the shining geniuses of the baroque era and his twelve Concerti Grossi are considered among the very best of Italian baroque output. The twelve Concerti Grossi demonstrate an austere grandeur and a never-ending invention which is never routine.
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.
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.
The re-master of a 1974 Decca Record recording is excellent in execution and style. Neveille Marriner and St. Martin-in-the-Fields perform in their typical excellent manner.
The "Concerto grosso" was eminently popular in Europe at the beginning of the 18th century, Arcangelo Corelli having set the trend with his Opus 6 published around 1710, but probably written much earlier. The main attraction seems to have been the possibilities opened up by having two groups of musicians in dialogue with one another.
Handel's unrivaled masterpieces of the concerto grosso form and style–his Twelve Grand Concertos, in seven parts, for four violins, a tenor, a violoncello, with a thorough-bass for the harpsichord–here receive their finest recording to date, with performances that leave all others–both period- and modern-instrument versions–in their wake. For obvious reasons these 12 concertos have remained popular since their publication in 1740: the irresistibly congenial tunes and engaging rhythms, the free-spirited fugues, endearing Largos and Adagios, and overall vivacious writing for all instruments elicits correspondingly high-spirited responses from anyone within earshot of these unrelentingly entertaining works.
Richter actually made a full set of recordings for Handel's Concerti Grossi. The Munich Bach Orchestra, who almost played exclusively for Richter, maintained its essential baroque flur throughout all the pieces, under the impeccable conducting of Richter. The different string sections played as if they were in a chorus, each minute part played in fully melodious and engaging manner, while the ensemble as a whole displayed all the required congeniality and harmoniousness essential of the baroque style. The rhythms are enlivened while contrasts striking, and you will seldom find Handel's works played in such grand style as did Richter and the Munich Bach Orchestra here. (Amazon.com)