Notes and Editorial Reviews
IL BAROCCO STRUMENTALE ITALIANO
Il Giardino Armonico and others (period instruments)
NUOVA ERA 232891 (2 CDs: 145:24)
BONPORTI, CASTELLO, CORELLI, FRESCOBALDI, GEMINIANI, LANZETTI, MOLINARO, PASQUINI, PLATTI, PORPORA, D. SCARLATTI, STRADELLA, TORELLI, VIVALDI
This set of two discs is a wonderful compendium to hear, for it is not normal for listeners to have the advantage of a selection of works from around 1700 (give or take 20 years) that
epitomize the instrumental music of the Italian Baroque. Some of the composers in this set, put together by Daniel Prefumo, are known and their music recorded, while others, such as Lanzetti, Molinaro, and Castello, are unfamiliar. This is not material that finds its way often into the concert hall or onto disc, and yet it is surprisingly interesting and full of variety. The two Lanzetti sonatas for cello and continuo, for instance, are terrifyingly difficult works with soaring lyrical passages, demonstrating that Boccherini’s pyrotechnics did not exactly appear out of nowhere. The two Geminiani sonatas for guitar and continuo are equally intriguing, with their mixture of Baroque and early Classical styles. Here the cello is often separated out from the foundation, forming an equal partner with the guitar, making the work more advanced than the Baroque suite formats might otherwise indicate. Included are two works by Pasquini and Frescobaldi for organ, and there is even a lute fantasy from the last years of the Renaissance, appearing as almost an anachronism in the soundscape created by the compiler.
Given that Nuova Era often produces live performances of extremely variable quality, it would appear that some considerable attention has been given by the producers to this compendium. In general, the recording is clear and precise; only in the Vivaldi G-Minor concerto is there a lack of depth. This allows one to concentrate upon both the music and the performances without being bothered by obvious flaws in the technical recording aspects. As a result the various people and ensembles give a fine rendition of this music, which is all at once technically difficult and transparent. From a textural standpoint, there is nowhere to hide, so that mistakes become obvious.
Of the period-instrument ensembles, both Giardino Armonico and Pian & Forte, which specialize in this music, give finely nuanced performances that are up front and personal. The rendition of the Castello Sonata Decima by Tripla Concordia, on the other hand, seems less accurate, but that is perhaps because the recorders themselves don’t quite seem entirely in tune with each other. The trio of Andrea Dandolo (guitar), Antonio Frigè (harpsichord), and Antonio Fantinuoli (cello) blend nicely together in the Geminiani sonatas. The two works written for organ are, however, a bit tinny to my ears, but that may either because the anonymous instrument chosen may not have been the best—it sounds like it is one of those Baroque churches in Italy where the acoustics are less than perfect and the organ itself has not been attended to in a couple of centuries—or the registration favors the shorter pipes, giving it a shrill quality. Yet, taken as a whole, this is a nice set, and because this will be the only recording of a number of the works, it is good to have something that is both a reference disc and pleasant to listen to. It is not great music, but it does have a pleasant aftertaste. The only real downside is the accompanying booklet, which in my copy was glued into the disc holder. Prefumo has a brief overview that is sufficient, but there is no biographical information or commentary on the works themselves, which I personally find difficult to fathom. Still, there are always online sources or the
, if one cannot live without a biography of Simone Molinaro or Benedetto Platti. If you are a fan of 17th-century instrumental music and want a reference set, you might want to consider this one.
FANFARE: Bertil van Boer
Works on This Recording
Fantasia for lute No.10 by Simone Molinaro
Paul Beier (Lute)
Length: 3 Minutes 55 Secs.
Sonata no 3 in G minor by Nicolo Porpora
Length: 13 Minutes 34 Secs.
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