Notes and Editorial Reviews
Concerto for 3 Violins in F,
Suite, “Burlesque de Quixotte” in G,
Viola Concerto in G,
Concerto for 2 Violins in C,
Suite, “La Changeante” in g,
Fabio Biondi, cond/
Andrea Rognoni (vn);
Fabio Favasi (vn);
Stefano Marcocchi (va); Europa Galante
AGOGIQUE 005 (71:57)
While I wanted to review the latest release by Biondi and Europa Galante, I admit to a slight disappointment over the contents. These include one of Telemann’s best-known
concertos, a very popular viola concerto with more than a dozen recordings to its credit, and two of his most celebrated orchestral suites. Only one of the works, the relatively short Concerto in C for Two Violins, could be considered a rarity on records and in concerts. There are hundreds of concertos and suites by Telemann awaiting the attention of performers. I’d hoped for a more equitable balance between favorites and music that goes largely unheard.
Regardless, these versions of some of Telemann’s Greatest Hits are likely to become your favorites, as they have mine. The usual qualities associated with Biondi in recent years are all present: intense lyricism at no expense to pacing, and precise rhythms, with great clarity and pronounced balance between the parts that gives more weight than usual to harmonic underpinnings. Tempos tend to fast
s and true
s, so that the tersely witty
that concludes the aforementioned concerto in C is a sparkling tribute to agility, while the slow movement serves both as a breather between two much faster pieces, and as a rapt display piece for the tonal beauty of its two soloists.
And now, I’ll contradict myself, though hardly for the first time. While I’ve already come down on the side of so much unheard and unrecorded Telemann, I will make an exception for this performance of
Burlesque de Quixotte
. Not because it’s a personal favorite (it isn’t), or because other versions lack this one’s merits (they don’t), but because the addition of a literary element raises questions of treatment that produce diverse results on record. Let’s consider only two readings, Sorrell/Apollo’s Fire (Koch International 7576), and this one, in just the final two movements of the work.
The penultimate is entitled, “Le Galop de Rossinant alternat, avec seqüent.” Quixote’s horse, Rocinante, was distinguished by its singularly haggard appearance, and by its friendliness and patience. (Cervantes in fact makes a point throughout his work of showing how superior animals are in this respect to the often vicious behavior of humans.) It is an extremely slow creature that works up to a trot, and only gallops once in the entire lengthy novel: furiously, at the Knight of the Mirrors, whose own horse is so shocked at the sight Rocinante provides that it stops in its tracks. To all this, Sorrell responds with a gentle pace, almost a bucolic skip, thanks to the accent and slight drag on the first beat, very much the pleasantly ambling Rocinante on an average day. Biondi, perhaps taking his cue from the encounter with the Knight, runs the outer sections at almost double the tempo, and uses
to emphasize the top of the main phrase’s arch. These approaches in turn affect how the final movement, “La couche de Quixotte,” is performed. Sorrell provides contrast with this Polish-inflected piece, performed at a hectic pace; presumably a Quixote dreaming of battles. Biondi takes it all slow and precise, the almost dreamlike response to the incessantly martial two-16ths-and-an-eighth beat, possibly signaling the distant siren’s call to some future adventure.
Which is correct? Neither. Both. There is no way of knowing, and in the end, it really doesn’t matter. Both Apollo’s Fire and Europa Galante are stylistically informed and technically impeccable, capable of finding very different ways of making this music sound right without seeming to make a misstep.
Definitely recommended, then. These are exciting, richly conceived, and perfectly executed performances by one of the leading Baroque ensembles of today. Even if you already have most of what’s on this disc, you owe it to yourself to hear what Biondi and Europa Galante achieve.
FANFARE: Barry Brenesal
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