CASTELLO & CO: VENETIAN SONATAS FOR WINDS AND STRINGS FROM THE 17th CENTURY • Caecilia-Concert; Bjarte Eike (vn); AIra Maria Lehtipuu (vn); Jamie Savan (cornett) • CHALLENGE CC72547 (71:21)
Music by FRESCOBALDI, CASTELLO, BERTOLI, MARINI, SCARANI, PICCHI
Recordings of 17th-century Italian chamber music tend to concentrate upon the violin, or the harpsichord. and with good reason, particularly in the case of the former, since it derives its initialRead more popularity from the first school of virtuosic violin performance and composition. But wind consorts didn’t die away during the 16th century, and both the trombone and dulcian remained popular for some time. This album turns to the usual suspects—Dario Castello, Biagio Marini, and the like—not for proto-sonatas that emphasize the solo violin in a mix of recitative and dance-like passages, but works that either share the stage with winds, or feature wind instruments exclusively. Some of the music, such as Castello’s Sonata Dodecima from his second published collection, will be familiar from other arrangements, but most of these pieces were written for multiple instruments, in any case.
Caecilia-Concert was formed in 2001. It consists of three members: keyboardist Kathryn Cok, trombonist Adam Woolf, and dulcian player Wouter Verschuren. Here, they are joined by a pair of violinists and a cornettist, expanding the variety of textural possibilities: from dulcian and harpsichord in Bertoli’s Sonata for Dulcian, to two violins, trombone, dulcian, and continuo in Castello’s Sonata Decimaterza from his second book. The playing is generally very smooth, with considerable transparency between the parts, and a good variety of contrasting tempos, often in quick transition. A few of the recitative sections felt rushed, and I would have preferred greater flexibility in the phrasing of these as well. While there were numerous instances of rhythms being briefly spread and compressed, some passages seemed bar-bound. All the artists involved display excellent technique, except, surprisingly, Woolf, who sounds slightly off form. There are a number of instances in his playing at faster tempos of smudged passagework, uneven production, and occasional faulty intonation. These aren’t common at a slower pace, and the general level of his work remains good, with an attractive tone, but the problems are noticeable enough, and add up. The engineering is good, resonant and deep without being cavernous. Recommended, with reservations noted.
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