Notes and Editorial Reviews
London Baroque offers another installment in its ongoing European Trio Sonata series, this time devoted to 18th-century Italy; as with the ensemble’s previous efforts the program features generally excellent performances of lesser-known repertoire. Ten years ago I reviewed a similar 18th-century Italian program by this same group titled “Stravaganze Napoletane”, also on BIS, and was generally impressed with the performances–except for one piece: Domenico Gallo’s Sonata No. 1 in G major.
Here they perform it again and unfortunately not much has changed. Although the excessive ornamentation that marred the previous recording is less evident here, the ensemble’s lugubrious, precious conception of the work is nearly identical.
This astonishes me, not only in light of the international attention that Parnassi Musici received for its wonderful, influential premiere recording for CPO (reviewed for Classicstoday.com by colleague David Vernier), but even more so, given the often exhilarating, lively performances just about every other selection on this program routinely receives. And it’s this last point that should guide you in considering this recording: There is plenty to enjoy here.
London Baroque’s program-opening performance of Albinoni’s Balletto in G major features a fresh, unsentimental treatment of the composer’s characteristically slow first-movement Preludio Largo, followed by sprite deliveries of the second and third movements and a dashing Vivaldi-esque concluding Gavotta Presto. Their performance of Giuseppe Sammartini’s Sonata V is equally inspired, featuring an inordinately measured, pensive Andante sostenuto opening movement contrasting widely with the brusque rhythms of the second-movement Allegro and the often severe variations of the dance that laces the concluding Sarabanda. Locatelli’s Sonata in D major also receives a captivating, distinguished performance featuring plenty of thrilling fiddling, especially in the Allegro molto finale.
Arguably the most well known piece here is Vivaldi’s famous Op. 1 No. 12 trio sonata “La Folia”–a relatively youthful (he was 27), remarkably creative, Corelli-indebted set of variations based on the traditional Portuguese peasant dance. London Baroque expertly maneuvers through Vivaldi’s varied tempo and dynamic contrasts, in many ways rivaling my two current reference recordings by Il Giardino Armonico (Teldec) and Hesperion XXI (Alia Vox). Unlike Il Giardino Armonico (which employs an additional theorbo) and Hesperion XXI (who add a third violin as well as a period guitar), London Baroque performs the piece with the leaner continuo of just a cello and harpsichord backing the two violins originally specified by the composer. How refreshing!
The sound is excellent with convincing instrumental presence and minimal extraneous noise. Violinist Richard Gwilt’s insightful notes feature brief commentaries by the period musicologist Charles Burney, and his reflections are often quite entertaining. As with the aforementioned “Stravaganze Napoletane”, as well as London Baroque’s “Trio Sonata in 18th-Century France” program, which I reviewed last year, this one also has much to recommend.
– John Greene, ClassicsToday.com Read less
Works on This Recording
Be the first to review this title