The Italian ensemble Il Giardino Armonico has shown
themselves to be one of the premier baroque ensembles in recent years.
Their brilliant recording of Vivaldi arias with Cecilia Bartoli, their
recordings of Vivaldi concertos, and their breakneck interpretation
of Bachís Brandenburg Concertos, have shown them to be original and
So why does this new recording seem so shallow and
uninteresting? Released just before Christmas, this is obviously a marketing
ploy to sell lots of CDs to non-classical music fans by serving them
a compilation of the "best" baroque music, that is, those
pieces likely to be familiar to them. For this disc is little more than
a compilation; it contains works by many of the most important baroque
composers, from Bach to Teleman, from Purcell to Handel, from Albinoni
to Vivaldi. And it is replete with plenty of baroque "hits"
- from Pachelbelís Canon, to a few of Albinoniís fine Adagios, to even
an "improvised" version of Greensleeves (which is not baroque,
nor is the music improvised, at least not literally).
Record companies do everything in their power to try
and leverage the attraction of their key artists; this is only normal.
But the recent spate of crossover albums shows just how desperate they
are to have their key classical artists break out and hit the charts.
This is just another example of an attempt to push a fine ensemble into
a new audience.
Donít get me wrong, they play very well. Aside from
the slow tempi of the Bach Orchestral Suite - all the more surprising
because of the rapid Brandenburgs recorded a few years ago, these performances
are brilliant and inspired. But there is no overall coherence to the
disc, other than to provide the kind of baroque music often heard in
One would think that Il Giardino Armonico, given their
status as such a popular ensemble, would have chosen something more
risky, less commercial. But the allure of going platinum probably tempts
ever classical artists, so they probably followed their labelís desires,
in the hopes of hitting it big. This they will probably do - I cannot
think of another baroque compilation with so many crowd-pleasers, and
so well performed. But this disc is not for real lovers of baroque music;
it is more like the kind of disc to give to friends who donít know much
about baroque, in the hopes they get interested. If so, kudos to Il
Giardino Armonico for converting new listeners. But I wouldnít hold