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Early Music

Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger

G.F. HANDEL (1685-1759) Waft her angels, through the Skies’ from Jeptha; Cavatina:’Quando mai Spietata’ from Radamisto; ‘Ritorna, oh caro’ from Rodelinda; Where’er You Walk ‘from Semele; Evaristo Felice DALL’ABACO (1675-1742) Aria: Cantabile from Concerto Op. 6 no. 1; Concerto a piu instruments in D Op. 5 no. 6; Alessandro MARCELLO (1669-1747) Concerto in D minor for oboe, strings and continuo; Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741) Concerto in G for Violin and cello; Antonio SARTORIO (1630-1680) Orfeo tu dormi? from L’Orfeo; Tomaso ALBINONI (1671-1751) Concerto in D minor for oboe, strings and continuo Op. 9 no. 2
Kirsten Barry (baroque oboe); Lucinda Moon (baroque violin); Jamie Hey, (baroque cello).
Australian Brandenburg Orchestra/Paul Dyer
rec. Eugene Goossens Hall, ABC Ultimo Centre, September 2003. DDD
ABC CLASSICS 476 2840 [60.38]




Paul Dyer, the Artistic Director of the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra, comments at the start of the booklet notes: “In this recording we encourage the listeners to explore their dreams, emotions and inner thoughts, as released by the music.” He continues: “In Sanctuary, we hope to bring you out of your day-to-day world”.

Now oddly enough although I have reviewed hundreds of discs for MusicWeb I do not always give my opinion forcefully; this time I will and say that I have hardly ever encountered such a load of baloney. I do not feel for one minute that baroque oboe or violin concertos, or arias arranged for oboe and orchestra are any more likely to help me to “seek refuge, or to be rejuvenated” than any other music. Quite frankly it is simply a selling point for a fairly ‘run-of–the-mill’ disc of baroque music. ‘So what!’ I hear you cry, let’s enjoy, and listen. OK then. Let’s do just that. What do we have?

Actually we have some good playing on period instruments of repertoire not often encountered. I can’t help but feel that the aristocrat Alessandro Marcello is a much underrated composer in whose music I can almost smell Venice, as most definitely you can of course when listening to Vivaldi who is well represented here by a clever Double Concerto. Although Dall’Abaco is little known today he quite clearly has a strong sense of melody and line. It is particularly interesting to compare the Cantabile from the Op. 6 in the classical ‘galant’ style brought over from France, with the slow movement of the Op. 5 Concerto which is, with its compound time Siciliane-type rhythm, far more Italianate. Handel, of course stands apart even when ‘[dis]arranged’. Albinoni can be rather ordinary but this concerto is especially arresting.

In the midst of all of this we have some beautifully elegant and at other times superbly agile oboe playing, a warm and realistically balanced recording, and equally importantly, a nice contrast of speeds as you listen through the disc. There are some fine cameo roles from Lucinda Moon playing baroque violin in Dall’Abaco’s ‘Cantabile’ for example. If I say therefore that the disc makes an excellent accompaniment to a romantic dinner for two, I am not too far off the mark. However I also feel that I am not doing the players or some of the pieces full justice to say the least.

So let’s try it after dinner, with some port to hand and a black coffee. Is it all a bit ‘samey’, well yes but, if you are dozing or flicking through the paper then it doesn’t matter. Anyway there are also very lively concerto movements to wake you out of your reveries as for example the outer movements of Dall’Abaco’s concerto. Some tunes you know, like ‘Where’er you walk’ and ‘Waft her, angels’; otherwise the music washes over you in the colour of the CD booklet: a warm sunset blue and purple.

As for the music offering a ‘spiritual’ experience. Well, arguably all music does that to some extent. It’s all a case of attitude of mind. If you are in the mood for late night arrangements of Italian arias and for oboe or string concertos then this is your ‘man’, and indeed you can let it soak in. I am however convinced that this disc would have done itself more justice if it been called simply ‘Baroque Concertos and Transcriptions’ or something of that kind.

The booklet notes are excellently presented and quite detailed on the music and composers. There is a useful section called ‘A note on the Aria Transcriptions’. Here Paul Dyer usefully reminds us that “Baroque composers used to make new music out of old – pinching an existing aria [it didn’t matter if it was their own] to insert into a new opera”. So therefore the arrangements of Sartorio and Handel are completely kosher.

Paul Dyer has researched the composers especially well and includes much on Dall’Abaco. Nothing he has written is over-technical, but whether in your effort “to be still” you will be bothered to read them is another matter.

Gary Higginson



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