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Italian Baroque Concertos
Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)

Concerto for flute, strings and continuo "La Tempesta di mare" Op. 10 no. 1
Concerto for flute, strings and continuo "La Notte" Op. 10 no. 2
Francesco DURANTE (1684-1755)

Keyboard Concerto No. 5 in A major; No. 4 in B flat
Giovanni Battista PERGOLESI (1710-1736)

Violin Concerto in B flat major
Domenico SCARLATTI (1685-1757)

Sinfonia in A major
Leonardo LEO (1694-1744)

Concerto for Cello and Orchestra in D Minor.
Eberhard Zummuch, recorder
Andrea Keller, violin
Gerald Hambitzer, harpsichord
Werner Matzke, cello
Concerto Köln/Werner Erhardt
Rec. Kempen Kultureforum, December 1988 (Vivaldi); January 1992 (Durante, Pergolesi, Scarlatti, Leo); May 1990 (Durante in A)
CAPRICCIO SACD 71018 [63.34]



I must admit that when this CD plopped onto the doormat I was less than excited thinking that we had yet another set of mostly mediocre 18th Century note-spinners compiled from CDs more than ten years old. Well you will no doubt be pleased to know, dear reader, that your reviewer is quite glad to have made the acquaintance of this disc. Although he sees many such compilations this one has something memorable that makes it worthy of its spot on the ever burgeoning shelf. Let me explain further.

First, of course, you are in the capable hands of Concerto Köln under Werner Erhardt, a group of baroque musicians you can trust. Secondly most of the music is at least very interesting and at best terrific.

The disc opens with a splendid Vivaldi concerto and ends with one too. These are from the Opus 10 set and are notable for their descriptive titles, for example ‘La tempesta di Mare’ with a great storm in the ‘golf de venezia’ practically flooding the solo recorder with coruscating musical textures. The last concerto ‘La Notte’ has a delicious fourth movement (there are five) marked Largo ‘Il Sonno’. Here chords drift aimlessly and drowsily being reminiscent of the middle movement of ‘Autumn’ from ‘The Seasons’ which represents sleep induced by wine.

Another highlight is the A major keyboard concerto by Francesco Durante, played on harpsichord. Durante was a famed musician and influential teacher. His music had a certain reputation for eccentricity and shock value during his lifetime. This is a little difficult to grasp now, but this work, and the B flat concerto which precedes it, are not your usual late baroque three movement note-spinners. They certainly seem to have something to say.

It’s good to hear an orchestral work of Domenico Scarlatti. Granted, it is an early piece written before he made for the court of Spain, but even so it allows one some idea, in three fiery but brief movements, of the direction in which he might have developed.

As for Leonardo Leo, the Cello Concerto is in many ways not a typical work, although it is oft times recorded. You are more likely to encounter him as a composer of sacred works, for example the famous ‘Miserere’, probably written in Naples where he worked. He is considered in many a learned tome to be, like Durante and Pergolesi, one of the Neapolitan school. Talking of Pergolesi one is reminded what talent was lost by that composer’s tragically early death. The Concerto’s frank, brazen, tutti opening is almost Haydnesque although the plan of the concerto is more typical of Vivaldi. Andrea Keller throws himself passionately into the virtuoso passages and has a glorious tone in the Siciliano middle movement. The Finale with its eccentric rhythm is quite foot-tapping.

With recordings made at different times especially if they are over ten years old one can often find discrepancies in the recording quality or acoustic but here is a remarkable consistency here adding to by consistently superb performances.

There is a useful essay by Peter Wollny as well as a potted history of Concerto Köln’s development since they were founded in 1985. They are quite ‘in-your-face’ as a group and they are aided and abetted by the up-front recorded sound. I like this approach but you need to keep a steady nerve and your volume setting down a little more than usual. There is little attempt at soft focusing. I am sure though that the music benefits from this approach.

Gary Higginson

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