Albinoni (1671-1751) was a Venetian composer of the same generation
as Vivaldi, so it is inevitable that he has been somewhat overshadowed
by his illustrious contemporary.
This pair of discs – available either singly
or together - contains the collection of twelve concertos published
as Albinoni’s Op. 10 in 1736. By then he was both accomplished
and experienced, of course, and both these attributes can be experienced
by the listener throughout these pieces. The standards set by
Scimone’s Solisti Veneti are consistently strong. And the
original Erato recordings have gained extra bloom and resonance
in the new CD format.
If there is a criticism to be made it is the
hardly surprising one that some of the performing practices and
choices are of a later generation than the most informed recent
performances of baroque music have achieved. But that is not in
itself a criticism, since not everyone prefers gut strings to
steel, for example.
Scimone was always a master craftsman in moulding
his slow movements, in balancing the complexities of texture that
informed so much Venetian music of the period. It is in the fast
outer movements that these musicians are heard to sometimes spectacular
effect, such as the finales of the G minor Concerto No. 2 and
the D major Concerto No. 6.
There are differing approaches to the medium
within the collection. Four of the concertos (Nos. 6. 8, 10 and
12, are solo violin concertos which afford Piero Toso and Giuliano
Carmignolo abundant opportunities to display their considerable
talents. Three more are concerti grossi with the conventional
concertino grouping of two violin and cello, Nos. 2, 3 and 4.
The remainder are examples of the concerto ripieno style: concertos
without soloist(s) that rely on the contrasts brought within the
part-writing. Albinoni was a past-master of this art, as his more
famous set of concerti a Cinque reminds us.
For all the strengths of composer and music,
these concertos are better heard in small groups or even individually.
Albinoni was hugely talented but not a great composer of the calibre
of Bach or Handel, and individual genius does not lurk on every
The strengths of these performances can be found
in their rich and pleasing string tone, and their abundant rhythmic
vitality. The warmly rounded acoustic does rob the ensemble playing
of some detail in the more contrapuntal passages, but the music
always sounds well.