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Giuseppe TORELLI (1658-1709)
The Original Brandenburg Concertos
Concerti Musicali a Quattro, Opera Sesta (Op.6) (1698)
Concerto No. 1 in G major [6:02]
Concerto No. 2 in e minor* [4:31]
Concerto No. 3 in b minor* [4:16]
Concerto No. 4 in D major [4:30]
Concerto No. 5 in g minor* [3:21]
Concerto No. 6 in c minor [5:05]
Concerto No. 7 in C major [3:34]
Concerto No. 8 in F major* [5:02]
Concerto No. 9 in a minor [4:12]
Concerto No. 10 in d minor [5:47]
Concerto No. 11 in B-flat major [4:13]
Concerto No. 12 in A major [4:46]
Sonata à 4 in A minor G46 [7:11]
Charivari Agréable/Kah-Ming Ng (harpsichord and chamber organ)
* arr. K-M Ng
rec. St Andrew’s Church, Toddington, Gloucestershire, England, 14-16 April 2008 DDD
SIGNUM SIGCD157 [62:30]


Experience Classicsonline

To the four major composers whose anniversaries fall in 2009 we must add Martinů (d.1959) and, now, Torelli (d.1709).  Let’s hope for more in this anniversary year.  Poor old Torelli doesn’t have many recordings solely devoted to his music, though there is a very good version of some of the Opus 8 concertos, including the much anthologised ‘Christmas’ Concerto, on Chandos (CHAN0716, Collegium Musicum 90/Simon Standage). There are also several recordings of his Trumpet Concertos, including a Brilliant Classics 2-CD set which Patrick Waller thought ‘a highly recommendable way of exploring some worthwhile late 17th century music. It deserves the attention of anyone interested in the development of the trumpet’ (92401 – see review).

Charivari Agréable have made a number of recordings for Signum, mostly of music slightly older than Torelli, though their Telemann CD, The Virtuoso Godfather - yes, they do like catchy titles – post-dates the music here.  Glyn Pursglove thought that that CD offered a ‘well-planned programme ... both instructive and full of delights’ (SIGCD086 – see review).  First impressions suggested that the same would be true of the new recording. 

First, however, that title.  Of course, it’s designed as a gimmick to help sell the CD – and it’s at least much less over-the-top than a Delos album containing some of Torelli’s music, Girls Gotta Dance or, indeed, the flowery title page of Torelli’s first edition – but the word ‘original’ must not be taken to suggest that the music directly influenced Bach’s more famous set of six concertos, except in the sense that the Brandenburgs were developed from the Italian concerto grosso form, and Bach had connections with Torelli’s pupil, the Dresden Konzertmeister Pisendel, for whom his solo violin works may have been intended.  There is a parallel between Bach and Torelli, since both dedicated their works in the hope of obtaining positions at the court of different Electors of Brandenburg, in Torelli’s case to Electress Sophie Charlotte, without actually obtaining the desired post.  In both cases, too, we have cause to be thankful for their failure; as the booklet explains, Torelli would surely have found a career there too stifling, and the same is true for Bach. 

This new release is worth a warm welcome, if for nothing else for adding to the recorded availability of Torelli’s music outside the anthologies of Christmas Concertos and works with trumpet.  It neatly complements Chandos’s Collegium Musicum 90 recording of some of the Op.8 Concertos, including the inevitable Christmas Concerto, and other works (CHAN0716), a budget-price Stradivarius CD of the Op.5 Concerti a 4 (STR11003) and a Bongiovanni CD of his Concertos, Sinfonias and Sonatas (GB100082). 

The music exists in a first printed edition of 1698 – Concerti Musicali Consegrata all’ Altezza Serenissima Electorale di Madama Soffia Charlotta, Elletrice di Brandemburgo ... di Giuseppe Torelli – and a near-contemporary printing which Torelli commissioned from  the Amsterdam publisher Roger.  Where necessary, it has been edited for this recording by Dr Ng himself.  The music is transitional in that Concertos nos. 6, 10 and 12 may claim the distinction of being the first ever to contain a direction that the part marked solo is for solo violin (two of them in no.10).  By the time that the Op.8 concertos were written, solo parts had become more common. 

The addition of the Sonata à 4, G46, which rounds of the CD, serves more than to bring the recording to a respectable time; since there is only a very fine distinction between a 4-part Concerto and a 4-part Sonata, the work sounds by no means out of place. 

Not having a recording of Op.6 for direct comparison, I used the Collegium Musicum 90/Simon Standage recording as my benchmark, since, as I’ve said, first impressions were favourable enough for me to consider the new recording as worthy of such comparison, with the proviso that there is much more scope for soloists to shine in Op.8.  Both are a world removed from those over-leisurely performances by the likes of I Musici, from which I first got to know the concertos of Torelli and his contemporaries, yet neither over-indulges in the helter-skelter tempi which make some more recent performances, mostly from Italian ensembles, unsuitable for listening in all moods. 

If the Collegium Musicum 90 performances and recording sound a touch lither and brighter, there isn’t much in it; the impression is at least partly attributable to the fact there’s more variety on the Chandos CD, with three trumpet sinfonias.  Heard on their own, the Charivari performances are more than agréable; in fact, they’re first-rate.  Their leader, Bojan Cicić, fully deserves the separate billing which he receives for his performances of the solo items, never over-stepping the mark to make the violin too prominent.  He is ably partnered by Lind Hannah-Anderson in No.10. 

The recording is good throughout, close but not over-close, and well balanced.  I’d have liked to hear more of the continuo, but that’s a criticism which I find myself levelling at about every recent baroque music recording. 

Kah-Ming Ng’s notes are detailed and informative and, thanks apparently to Dr Glyn Redworth, free from over-use of purple prose. 

This is a distinguished addition to the Signum catalogue – not quite in the same league as their monumental recordings of all Tallis’s music, but not far removed. 

The title of the collection and the striking cover on which it’s displayed will doubtless attract many impulse buyers.  I don’t think that they’ll have much cause for disappointment when they hear what they’ve purchased.  They’ll be even happier if they also go on to buy the Chandos recording.

Brian Wilson

see also Review by Mark Sealey




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