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Tomaso ALBINONI (1672-1751)
Concerto a Cinque Op.10 (publ. 1735-36)
Concerto No.4 in G major [10:25]
Concerto No.11 in C minor [8:09]
Concerto No.9 in C major [8:09]
Concerto No.8 in G minor [8:01]
Concerto No.5 in A major [8:35]
Concerto No.7 in F major [9:37]
Concerto No.2 in G minor [10:15]
Concerto No.1 in B-flat major [6:36]
Harmonices Mundi/Claudio Astronio
rec. 6-8 September 2004, Sala Gustav Mahler, Centro Convegni Grand Hotel Dobbiaco
ARTS 47747-8 [72:12]
Experience Classicsonline


Venetian composer Tomaso Albinoni’s Op.10 collections of Concerti a cinque were published by Michel Charles Le Cène in
Amsterdam in 1735 or 1736, when he had already established an international reputation through numerous collections of similar works and Sinfonias. In many ways these works represent the pinnacle of Albinoni’s achievements in this medium, with their approachable technical standard useful for amateur musicians allied to elegant melodic invention and richness of character. Albinoni was one of the earliest composers to regularly use the three-movement form for concertos. This had already been used by Giuseppe Torelli in the Sinfonias written for his instrumental groups at San Petronio in Bologna; but with Albinoni’s wide appeal and popularity the model spread rapidly and soon became the fashionable convention. The Concerto Grosso genre heard in some the works on this disc were successful in this period, based on the dynamic contrasts between ritornellos for a larger orchestra body set against a small group of, in this case, three violins. The principal violin takes a solo role in only the Concerto No.8 and the outer movements of this work do have a different feel to the others, with more space left for the more fragile solo lines. With a fairly low level of virtuosity demanded of the players in the other works the feel of genteel and restrained chamber music is fairly constant throughout.

 

This is not to say that the music is uninteresting. Indeed, within his idiom Albinoni throws in some striking harmonic twists and turns and isn’t fearful of leaning on dissonance as well, pushing the boundaries of style of the time and anticipating the “style gallant” which would be more a characteristic of the mid eighteenth century. Claudio Toscani points out in his informative notes that these works are “a strange mixture of the old and the new”, sometimes looking back to the outmoded contrapuntal style of the trio sonata, but also with an ear for more recent developments. As a result these works remain highly entertaining, filled with baroque bounce, but with plenty of surprises.

 

The audiophile Arts label have once again come up with a recording of striking clarity and transparency. The musicians are set in a pleasant but unobtrusive resonance, and the SACD depth is very satisfying. You have a feeling of being amongst the musicians, which is always a bit special but can be a more demanding listen, making you feel you should sit up and take notice rather than putting your feet up and being a front-row slob – never a bad thing in my opinion. A question of taste, but to my ears the harpsichord continuo is perhaps just a little too prominent in the balance. It is well played and gives the music a crisp edge, but at time you fine you’ve been listening more to its percussive contribution than to the strings – not a hugely troubling point, but worth noting, through probably more so for headphone listeners than when played over speakers. The unnamed solo violins are nicely played, and the parts are taken without an excess of extra ornamentation. Claudio Astronio’s Harmonices Mundi play with taste and refinement almost all of the time, with just a very few moments where slight differences of opinion in intonation take away some of the gloss. The sound is rich and well rounded, especially when the continuo is joined by a discreetly placed but warmly welcome portativo organ.

 

I’ve greatly enjoyed this fine if relatively undemanding disc. The competition is not huge for Albinoni’s Op.10, and I would certainly choose this over the I Solisti Veneti recording on Erato, which is becoming rather long in the tooth. Those looking to supplement their other Albinoni Opus numbers and the more ubiquitous Vivaldi collections will do very well with this desirable collection.

 

Dominy Clements

 

 

 
 


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