TORELLI (1658-1709) The Original Brandenburg Concertos Concerti Musicali a Quattro, Op. 6
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 (Bojan Cicić (violin);
Oliver Sandig (violin); Hazel Brooks (violin, viola); Camilla Scarlett (violin);
Linda Hannah-Anderson (violin);
Richard Wade (violin); Veronique Matarasso (violin); Rachel Stott (viola); Heather
Birt (viola); Gareth Deats (cello); Ibi Aziz (viola da gamba); Elizabeth Harré (violone);
Mark Baigent (oboe, recorder); Jane Downer (oboe, recorder); Nicholas Benda (oboe);
Michael Brain (bassoon); Jørgen Skogmo (theorbo, baroque guitar); David Bannister
(chamber organ); Kah-Ming Ng (chamber organ, harpsichord))
Kah-Ming Ng (director)
rec. 14-16 April, 2008, St. Andrew's Church, Toddington,
Gloucestershire, UK. DDD SIGNUM
CLASSICS SIGCD157 [62:30]
Giuseppe Torelli was renowned in
his lifetime as a performer, a highly accomplished string
player, in the northern Italian towns of Verona (his birthplace)
and Bologna. Indeed, the composer partly forged a Bolognese
style of playing, which spread to other cities in Europe
when the orchestra there was disbanded in 1696.
A year later Torelli was in Berlin,
where he attempted to find favour - or even a court position
- with the same family (although a different branch) to
which Bach later dedicated his Brandenburg Concertos. Although
unsuccessful, that was probably a blessing in disguise
for Torelli: the stifling routine in Prussia would surely
have depressed the volatile Torelli. Indeed, a few years
later Handel had to find a way out of a similar circumstance
The prominence of the hoped-for
patron, however, meant that the composer of the dozen Concerti
Musicali a Quattro, Op. 6 was celebrated (at least
for the first two decades of the eighteenth century) beyond
an otherwise relatively obscure slot that the rest of his
output might otherwise have reserved for him despite the
fact that Torelli is often celebrated for his role in developing
the concerto grosso.
The works themselves are helped
by being well-suited to performance in a variety of milieus
from domestic chamber concerts to more public 'concert'
performances; concerts were by those years established
and increasing in popularity.
Although not scored for so varied
a palette of instruments as Bach's concertos, these are
lively and inspiring pieces. There are innovations, too:
concertos 6, 10 and 12 are the first in history to specify
a part for a solo violin. Charivari Agréable has followed
such dispositions as stipulated by Torelli to the letter;
although they have also allowed ornamentation which they
believe would have been consistent with the forces available
to the composer in his position at Ansbach at the time
of their composition.
These concertos are unlikely to
be staples of many people's collections: this is their
only recording in the catalogue. But they are of such freshness,
lightness and understated beauty that the accomplishment
of Ng (whose first degree is in civil engineering!) and
his forces is a significant one. Their playing comes not
only from an affectionate attachment to the idiom, but
also from a deep understanding of the particular ways in
which it has been utilised to convey surprise, delight,
uplift and pathos.
The way the second two movements
of the fourth concerto [tr.s13,14], for example, take no
hostages to convention, and the woodwind weave uncompromising
and original colours at innovative tempi in the middle
movements of the fifth [tr.s16,17] exemplify this exciting
and very pleasing approach by Charivari Agréable. Each
movement presents something different from the last.
The lightness of touch and generosity
of interpretative depth employed by Charivari Agréable,
though, ensure that we enjoy the concertos for their own
sake as well as noting any kind of historical significance.
The period instruments on which they play have sonorous
and broad sounds with as much depth as body.
The expressiveness of the string
playing in the eighth [tr.s24-27], for instance - particularly
when set against the mellow woodwind, again - is typical
of such tight focus. No movement in these dozen works lasts
more than three minutes. So structure, development and
almost perfect phrasing have been emphasised. The result
is something very… agreeable.
In short, the ensemble's blend
of technical prowess and perception into the way the themes
and textures work to produce something novel yet touching
makes this a CD to be taken very seriously.
The presentation is up to Signum's
usual standard: there is a lengthy and informative essay
on the background to the composition of the Concerti
Musicali; the recorded sound is close and clean. All
in all these concerti have more than curiosity value. Enjoy
them in their own right.
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