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see end of review for track listing
I Furiosi (Gabrielle McLaughlin (soprano), Julia Wedman, Aisslin Nosky (violin). Felix Deak (cello, viola da gamba), with James Johnstone (harpsichord), Stephanie Martin (organ), Lucas Harris (theorbo, guitar))
rec. 10-12 December, 2008, Humbercrest United Church, Toronto. DDD

Experience Classicsonline

“Handel was considered a bit dangerous and nuts in his day … Arne was a well-known whacko of the Baroque …Veracini was the real thing. Nuttier than a nutloaf …”.  

The sentiments and words are those of the notes (available only to download as a pdf file from the Dorian website) for this disc. The same notes offer the more than slightly dubious proposition that “virtuosic writing … could only come from an at least somewhat disturbed mind” and tell us that “Crazy is not merely a title for his [sic] program, but a singular word that embodies the mood, tone, and often the mental state that inspired and created the music held within”. Couple such statements with the album cover - the four members of I Furiosi in punk/goth outfits, with tattoos on display, and striking poses evidently meant to convey aggression and rebellion, and the intended impression is obvious enough. This, the signals are clear, is an irreverent approach to the baroque; this is a street-wise group of performers who don’t embody familiar assumptions about conservatory and concert hall manners and dress. I Furiosi’s web-site describes them as “one of the world's most innovative Baroque ensembles” and reminds us that their debut CD of 2005 was titled debut CD “Defiled is my (Middle) Name”.

In truth, the performances on this CD (their second) are really not all that “innovative”, to quote a word given prominence on the group’s website - unless programming a song by Leonard Cohen qualifies for that epithet. But don’t let the hype and the rather strenuous self-presentation put you off. These are well-schooled musicians who, on the whole, work well together. Soprano Gabrielle McLaughlin is a well-established voice teacher in Toronto, who has worked with, amongst others, Tafelmusik and Les Violons du Roy; cellist and gamba player Felix Deak works with Tafelmusik and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra; the two violinists, Julia Wedman and Aisslin Nosky have extensive experience with Tafelmusik (again) and the Aradia Ensemble. All, in short, are stalwarts of the Canadian world of early music performance. There is plenty of energy in their playing and, yes, a pleasing absence of any sense of primness or stuffiness - and much that is in the mainstream of the modern way of performing this music. There is much to enjoy, in short.

From looking at videos of I Furiosi on You-Tube it is obvious that there is an engaging theatricality to their live performances - a quality also apparent, to some degree, in this recording. But limitations are evident too. Gabrielle McLaughlin’s voice is sometimes rather shrill, at least as recorded here, and she doesn’t do enough to distinguish the moods and manners of her songs - though she has some good moments. Wedman and Nosky are impressive and most of what is best here occurs when they are at the forefront - as in Vivaldi’s take on La Folia and the sonata by Uccellini. Deak is to the fore, to generally good effect, in the piece by Tobias Hume - surely no more than a good old-fashioned English eccentric, rather than the “solitary crazed genius” he is called here?

So, while nothing like so shocking or ‘hot’ as aspects of the presentation suggest, this is an interesting, if slightly flawed, programme, very decently played. Leonard Cohen’s ‘Suzanne’ makes, however, a thoroughly unsatisfactory close to the programme - an utterly slight piece not much helped by this arrangement.

Glyn Pursglove 

Track listing
Dario CASTELLO (c. 1590-1644)
Sonata Decima a 3 [5:28]
John ECCLES (1668-1735)
I Burn, my Brain Consumes to Ashes (from Don Quixote) [3:49]
Francesco Maria VERACINI (1690-1768)
Passagallo (from Sonata XII in D minor) [4:40]
George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759)
E pur cosi / Piangero la Sorte Mia (from Guilio Cesare) [5:69]
Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
Trio Sonata XII, “La Folia”, RV 63 [8:36]
Godfrey FINGER (1660-1730)
While I with Wounding Grief (from Don Quixote) [1:06]
George Frideric HANDEL
Menuet, from Trio Sonata in G Major, Op. 5. No. 4 [1:49]
Marco UCCELLINI (1603-1680)
Sonata detta la Luciminia contenta [3:42]
Thomas ARNE (1710-1778)
To Fair Fidele’s Grassy Tomb [4:58]
Andrea FALCONIERI (1585-1656)
Folias [4:07]
Alessandro STRADELLA (1639-1682)
Ohime Lassa, Aria con violines (from Susanna) [4:30]
Tobias HUME (1579-1645)
Deth [5:27]
John BLOW (1649-1708)
Lysander I Pursue [5:36]
Leonard COHEN (b. 1934)
Suzanne [4:33]




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