Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
Concerto ‘La Notte’ in G minor RV104
Concerto for guitar in D major RV93
Concerto in F major RV100
Concerto in D major RV92
Francesco MANCINI (1672-1737)
Sonata No.4 in A minor
Alessandro SCARLATTI (1660-1725)
Sonata No.9 in A minor
Concordi Musici (Leonard Munsuk Kwon (recorder), Rebecca Huber,
Tomasz Plusa (violins), Ji Yun Kang (cello), Josep Casadella (bassoon),
Cristian Gutierrez (guitar, theorbo), Eduardo Valorz (harpsichord))
rec. 23-24 March 2010, Oud-Katholieke Kerk, Delft
AUDIOGUY RECORDS AGCD 0022 [55:53]
As external bookings manager for an international music conservatoire,
I’m regularly given demo CDs which are useful for hearing what
students are up to. It’s less frequent that someone approaches
me with a genuinely commercial product, so when recorder player
Leonard Kwon handed me this nicely produced and highly professional
CD I was more than interested.
Music education at the highest level is such that anyone who
is going to ‘make it’ has probably already ‘made it’ while still
registered somewhere as a student. When I was at the Royal Academy
of Music we had people like Evelyn Glennie still practising
in the corridors, so the sense of ‘you heard it here first’
is always present at that kind of institution. I know most of
the musicians who are listed on this recording, and while some
have already graduated there are still a few finishing off their
Master degree or other postgraduate studies at the time of writing.
This is therefore an indication of things to come, both in terms
of a new looking record label with audiophile ambitions and
the newest generation of leading early music professionals.
I would also add that this is by no means a vanity review or
a cliquey puff. I always stick to the principle that, with all
due respect to polecats, if something smells like a polecat
then I will say it smells like a polecat. This is a recording
which I am delighted to say can stand comparison with the best
in its field, and is in no way smelly in any regard.
Extensive notes in Italian appear by harpsichord player Eduardo
Valorz, and a more compact commentary by Leonard Kwon in the
English section of the booklet notes. This could have done with
a little expert editing, but has some helpful indicators and
mentions that the composers on this programme have been chosen
as being amongst the highest regarded in Venice and Naples in
the 18th century. For many people I’m sure the word
‘Concerto’ conjures up an image of a larger ensemble than just
four players and a soloist. It can come as something of a surprise
to hear how full and satisfying such a compact band can sound,
but those old composers knew what they were doing, and the instrumentation
is designed to obtain the maximum effect from a minimum of means.
Comparing Vivaldi’s famous Concerto ‘La Notte’ with another
distinguished example, I was interested to hear how much difference
there would be between Dan Laurin’s recording with the Drottingholm
Baroque Ensemble on BIS-CD-635. This has a double bass instead
of the bassoon and theorbo to reinforce the lower lines, and
this can give a more emphatic foundation to the entire sound.
I do like the bassoon’s extra little ‘filler’ comments at the
end of the second Largo movement and, other than a more
rounded resonance the difference is ultimately not so great.
Laurin is more adventurous with his ornamentation of the lines
in this movement and plays with a more individualistic character
than Kwon in general, adding vibrato and all kinds of other
tricks. Whether you prefer this will be down to a question of
taste. Some may feel Laurin goes too far in this direction,
and such extra gilding can be more of a burden than a benefit
for repeated listening rather than in the ‘vibe’ of a live concert.
Where Concordi Musici’s recording has its advantages is in the
nice little touches through the continuo parts, the various
plucked strings adding subtle decoration and resonance throughout.
Kwon proves his chops in the demanding central presto, and the
delicate dissonances of the Il sonno movement are well
shaped, if a little loose in terms of vertical ensemble discipline
on a few of the shifts. This is a very good beginning however,
and the promise of ‘La notte’ is delivered on in the rest of
In a well planned programme, the recorder pieces are contrasted
nicely with a well played Concerto in D major RV93 with
guitar soloist Cristian Gutierrez picking his way nimbly around
Vivaldi’s complex figurations. The baroque guitar has a smaller
resonance than the modern instrument, with harmonics which reflect
the narrower shape of the body. This is a nice sound however.
The beautiful central Andante largo is very atmospheric,
and the outer movements have plenty of masculine Mediterranean
strumming which comes across very effectively in this recording.
All of the other Vivaldi concertos are played with equal verve
and character, the bassoon adding pungency to the bass lines,
and the harpsichord continuo given just the right amount of
crisp presence. With an excellent stereo spread and high definition
for all of the instruments in these recordings, the only slight
disappointment in terms of the production is the change in set-up
given to the Sonata No.4 in A minor by Francesco Mancini.
This is given a different recorded perspective for some reason,
with the harpsichord rather narrow and recessed; the recorder
now placed more to the right and bassoon to the left. This is
by no means a bad recording, but compared against the generosity
of air and lightness of touch with the instrumental colours
in the other pieces it doesn’t have quite the same all-embracing
attractiveness. The final work on the disc, Alessandro Scarlatti’s
Sonata No.9 in A minor uses all instrumental forces and
we’re back in business with the balance for the Vivaldi concertos.
This is a piece with some magnificent moments: the climax of
the energetic central Fuga is highly uplifting, and there
is plenty of wit and a great sense of fun in the final Allegro.
Initial availability for this release is likely to be a little
patchy due to its Korean label’s position, though I’m told the
CD will have wider distribution and mainstream download options
which can easily be found. More information on Concordi Musici
can be seen on their website.
This is an ensemble which deserves every success, and I commend
their debut recording wholeheartedly.