Venice in Mexico
Giacomo FACCO (1676–1753)
Concerto in e minor op. 1/1 [8:41]
Concerto in A op. 1/5 [8:07]
Antonio VIVALDI (1678–1741)
Concerto in D (RV 121) [5:21]
Concerto in a minor op. 3/6 (RV 356) [6:31]
Concerto in C (RV 443) [9:56]
Concerto in d minor (RV 127) [3:46]
Concerto in C (RV 425) [8:30]
Concerto in a minor (RV 445) [9:47]
Manuel Zogbi (violin: Facco, RV356); Miguel Lawrence (sopranino recorder: RV443, 445); Daniel Armas (psaltery: RV425)
The Mexican Baroque Orchestra/Miguel Lawrence
rec. Las Torres Music School, Monterey, Mexico 16-22 October 2009; 7-12 February 2010
DIVINE ART DDA25091 [60:43]

The main interest of this disc lies in the two concertos by Giacomo Facco. Not that much is known about him. He was born in Marsango, near Padua. We know nothing of his musical education or the first stages in his career. What we can say is that he was at the service of the Marquis de los Balbases, Carlo Filippo Spinola, who first was governor of Naples and then became viceroy of Sicily in 1707. Here Facco composed a number of operas. His op. 1, a series of 12 concertos for strings and bc, was dedicated to the Marquis and published in Amsterdam under the title Pensieri Adriarmonici. In 1713 Facco went with Spinola to Spain, where he became a violinist in the royal chapel and music master to the princes Luis, Carlos and Fernando. He developed into a highly respected composer but towards the end of his life he seems to have been demoted to a mere violinist in the orchestra. The largest part of Facco's oeuvre has been lost through fire.

The Mexican Baroque Orchestra was founded by Miguel Lawrence in 2009 to perform the twelve concertos op. 1 by Facco, which were found in 1962 in Mexico. These concertos are scored for three violins, viola, cello and bc, and are performed here with one instrument per part. Although these are not violin concertos the first violin takes a solo role. These are nice pieces which deserve to be played, but not as they are played here. These performances are relics of a bygone era. The ensemble uses modern instruments, but that in itself doesn't prevent stylish performances as recordings of other modern instrument ensembles show. These interpretations are untouched by historical performance practice. The playing is either legato or staccato, ignoring the hierarchy of the notes. The solo part in the Concerto op. 3 No. 6 by Vivaldi is performed with much vibrato, and the tutti are devoid of any differentation in dynamics and articulation.

Because of this the two concertos for strings and bc by Vivaldi (RV 121 and 127) are hardly bearable. Miguel Lawrence is the soloists in the two concertos for sopranino recorder, and he is a technically accomplished player. Thanks to his instrument's typically baroque characteristics these two concertos come off best. The Concerto RV 425 was originally scored for mandolin, strings and bc, and is played here with a psaltery. I can't see any reason for that. Although Italian composers of the 18th century have written music - including concertos and sonatas - for this instrument, the fact that Vivaldi, who has written for almost every instrument of his time, didn't compose anything for it, makes it rather implausible to suggest that he would have approved of such a performance.

All music by Vivaldi is available in better recordings, and Facco's op. 1 has also been recorded on period instruments by L'Arte dell'Arco, directed by Federico Guglielmo for Deutsche Harmonia Mundi. I can't see any justification for this production which stylistically takes us back to the 1960s.

Johan van Veen

Performances which take us back to the 1960s.