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The Godfather: Masters of the German & Italian Baroque
Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681-1767)
Concerto in D, TWV54:D3 [11:16]
Johann Georg PISENDEL (1687-1755)
Concerto movement in a minor [4:18]
Concerto movement in E-flat, Jung II:1 [6:13]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Concerto movement in D, BWV1045 [6:31]
Giuseppe Antonio BRESCIANELLO (c.1690-1758)
Concerto in B-flat [12:06]
Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
Concerto movement in B-flat, RV745 [3:52]
Concerto in A, RV158 [8:29]
Johann Friedrich FASCH (1688-1758)
Concerto in D, FWV L:D3 [11:23]
La Serenissima/Adrian Chandler (violin)
rec. 2019, Cedars Hall, Wells Cathedral School, UK

I am fast becoming a Serenissima groupie. I spent a happy weekend with them in Malta a couple of years ago, enjoyed their performance of Brescianello’s only opera Tisbe at the Buxton Festival a few years back, and revelled in their resurrection this July of Lucio Papirio Dittatore by Antonio Caldara. So I shall try, for the purposes of this review, to maintain my usual, neutral, critical stance – but bear with me if I gush.

Already Presto Classical’s disc of the week, riding high in the classical charts, and with a very favourable mention on BBC Radio 3’s Essential Classics, The Godfather is yet another hit from Adrian Chandler and La Serenissima. The sequence of music starts with the premise that Telemann was a friend of J S Bach’s, and godfather to his son CPE Bach. Bach wrote for violinist and composer Pisendel, as did Vivaldi. Fasch was a great friend of both Pisendel and Telemann.

Adrian Chandler writes in his notes about the way Telemann grew to accept and include the Italian style – and how much the Italians were influenced by the German style. Brescianello, apparently, was almost the only Italian to compose orchestral suites like those of Telemann and Fasch. He has only one concerto on this disc – but it has a lovely burbling bassoon and a melodic, mourning slow movement.

It seems to me there are two sorts of music on this disc; the grand, formal sounds of Telemann, Bach and Fasch; and the softer, more intimate, sound of Piendel, Vivaldi and Brescianello. It can be no coincidence that all three works of the first category feature timpani and three trumpets, giving the works a triumphant, martial air.

No other disc features this combination of works, so comparisons are difficult to make. But an all-Telemann disc from Harmonia Mundi features the same concerto as on the Serenissima disc (Concerti per multi stromenti, HMM 902261). This was a Classica choc de l’année in 2017, performed by the Akademie fűr Alte Musik, Berlin. That version is absolutely fine, but La Serenissima somehow find a further dimension of grand brass, sweet violins and vigorous life.

Adrian Chandler tells us that Pisendel spent nine months studying with Vivaldi, and that it is conceivable that Pisendel’s playing style contributed to anything of virtuosity that Bach composed for the violin. So we get Bach’s concerto movement in D (BWV1045); Adrian Chandler says it is hard to imagine anyone other than Pisendel playing this work. Well, I can; it’s a certain Adrian Chandler. Is he Pisendel re-born in the 21st century?

Needless to say, the disc is wonderfully recorded with just the right amount of air around the instruments, in a lively and revealing acoustic.

The next project for La Serenissima is, I understand, Vivaldi’s Women, featuring some unusual instruments like a newly-commissioned Italian viola d’amore and chalumeau, as well as La Serenissima’s own exotic violin in tromba marina. I can’t wait to hear it and be transported again to the great ducal courts of the eighteenth century.

Chris Ramsden

Previous review: Brian Wilson

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