Etcetera’s title of ‘Complete Cantatas, Op. 4’ is misleading. This two-CD reissue contains only the complete set (of 12) that appeared in his lifetime – several dozen more are extant. Published as his Op. 4 in Venice in 1702, these chamber cantatas are typical Baroque ‘languish ’n’ anguish’ love laments, six scored for solo soprano voice, six for solo alto. They are beautifully sung by Barbara Schlick and Derek Lee Ragin but, a handful of poignant arias apart, Albinoni’s music generally lacks the melodic and harmonic invention required to sustain over 90 minutes of protracted pastoral complaint. Graham Lock
During the eighteenth century music publishers, and occasionally composers themselves, adapted sonatas originally intended for string instruments, for wind instruments. The adaptation of Albinoni's violin sonatas for woodwind instruments has a historical precedent set by one of the great musicians of the French Baroque. The composer, flautist, bassoonist, gambist and instrument maker Jacques Hotteterre Le Romain (c. 1680-1761) adapted some of Albanian's violin sonatas for the flute….
Karajan reportedly felt so strongly about his recordings of the Second Viennese School that he agreed to finance them himself when DG balked at picking up the tab. These are great performances, to be sure. Indeed, there may be some others that are comparable, but none are superior. The Berg pieces never have sounded so decadently beautiful, nor the Webern so passionately intense, or the Schoenberg so, well, just plain listenable. The Berlin Philharmonic strings make their usual luscious sounds, but here the winds, brass, and even percussion rise to the occasion as well. And sonically these were always some of Karajan's best efforts. Essential, then, and a perfect way to get to know these three composers on a single disc.
The Italian ensemble I Virtuosi di Roma's long tradition of performing classics of the Italian Baroque pioneered in many ways the contemporary revival of early music. When its founder, Renato Fazzano, passed away the group disbanded, but a regrouping of sorts took place in the early 80s with eight members of the original group. The new ensemble, which calls itself I Solisti Italiani, has continued the Fazzano legacy, emphasizing line and grace in presenting particularly the works of Vivaldi.