The Brandenburg Concertos need no introduction – doubtless because they owe their fame to a systematic exploration of a genre recently inherited from the Italians, with a still youthful Bach devising as many different scorings as there are concertos. When he received the manuscript of the six works, Christian Ludwig, Margrave of Brandenburg, must have been terrified by their demands, and his musicians even more so! Three centuries later, the cycle is as open as ever to new ‘historically informed’ interpretations, as this set demonstrates. The CD cover represents the importance of numbers in these works eg Concerto No 3 which is scored for three instruments, in 3 time, 3 sections etc. The trumpeter is particularly impressive. Freiburg are recording and touring Bach throughout 2014.
When the German transverse flute found its place in Italy and was accepted by the Catholic church as a suitable replacement for the proscribed recorder, Antonio Vivaldi took to it with great enthusiasm. His flute concertos mark a point of departure, coming after he had completed his 40 bassoon concertos and virtually all of the string concertos. Although some of these pieces were reworkings of material previously composed for recorder, Vivaldi came to capitalize on new techniques he learned from Ignazio Siber, the flute instructor at the Ospedale della Pietà. Of Vivaldi's 15, the 7 flute concertos presented here were freshly written for the instrument. Each has a distinct character and the levels of virtuosity vary between them, but all are charming and rank among Vivaldi's freshest compositions. The most famous of these works is the expressive Concerto in D major, nicknamed "Il Gardellino," the only one of the flute concertos to be published in Vivaldi's lifetime. Flutist Janet See plays with a chaste tone, at times suggestive of the recorder's sound but more focused and controlled, especially in rapid passages. The Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, under Nicholas McGegan's direction, gives delicate support and transparent accompaniment to set off See's buoyant performance.(Blair Sanderson)
The "Concerto grosso" was eminently popular in Europe at the beginning of the 18th century, Arcangelo Corelli having set the trend with his Opus 6 published around 1710, but probably written much earlier. The main attraction seems to have been the possibilities opened up by having two groups of musicians in dialogue with one another.
Recording after recording, Giuliano Carmignola, Andrea Marcon and the Venice Baroque Orchestra have proven themselves as a winning combination. After previously triumphing in the music of Vivaldi, Carmignola discovers the almost completely forgotten repertoire of the Italian violin concerto, bridging the gap between the Baroque and Classical styles in the mid-18th century. During this time period, violin virtuosi would travel across Europe giving concerts to great acclaim. It is their music that Carmignola performs.
Glorious music brilliantly played and vividly recorded, this recording of suites from three of Jean-Philippe Rameau's operas by Roy Goodman and the European Union Baroque Orchestra is as fine a disc of French Baroque orchestral music as has ever been issued. The wit and élan that Goodman and his Orchestra bring to Rameau is infectious. The listener finds himself smiling at Pigmalion's Les différence caractéres de la danse and laughing at Platée's Air pour des fous gais et de fous trietes.
McGegan's recording is of considerable documentary interest in that a separate section at the conclusion of each of the three parts of Messiah - there are three discs accordingly - is reserved for the many alternative versions of arias, accompanied recitatives and choruses which Handel himself used or at least approved in performances during the 1740s and 1750s. In this way, the booklet explains, the listener can select which version of the work he/she wants to listen to at any given time. About six versions are possible from the 18 alternative tracks provided on the three CDs. By following a table printed in the back of the booklet (a few minutes' mental gymnastics are initially required) you can programme your CD player to replace particular arias with others.
George Frideric Handel (1685 - 1759): Susanna. Oratorio. First performed 1749. Complete version including all the music that Handel later deleted. Performed by Lorraine Hunt and Jill Feldman, soprano, Drew Minter, countertenor, Jeffrey Thomas, tenor, David Thomas and William Parker, bass; the U.C. Berkely Chamber Choir; the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, San Francisco, conducted by Nicholas McGegan. Recorded live in September, 1989, at the Hertz Hall at the University of California.
Italian composer Nicola Porpora is mainly a footnote in the history books these days, noted as Haydn's teacher, but in his day he was a rival to Handel and wrote a good deal of music for the celebrated castrato Carlo Broschi, aka, Farinelli. That music is sampled here by the startlingly soprano-like French countertenor Philippe Jaroussky, and listeners are likely to feel that it's been unjustly neglected. Jaroussky sounds great, his creamy voice sailing through the mostly tuneful pieces. There are also a few big showpieces of the sort that Renée Fleming and others have recorded on their Baroque aria albums. Jaroussky is not quite as powerful here, but there are some real finds in the music like the gripping soprano-and-trumpet cadenza in "Nell'attendere il mio bene," from Polifemo (track 8). All the way through the music is like that: it's recognizably part of the same world as Handel's arias, but it's full of original touches unrelated to Handel. Porpora's most famous piece, the atmospheric "Alto giove" (again from the opera Polifemo) is here, as are a couple of duets in which Jaroussky is joined by no less than Cecilia Bartoli. These fall easily into the classification of rare treat. Throw in sensitive accompaniment from the Venice Baroque Orchestra and conductor Andrea Marcon for an extremely worthwhile Baroque aria recital. (James Manheim)