For all the charges of unacceptable schematicism levelled at Vivaldi and his kind, Monica Huggett, as supremely imaginative as well as technically and stylistically accomplished an exponent of the baroque violin as any, demonstrates clearly that this music benefits from the guiding hand of a charismatic interpreter: her delivery of Vivaldi’s exuberant, even manic, inspiration is never less than involving and, in the slow movements, never less than touching.
Naxos intend to record Vivaldi’s entire orchestral corpus, and Raphael Wallfisch’s integral four-disc survey of the 27 cello concertos inaugurates this visionary, though plainly Herculean undertaking. Soloist and orchestra employ modern instruments; director Nicholas Kraemer contends that authentic protocols can be ably met by contemporary ensembles and, in articulation, style and ornamentation, these pristine, engaging readings have little to fear from period practitioners. Wallfisch’s pointed, erudite and spirited playing is supported with enlightened restraint by the CLS, directed from either harpsichord or chamber organ by Kraemer, whose sensitive continuo team merits high praise throughout. Without exception, these Concertos adopt an orthodox fast-slow-fast three-movement format. Wallfisch, dutifully observant in matters of textual fidelity, plays outer movements with verve, energy and lucidity, such that high-register passagework, an omnipresent feature of these works, is enunciated with the pin-sharp focus of Canaletto’s images of 18th-century Venice, which adorn the covers of these issues.
Years before J.S. Bach paved the way toward what is now largely considered the height of the German Baroque, Dietrich Buxtehude was hard at work in northern Germany on his own individual union of the Italian and French Baroque styles. His Op. 1 is a sumptuous, dynamic set of seven sonatas scored for violin, gamba, and continuo (played here by cello and harpsichord). Unlike composers both before and after him, Buxtehude was far from formulaic when it came to the organization of his sonatas, each one having its own unique combination and sequence of movements.
The concerto grosso form was popularized by Corelli, and Locatelli’s Op 1 is a marvellous example of the genre: its solid craftsmanship, imaginative textures and exciting virtuosity bringing it into the top rank. These works are ravishingly performed here by The Raglan Baroque Players, Nicholas Kraemer and soloist Elizabeth Wallfisch.