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Concert à cinque, opus 5
Collegium Musicum 90 Simon Standage
Chandos Chaconne CHAN 0663 (76.18 minutes)

Tomaso Albinoni (1671-1751 was a Venetian composer of the same generation as Vivaldi, so it is inevitable that he has been somewhat overshadowed by his illustrious contemporary.

The disc contains a collection of twelve 'Concerti à cinque', or 'concertos in five parts'. The title refers to the organisation of the string ensemble, from first violins through to bass, and it therefore indicates how the music is organised. For these pieces rely on the subtle relationships among the parts rather than on the conventional division of solo against orchestra.

Collegium Musicum 90 was founded a decade ago by Richard Hickox, with whom they have made many acclaimed recordings, many featuring the solo violin playing of the leader, Simon Standage, a distinguished player who directs these performances. He does so with great aplomb. Tempi always feel just right, whether the music be fast or slow, and phrasing is sensitive but not indulgent. All twelve concertos are roughly the same size, around five to seven minutes, and their vitality rests on the conventional da camera tension of fast movements enclosing a slow centre. In a few cases, however, the slow movements have a quick centre themselves, making a five-part form alternating fast and slow music.

The music and the performances are certainly compelling. What is more this must count among the best engineered recordings that Chandos has made, with an extraordinarily vivid directness captured in the ambient acoustic of All Saints' Church, East Finchley, London. The musical judgements too are of the best, with a beautifully balanced keyboard continuo and a string orchestra of seventeen. An outstanding issue.

Terry Barfoot

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