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1700
Michele MASCITTI (1664-1760)
Concerto in e minor Op.7/2 (1727) [9:23]
Antonio CALDARA (1670-1736)
Sinfonia No.3: la Morte di Abel (Vienna, 1732) [3:44]
Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
Concerto in D, Op.12/3, rv124 (1729) [6:09]
Francesco DURANTE (1684-1755)
Concerto a quattro (Concerto No.2) in g minor [12:21]
Francesco GEMINIANI (1687-1762)
Sonata a quattro dal Concerto Grosso Op.3/3 in e minor (1732) [8:00]
Pietro LOCATELLI (1695-1764)
Sinfonia Funebre ‘composta per le essequie della sua donna che si celebrarono in Roma’ dunl. 2.2 (Rome, 1725) [10:23]
Baldassare GALUPPI (1706-1785)
Concerto a quattro in g minor [9:26]
Gateano PUGNANI (1731-1798)
Adagio from sinfonia per archi in si bemolle maggiore [5:25]
Concerto Italiano/Rinaldo Alessandrini
rec. 2017, Auditorium del Pontifico Istituto di Musica Sacra, Rome.
NAÏVE OP30568 [65:03]

As with these performers’ earlier recording 1600 (OP30531 – review), don’t take the title 1700 too literally: the music ranges in date from 1725 to mid-century. Both albums might well be taken as attractive entrées to the many recordings which Rinaldo Alessandrini and his talented team have made for Naïve.

The Italian repertoire of this period has been visited many times by Alessandrini and Concerto Italiano, but the opening work, Neapolitan composer Michele Mascitti’s Concerto Op.7/2, is not available in any other recording, currently or, I think, ever in general circulation1. Camerata Anxanum’s 1997 recording on period instruments of some of Mascitti’s other Op.7 concertos and Op.3 sonatas doesn’t include it, so that would make a good supplement if, as I expect, this performance of No.2 catches your fancy (Bongiovanni GB5063). Stream, with pdf booklet, before buying, from Naxos Music Library.

Johann van Veen concluded a review of two CDs of Mascitti’s violin sonatas (Acte Préalable – review) with the wish to ‘hear more from this remarkable composer’. That set remains available from MusicWeb – follow the links in JV’s review.

The Caldara is the composer’s own arrangement of the two-movement sinfonia to his oratorio on the Death of Abel, seen as prefiguring the passion of Jesus, a serious but attractive piece. Like most of the music here it represents the influence of Corelli on the next generation of Italian composers, in this case his da chiesa style.

There are CDs of these sinfonias (Verso VRS2001 and CPO 9991372) but that’s as close as we are likely to get to performances of most of his prolific output in that genre. A few are or have been available on record though not, I think Abel apart from one aria on Cecilia Bartoli’s Sacrificium album (Decca 4781521, 2 CDs: Recording of the Month).

By happenstance or symbiosis, a complete recording of Caldara’s Maddelana ai piedi di Cristo in a performance from Le Banquet Céleste directed by Damien Guillon has just come my way for review (ALPHA426). Dipping into it has raised my expectations, but it will have to be very good if it is to supersede or even match the Harmonia Mundi recording directed by René Jacobs (HMC905221/22, download only).

If the Caldara is one of the more serious offshoots of Corelli, his pupil Geminiani’s Op.3/3 concerto, from a set published in 1733, serves as a reminder of how the latter developed the master’s model and adapted it for his London audience, as Mascitti did for his Paris listeners in the first work on the CD. Even though the Geminiani adheres to the da chiesa model of slow-fast-slow-fast sections, it’s closer in style to Handel’s concerti grossi, also Op.3, published one year later, also by Walsh.

The performance of this concerto may well whet your appetite for a complete set of Geminiani's six Op.3 concertos, in which case the Academy of Ancient Music and Christopher Hogwood would serve very well (Decca Oiseau-Lyre 4780024, mid-price). If you bought the Baroque Era collection when it was available, on CD or Volume II as a download, you will already have the Hogwood Geminiani.

Hogwood uses larger forces than Alessandrini’s two violins and one each of viola, cello, double bass and harpsichord, but there’s very little to choose between the two performances of Op.3/3. Indeed, if the performance of this concerto on the Naïve recording makes you want to investigate Geminiani further, the Decca would be a good choice. If one of the big pluses of the new Naïve is the violin playing of Boris Begelman, here and in the other works, that of Jaap Schröder on Decca is equally glorious. After listening to Hogwood’s account of No.3, I had to carry on and hear the rest of the set. Then your next stop could be Andrew Manze’s recording with the Academy of Ancient Music of Geminiani’s adaptation of his master Corelli’s Op.3 sonatas as concerti grossi (Harmonia Mundi HMU907261/62, download only).

The Vivaldi Concerto in D offers proof that the Op.12 set, from which it is taken, should be more widely enjoyed than it is: there really is little or no diminution in quality from the better-known Op.3 and Op.8 – the latter containing the Four Seasons. Op.11 and Op.12 are brilliantly brought to life by L’Arte dell’Arco and Federico Guglielmo on Brilliant Classics (95048, super-budget price – review, or complete concertos and sonatas, Op.1-12, 95200, 20 CDs target price £42 – review, or Vivaldi Brilliant Classics Edition, 94840, 66 CDs, around £82 – review).

I’m a great admirer of Guglielmo’s Vivaldi, as witness my review of the Op.8 concertos – Brilliant 95045: Recording of the Month. Neither he nor Alessandrini, who also performs with one to a part, spares the horses in this work, but neither sounds scrambled. Overall honours are about even. Had this not been the last item on the Brilliant 2-CD set when I played it for comparison, I would probably have been tempted to listen to the rest of the set.

The performance on the new Naïve set suggests that if Alessandrini were to record the complete Op.12 concertos, to add to the very many fine recordings of Vivaldi which he and his team have made, orchestral and vocal, all listed in the booklet, that would rival the Brilliant Classics set. The two sets of Vivaldi’s concertos for strings would be a good place to sample more of their work (OP30377, download only and OP30554 – review review).

Though far less well known than Vivaldi, Durante and Locatelli are not exactly strangers to the recorded repertoire. Durante’s Concerto in g minor is usually numbered No.2, though the Naïve booklet fails to identify it as such. Curtis Rogers recommended the 2-CD Brilliant Classics set for the sake of completeness and the inclusion of a Concerto in B, the original No.2., but preferred Concerto Köln (Nos.1-8 complete Phoenix 427, 2 CDs – review – or 1-5 and 8 on Capriccio C70104 or C10371, all download only). Il Giardino Armonico’s recording of Durante would be my benchmark were it not embedded in an 11-CD box set of miscellaneous Italian baroque music replete with four discs of their Vivaldi recordings which you may already have (Warner 2564632642).

Otherwise my own preference for Nos. 2, 5 and 8 remains with a Hyperion recording performed by Elizabeth Wallfisch (violin), the Raglan Baroque Players and Nicholas Kraemer (CDA67230, with music by Pergolesi and Leo – Autumn 2017/3). That CD, on which the three Durante concertos provide the main interest, not least the ‘crazy’ No.8 (Il Pazzo) is available from the Archive Service or it can be downloaded with pdf booklet for £7.99 from hyperion-records.co.uk. The Raglan Players are more numerous than those of Concerto Italiano, with up to six violins in play, but they never overwhelm the music; indeed, as recorded, Alessandrini’s team actually sounds the larger and the Raglan performance slightly sprightlier, but there’s really very little to choose between the two, other than the fact that both bring out the best in this rather quirky work and the Hyperion album hangs together slightly more logically as a collection of works by contemporary Neapolitan composers. 2

A word of warning: looking for this, I discovered that although the folder was there on my external hard drive, it contained only the pdf and epub booklets. What happened to the music tracks, downloaded less than a year ago, is a mystery – and, most unusually, I hadn’t backed them up to my other external hard drives. I downloaded them again easily with press access, and I’m sure that an email to Hyperion would have obtained them for anyone who had bought them, but there’s a caveat here for all downloaders.

Locatelli’s music, like that of Geminiani, owes a great deal to Corelli. His Sinfonia funebre, though supposedly composed on the death of his wife3, nevertheless ends with a distinctly un-funereal consolazione movement. The only other current recording seems to be that from Ensemble Violini Capricciosi on Brilliant Classics (94733, 6 CDs – review, or Locatelli Complete Edition, 94358, 21 CDs). The complete set earned a Recording of the Month award from Johan van Veen, who doesn’t dole out such praise lightly.

Apart from the fact that the opening movement – lamento: largo – emerges as an abbreviated affair on the Naïve recording, when the Violini Capricciosi on Brilliant make it sound much more like the ‘lost’ (which probably never existed) Albinoni original of Giazotto’s Adagio, and, indeed, draw out all the movements rather more, even the concluding andante, there’s little to choose between the performances.

The Galuppi concerto a quattro doesn’t have too many rival recordings. It’s not the same as the similar souding g-minor concerto performed by I Solisti Veneti conducted by the late Claudio Scimone as the opening of their recording of Galuppi’s oratorio on the Fall of Adam (Warner Apex 2564696165, 2 super-budget CDs). Alessandrini’s performance suggests that a complete album of Galuppi from his team would hardly come amiss.

The programme ends, appropriately, with the latest work here, an adagio by Pugnani from a string sinfonia in which the Corelli model was moving towards the classical form. I wish we could have had the complete work; there would have been enough room and there seems to be no rival recording even of the adagio, let alone the whole sinfonia.

If you wish to pursue further collections of music written around 1700, try the recording by The Parley of Instruments and Peter Holman: Musical London, c.1700: from Purcell to Handel (Chandos CHAN0776 – review) and Vienna 1700: Baroque Music from Austria (CPO 999919-2, 2 CDs). I am sure that I reviewed both these but can’t find any trace of my review of the CPO, which contains the only available version of some works, including Kerll’s Te Deum, K271, Stabat Mater, K268, Litaniæ, K121 and Magnificat, K98. I haven’t heard Venezia 1700 (Aparté AP128, Les Accents/Thibault Noally) but it has been well received.

BIS have just gathered their London Baroque recordings of 17th and 18th-century trio sonatas from England, France, Germany and Italy as a box set or download bundle (BIS9050, 8 CDs, around £41, or download in 16- or 24-bit sound from eclassical.com)4. Apart from the almost mandatory inclusion of music by Vivaldi and Locatelli, the C18 Italian album, which remains available separately (BIS-CD-2015) will introduce you to music by a different selection of composers from the Naïve recording.

Let us, like the gloomy writer of Ecclesiastes, make an end of the whole matter. Many years ago, I Musici produced some multi-composer LPs of Italian baroque music as appetite-whetters for their other recordings. It’s from some of those that I got to know composers who were then just names to me. Useful as they were, I imagine that they wouldn’t cut much ice with me now as performances5, but they did encourage me to be more adventurous. I can imagine this new Naïve recording serving the same purpose; it would certainly do so with far livelier performances and recording quality beyond that of 1950s and 1960s analogue LPs. As usual, however, in reviewing such offerings, I must warn that it’s likely to make the listener wish to branch out, perhaps at some expense.  I’ve made some suggestions for such further listening; follow them at the peril of your bank balance.  Meanwhile enjoy the Naïve CD.

1 A recording by the ‘Corelli Chamber Orchestra’ of Op.7/1-4 on the Wide Classique label, available for download from emusic.com didn’t tempt me to part with my well-earned pennies. The cover description of ‘Four Concertos of Opera Seven’ put me off from the start: Opera Settima may be good Italian but ‘Opus Seven’ is the correct English equivalent.

2 There’s more Durante, the Concerto No.1, on another Hyperion recording: Concertos for the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, mid-price CDH55005, with music by Scarlatti, Pergolesi and Porpora, available to download with pdf booklet for £6.99 from hyperion-records.co.uk. (The CD, £8.50 from Hyperion, is currently on offer from Presto for £6.80).

3 There’s some doubt about the attribution, a fact that I didn't see mentioned in the booklet.

4 Follow this link for downloads at $39 (16-bit) or $59 (24-bit); one of the oddities of downloading is that there’s another eclassical page where you will be charged more than double.

5 But a recent Dynamic recording of miscellaneous Italian baroque music by the re-formed and reformed I Musici would be more amenable (Corelli’s Heritage, CDS7752 – Spring 2018/1).

Brian Wilson




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