Francesco GEMINIANI (1687-1762)
Concerti Grossi, Op.7 (1745/46) [64:05]
Concerto in D, H.115 [9:34]
Concerto in d minor, H.116 [9:27]
Concerto in C, H.117 [10:15]
Concerto in d minor, H.118 [11:03]
Concerto in c minor, H.119 [7:35]
Concerto in B-flat, H.120 [16:09]
Café Zimmermann [Pablo Valetti (concertmaster, violin), David Plantier,
Guadalupe Del Moral, Mauro Lopes Ferreira, Matthias Müller, Maria Gomis
(violin); Patricia Gagnon, Lucie Uzzeni(viola); Petr Skalka, Hristo
Kouzmanov (cello); Karel Valter, Regina Gleim(traverso);
Carles Cristobal(bassoon); Lude Vk Braný (double bass); Céline Frisch
rec. September 2017, Auditorium Campra, Conservatoire Darius Milhaud,
Aix-en-Provence, France. DDD
Reviewed as lossless wav download.
ALPHA CLASSICS 396
These concertos reportedly represented a voyage of delighted discovery for
the musicians of Café Zimmermann and they will do so for any lover of
baroque music who hears this recording. You may know Geminiani’s earlier
sets of concertos (Op.2 and Op.3, 1732 and 1733), the orchestrations of his
own Op.1 and Op.4 sonatas and those of his teacher and model Corelli’s
Op.5. The mid-price Academy of Ancient Music recording of Op.3, with
Christopher Hogwood and a distinguished line-up of soloists remains well
worth having –
– as do another Decca Oiseau-Lyre recording of his Op.5 sonatas, download
only, and a more recent Linn recording of Op.5 –
(NB: catalogue number now BKD251) – but the Op.7 set outshines them and,
indeed, outdoes even the music of Corelli, in originality.
The music fully merits the epithet apparently given to Geminiani by his
students, Il Furibondo, furious, infuriating or madman, but one with
lots of method in his madness. These astonishingly good concertos couldn’t
have better advocates than here – they will certainly be forming part of my
regular listening from now on. If the pomegranate on the cover is
meant to signify virility and fecundity, as it did in classical Greece, it's
certainly an appropiate omen for these performances.
Hitherto my go-to Geminiani recording of preference has been Andrew Manze’s
of the Concerti Grossi arrangements of Corelli’s Op.5. Such arrangements
were common at the time, and Geminiani’s own sonatas were arranged as
concertos by Charles Avison (Avison Ensemble, Divine Art DDA21210 –
1) but the Op.7 works are original, and often strikingly original,
The only rival complete recording, as far as I can see, comes from Capella
Istropolitana on Naxos 8.553020, with Op.3/5 and 6, dating from 1998. Like
most of their recordings which were made in the early days of the label
when it was available in a browser in Woolworths for £3.99, taking pot-luck
for what the salesman had recently left, apparently at random, these are
reliable accounts, with the orchestra reportedly given plenty of time to
rehearse. They were good value when they were super-budget offerings but
now that Naxos is not so inexpensive, they are outperformed by the new Alpha,
which costs little more, especially as the download of the new recording can be obtained for
Op.7/4 and 6 can be found on an album entitled Der Zauberwald,
on which the
main item is a performance of Geminiani’s La foresta incantata (The
enchanted forest: Capriccio C67081, La Stagione Frankfurt/Michael
Schneider). Well worth having for the main work but it will tempt you to
obtain the complete Op.7, so one to stream, perhaps.
Like Handel, Geminiani settled in London, where these concertos were first
performed in 1746. At the time it was Bononcini who was regarded as
Handel’s rival – famously regarded as ‘Tweedledum and Tweedledee’ – but for
my money these works rival Handel’s Op.6 set of concerti grossi, which had
been published a few years earlier.
Regular readers will know that I am not alone in my admiration for the
recordings of Café Zimmermann. They take their name from the coffee house
in Leipzig where many of Bach’s secular works were performed, so it’s
hardly surprising that their six CDs of JSB’s concertos for Alpha should be
such a success. They were reissued in November 2018 in a 16-CD gathering of
the ensemble’s recordings to date for Alpha (ALPHA434, target price £31).
Bach (JS and CPE, instrumental and choral) are far from their only
repertoire; their Vivaldi L’Estro Armonico reminds us that they are
also fully at home in the Italian repertoire (ALPHA193 –
DL News 2015/4). They have also recorded Avison’s concerto arrangements of Scarlatti
sonatas to very good purpose (ALPHA315, mid-price –
review). Both the Vivaldi and Avison are included in the new box set, along with
JS and CPE Bach, D’Anglebert and a CD of Cantates et Concertos comiques.
Though they are here exploring these Geminiani concertos for the first
time, they do so in the most convincing way in performances which outshine
those on Naxos. It’s not a matter of tempo, mostly within a
whisker of those of the Capella Istropolitana, more that Café Zimmermann
allow themselves to be less cautious and let themselves be taken along by
the music. To put it crudely: on Naxos the music doesn’t seem sure where
it’s going; on Alpha it’s on its way there with assurance and it
takes us cheerfully along with it.
Even the Hogwood recording of Op.3, which you may have obtained as part of
Decca’s erstwhile Baroque Era 50-CD budget box2, sounds a little
tentative by comparison with Café Zimmermann in Op.7. That’s partly because
the music is more adventurous, but it’s also a measure of how far
confidence in playing period instruments has come.
I first heard this recording as streamed from
Naxos Music Library, where it’s available complete with the pdf booklet. Subscribers can hear
it there alongside
the earlier Naxos
listed above. I was so impressed that I requested a lossless version of the
album – the Outhere group’s own press previews come only in mp3 and at a
low bit-rate. My thanks to Matt Groom at their UK distributor, RSK, for his
good offices in obtaining this and other recent recordings in CD-quality
sound. As heard thus, the recording amply matches the quality of these
committed performances. All in all, this should shake up any misconceptions
about baroque music sounding sedate.
It’s also the ideal introduction to Geminiani.
The link to theclassicalshop is now superseded by the link to its
chandos.net, but that and most other downloads in lossless sound
won’t save much over the cost of the 2-CD set.
Volume 1, which doesn't include the Geminiani, remains available to download; though no longer so inexpensive, it
remains good value at around £40 (mp3) or £50 (lossless) for 25 CDs.