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Voyage à Venise: A Venetian Journey
Details after review

CD1: L’Âge d’Or Vénitien: Venice the Golden Age
Xenia Löffler (baroque oboe)
Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin/Georg Kallweit (violin)
rec. 26-28 October 2013 and 4 February 2014. DDD.

CD2: Teatro alla moda
Gli Incogniti/Amadine Beyer
rec. 6-10 November 2014. DDD

CD3: Giovanni GABRIELI Sonate e canzoni per concertar con l’organo
Concerto Palatino/Bruce Dickey and Charles Toet
rec. 8-11 November 1998. DDD.
HARMONIA MUNDI HMX2908798.00 [3 CDs 3:37:49]

[CD1: From HARMONIA MUNDI HMC902185 [68:28] – reviewed in DL News 2014/14 and still available at full price.
CD2: From HARMONIA MUNDI HMC902221 [72:52] – reviewed in DL News 2015/10 and still available at full price.
CD3: From HARMONIA MUNDI HMC901688 [75:48] Still available as HMA1951688 at budget price.]

This is something of a no-brainer: if you didn’t go for any of these fine recordings on their first release or didn’t react to my short but pointed recommendation in Winter 2018/19-2, buy the super-budget-price reissue now. Even if you have one of these recordings in their original garb, it’s still very much worth having, at less than £11 for the three CDs, when the two full-price components cost around £12 each and the Gabrieli on Musique D’Abord sells for around £7. The Gabrieli was first released in 2001, the other two CDs as recently as 2014 and 2015. As usual, shopping around is strongly advised: one dealer currently has the set for £8.06, reduced from £10.75, while another is asking £13.85.

I reviewed the original release of CD1 – link above – alongside an Arcana CD of Venetian Oboe Concertos, which also included the Marcello concerto (A380) and debated which of these excellent albums to recommend.

The Arcana includes a concerto by Albinoni, the first begetter of the oboe concerto. There is no Albinoni on the Harmonia Mundi but you may already have his Op.9 concertos. Bernardini on Arcana performs on a very special instrument, made by the maestro Anciuti in 1730; he is acknowledged as one of the world’s finest baroque oboists, and his recording ends with a novelty, the first recording of a concerto by Bigaglia – it’s still the only one available, as far as I know.

If the Arcana was your choice then, you can congratulate yourself now and add the Harmonia Mundi at its new price.

There’s an interesting novelty on the Harmonia Mundi, too, a pastiche of music by Vivaldi and Tessarini specially composed for Xenia Löffler by Uri Rom. The Porta Sinfonia may also be a first-timer on record. A word of caution, however: Harmonia Mundi are far from alone in recycling material in different combinations and the contents of this album have also appeared in another 3-CD budget-price compilation entitled A Vivaldi Grand Tour (HMX 2908745.47). I need only refer you to Jens Laursen’s review of that set for his analysis of the ‘Golden Age’ album.

I should just mention that that alternative set also includes a fine recording of The Four Seasons with Midori Seiler (violin) and a good selection of Vivaldi’s other concertos, together with Rébel’s riotous Les Éléments and music by Caldara. The Seasons and the Rebel come from HMC902061, still available at full price, the Caldara and the rest of the Vivaldi works from HMC902095 (download only).

I understand that A Vivaldi Grand Tour consists of three jewel cases in a cardboard sleeve but capable of being removed and filed individually. The new Voyage à Venise has the three albums in cardboard sleeves, with a booklet relating to all three, the whole housed in a slim carboard box – less convenient, perhaps, but a small gesture towards saving the planet.

To digress for a moment; the more ecologically-minded will be pleased to hear that all new BIS releases will be housed in a plastic substitute, as will their older CDs and SACDs when the jewel cases are exhausted. Older collectors will recall that this is not the first time that BIS have made such a move. The decision is to be applauded – it will cost more, but it’s an extra expense that proprietor Robert von Bahr is prepared to absorb.

CD2: In his pamphlet of 1720 Il teatro alla moda – the fashionable theatre: perhaps ‘circus’ would be more like it – the composer Marcello satirised the excesses of the then new-fangled Venetian opera. On this new recording Amandine Beyer and her team have assembled a collection of the sort of virtuoso display music by Vivaldi that would have annoyed Marcello and which is more likely to delight a modern audience. Some of the works were first performed by Vivaldi’s pupil Pisendel.

It seems hard for us to understand the extent of the shock that some developments caused to contemporaries – Schoenberg would be an example for me and I get some sense of the discontinuity that the Viennese public must have felt from Beethoven’s late string quartets and piano pieces. Likewise, the scordatura effects in Biber’s music. Since most of us got to know Vivaldi’s Four Seasons before the music of the previous generation, the ‘otherness’ of the North Italian virtuoso concerto for contemporaries is especially hard to understand. Avie’s series with la Serenissima and Adrian Chandler on the rise of that form, culminating in Vivaldi and his contemporaries may give some inkling; if you don’t yet know those recordings, it’s not too late – AV2016 – review DL Roundup October 2010, AV2128: Recording of the Month – review – and AV2154 – review – Recording of the Month – review.

Amadine Beyer and her team could have found plenty of examples of the theatricality that they were looking for in the published works from Op.1 to Op.12, but they have given an interesting selection here in very fine performances. I was not alone in my great enjoyment of this first-rate recording – link above: BBC Radio 3 CD Review made it their Recording of the Week and I wouldn’t demur at the description ‘ear opener’ which I have seen applied elsewhere. When you’ve enjoyed it, you may well wish to move on to Gli Incogniti’s next Vivaldi recording of concertos for two violins with Giulio Carmignola, on Harmonia Mundi HMC902249. That’s available in 16- and 24-bit sound from eclassical.com, where the higher quality was still the same price as the lower when I checked, a very reasonable $13.69.

The music from a century earlier on CD3 is, perhaps, the least interesting of the three for most listeners. The music of Giovanni Gabrieli is best heard in a programme such as Paul McCreesh’s A New Venetian Coronation (SIGCD287 – review review review DL Roundup July 2012/2). Or from His Majesty’s Sagbutts and Cornetts, interspersed with Gabrieli’s choral works from King’s College, Cambridge, directed by Stephen Cleobury on 1615 Gabrieli in Venice (KGS0012: Recording of the Month – review review). It’s good, however, to hear the Bologna-based Concerto Palatino in their own right in these Sonate and Canzoni, having enjoyed hearing them play a very effective second string to the likes of Cantus Cölln (Monteverdi Selva Morale e Spiritiuale, Harmonia Mundi HMY282171820, 3 super-budget CDs) and Collegium Vocale Gent (Schütz Opus ultimum, HMG501895.96, 2 CDs, budget price, to name just two of their other very fine recordings.

I missed the King’s recording when it was released, so I downloaded it from hyperion-records.co.uk, where it’s available in exceptionally good value 16-bit for £6.50 or 24/96 for £9.75, both with pdf booklet containing texts and translations. That means foregoing the surround options on SACD or BD-A, which I didn’t find to be any great hardship when the 24-bit stereo sounds so fine, with none of the imbalance problems which Dave Billinge reported from the SACD’s HD layers. The performance of the opening In ecclesiis, one of Gabrieli’s best-known and most effective, pieces, sets the tone for the album – an English collegiate choir’s interpretation, very fine in its own way but missing some of the grandeur which the music can generate. There’s plenty to enjoy here, but I wouldn’t go as far as Simon Thompson, who awarded Recording of the Month status.

I reported my enjoyment of recordings of Gabrieli’s music on Passacaille – the instrumental canzoni – and Hyperion – vocal and instrumental, together with an older Hyperion offering of his instrumental music in 2012 – review. I’m pleased to see that one of Paul McCreesh’s reconstructions with his Gabrieli Consort, Giovanni Gabrieli – Music for San Rocco (1608) has been rescued as a Presto special CD ; it’s also available to download (DG Archiv 4491802).

Another recording Gabrieli for Brass seems already to have disappeared from the catalogue on CD; only months after its release and Recording of the Month review on MusicWeb (Linn CKD581) the Presto link produces no response and Amazon UK have only one in stock at an expensive £17.32. It remains available for download from linnrecords.com in formats from mp3 (£8) to 24/192 flac and alac (£15).

As with CD1, I should warn readers that Harmonia Mundi have played their game of musical chairs with CD3, too; it’s also available on a 2-CD budget-price set HMX290854647 (Saint Marc et Venise, with Monteverdi Vespers excerpts, Selva Morale excerpts, etc.).

Hi-res aficionados should be aware that the two most recent recordings are available in 24-bit format. I originally reviewed Teatro all moda as a 24/88.2 download from eclassical.com where it costs $19.67: UK purchasers will find Presto a little less expensive. The Golden Age I reviewed as a 24/96 download from eclassical.com ($18.49); at the current £/$ exchange rate, the Presto download costs about the same. Obviously, purchasers of the 3-CD set get ‘only’ 16/44.1 sound, but it’s a worthwhile trade-off for the greatly reduced price and I was in no way disappointed by the CD quality.

The booklet reproduces the details from the full-price releases of CD1 and CD2. The notes for CD3 are more rudimentary, but that reflects the cut-down documentation usual with Harmonia Mundi d’Abord reissues. I didn’t appreciate having to squint at the track details and some of the other pages in a small font in white on a red background but that’s just about my only reservation in strongly recommending this set at its new super-low price.

Brian Wilson

CD1: Concerto – Venice: The Golden Age
Uri ROM (b.1969) Concerto ‘L’Olimpiade’ in C, Quasi-Pasticcio after Antonio Vivaldi and Carlo Tessarini [14:47]
Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741) Concerto in e minor, RV134 [5:42]
Alessandro MARCELLO (1673-1747) Concerto in d minor [9:28]
Giovanni PORTA (c.1675-1755) Sinfonia in D [4:28]
Antonio VIVALDI Concerto in B-flat, RV364, RV Anh.18* [8:08]
Concerto ‘per Sua Altezza Reale di Sassonia’ in g minor, RV576 [9:52]
Carlo TESSARINI (1690-1766) Overture in D from Op.4 ‘La Stravaganza’ [6:02]
Antonio VIVALDI Concerto in C, RV450 [10:01]
Xenia Löffler (baroque oboe)
Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin/Georg Kallweit (violin)
rec. 26-28 October 2013 and 4 February 2014. DDD.
HARMONIA MUNDI HMC902185 [68:28] – reviewed in DL News 2014/14 and still available at full price

CD2: Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
Il teatro alla moda: Unpublished concertos for violin
Sinfonia from L’Olimpiade, RV725 [5:49]
Violin Concerto in F, RV282 [10:18]
Concerto per violino scordato in b minor RV391 [10:55]
Violin Concerto in D, RV228 [9:24]
Violin Concerto, RV314a: Adagio [3:07]
Violin Concerto in g minor, RV323 [6:26]
Concerto for violin, strings and continuo in g minor, RV322 (reconstruction) [9:10]
Concerto per violino in tromba in G, RV313 [7:07]
Ballo Primo de ‘Arsilda Regina di Ponto’, RV700 (reconstruction) [2:31]
Violin Concerto, RV316: Giga (reconstruction) [1:44]
Violin Concerto, RV372a: Andante [4:30]
Largo, RV 228 [1:51]
Gli Incogniti/Amandine Beyer (violin)
rec. 6-10 November 2014. DDD
From HARMONIA MUNDI HMC902221 [72:52] – reviewed DL News 2015/10 and still available at full price.

CD3: Giovanni GABRIELI (c.1554/57-1612)
Sacræ Symphoniæ (1597): Canzon septimi toni a 8 [4:32]
Canzoni e sonate (1615): Canzon V a 7 [3:41]
Sacræ Symphoniæ (1597): Canzon primi toni a 10 [3:12]
Canzon noni toni a 8 [3:13]
Canzoni e sonate (1615): Canzon VIII a 8 [5:40]
Canzon X a 8 [4:34]
Ricercar del primo tono [3:17]
Sacræ Symphoniæ (1597): Canzon duodecimi toni a 10 [5:44]
Canzon seconda (Canzoni per sonare, 1608) [2:54]
Canzon in echo duodecimi toni a 10 accomodata per concertar con l’organo [4:44]
Canzon septimi toni a 8 [3:57]
Canzoni e sonate (1615): Canzon VI a 7 [4:46]
Sacræ Symphoniæ (1597): Canzon duodecimi toni a 8 [4:18]
Canzoni e sonate (1615): Canzon XI a 8 [4:19]
Sacræ Symphoniæ (1597): Sonata octavi toni a 12 [3:55]
Canzoni e sonate (1615): Canzon XII a 8 [4:03]
Canzon XIV a 10 [4:02]
Canzoni e sonate (1615): Canzon XVI a 12 [4:57]
Jan Willem Jansen and Liuwe Tamminga (organs of San Petronio, Bolgna, ¼ comma meantone temperament, pitch one half tone above a=440).
Concerto Palatino/Bruce Dickey (cornett) and Charles Toet (trombone).
rec. 8-11 November 1998. DDD.
From HARMONIA MUNDI HMC901688 [75:48] Also available separately on Harmonia Mundi Musique d’Abord HMA1951688 (budget price) and on Harmonia Mundi HMX290854647 (Saint Marc et Venise, HMX290854647 2 CDs, budget-price, with Monteverdi Vespers excerpts, Selva Morale excerpts, etc.)



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