Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

"Music, both vocall and instrumental, so good, so delectable, so rare, so admirable, so super excellent, that it did even ravish and stupifie all those strangers that never heard the like." - Thomas Coryat, after hearing 3 hours of music at the Scuola di San Rocco in Venice, 1608.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Great, but no bizarre

This new album from the Irish Baroque Orchestra is a lovely package of Baroque concertos, all but one of which are from north of the Alps. The music of the time is so full of melodic invention, instrumental colour and sophisticated musical effects, with so many opportunities to appeal to both sense and sensibility. Still, with thousands of albums of concertos quite like this out there, I'm sure it's hard to find a marketing hook for another one, even one with such appealing music.

The keynote of the album, I realized after my first listen, is instrumental colour. There are concertos here for these solo and group of solo instruments:

  • Flute and Oboe
  • 2 Violins and Bassoon
  • Oboe
  • 2 Cellos
  • 2 Oboes da caccia, 2 Violas, 2 Bassoons
  • Bassoon
  • Flute d'amore, Oboe d'amore and Viola d'amore

That's quite an interesting mix, and one that ensures you won't get bored with this programme. I was especially anxious to hear what the last piece, Graupner's Concerto for Flute d'amore, Oboe d'amore and Viola d'amore, would sound like. I'd call it lovely, if only so I could make a multi-lingual pun, as weak as it is. The three instruments all have a rich, earthy sound, which Graupner emphasizes by providing sensual, though hardly orgiastic, music.

But "Concerti Bizarri"? Though there are interesting instrumental combinations here, I'd stop well short of calling this music bizarre, especially after listening to some of the truly odd music by Heinrich Biber on the last album I reviewed, Ars Antiqua Austria's Accordato. This is music well on the Enlightenment Civilization side of the spectrum. The only thing bizarre about this album is the fabulous gargoyle on the album cover.

None of this really matters, though, does it? This is amazing music, by some of my favourite composers. I loved the Fasch, and the Vivaldi, and the Telemann; what fine composers they are! I'm a big fan of Monica Huggett's approach to this repertoire, and the Irish Baroque Orchestra can deliver a slight edge without losing any freshness and melodic appeal. The IBO soloists and players are all superb, providing the best possible advocacy for this unfamiliar music. Just sit back, admire that handsome lug of a gargoyle, and listen to the music.

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