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.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Gems from Steven Staryk's Baroque archive

Centaur's Steven Staryk Retrospective series reaches its 8th volume (to be released September 9, 2016), and new gems from Staryk's own archives keep coming. Staryk's discography was never as broad or well-distributed as it should have been for a violinist of his calibre, but with this series and the previous Steven Staryk Anthology we're getting a clear picture of a giant in 20th century violin performance.

I spend most of my time in the Historically Informed Performance camp when it comes to Baroque music, but I have a soft spot for Steven Staryk and his perfect accompanist Kenneth Gilbert. Here, playing violin sonatas by Corelli, Tartini and Locatelli, the two are perfectly matched. Staryk's tone and intonation are superb, and Gilbert's continuo is so solid, but with plenty of variety and even the occasional surprise. In the finale to the Tartini sonata there is so much wit and such a strong swinging feeling that one thinks of jazz or the best improvisatory comedy: peak Martin and Lewis, perhaps. That oversells this, obviously, but the cool ease and waiting for the unexpected zinger are both here in Tartini's lovely music.

In the concertante Vivaldi selections Staryk soars. This is what Vivaldi violin playing sounded like at its best in the second half of the 20th century, and it's rarely been better since. The sound is serviceable at best, but, and as was the case with volume 7 in this series, the orchestral support is better than expected. I've never heard of the Montreal Baroque Players, but this pickup band of Montreal's best instrumentalists must have been thrilled to play with a soloist at this level, and they're bringing their best game.

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