Concerto Italiano (CD review)

Giuliano Carmignola, violin; Andrea Marcon, Venice Baroque Orchestra.  DG Archiv 477 6606.

DG's Archiv Production label has been making fine recordings for many years, giving us some of the best Baroque and classical music the catalogue has to offer. Among their latest efforts is the album Concerto Italiano, consisting of four lesser-known eighteenth-century Italian violin concertos.  How "lesser-known" are they?  Three of the four concertos had never been recorded before.

All of the works are by composers who were also virtuosic violinists. Such is the fleeting nature of fame that their names are almost forgotten today, but in their own time these artists wrote scores of sonatas and concertos and would travel the length and breadth of Europe performing their works and those of other famous artists.

The program begins with the Violin Concerto in C major by Domenico Dall'Oglio (c.1700-1764), which features an especially felicitous closing Allegro but is otherwise fairly routine.  Next is the Violin Concerto in G minor by Michelle Stratico (1728-after 1782), a more creative work than the preceding one, more melodic, with a greater variety to the tunes employed.  Here, we find a zippy opening; a serene, if somewhat somber, middle section; and a relatively dramatic finale.

Next, we get the Violin Concerto in G major by Pietro Nardini (1722-1793), which simply sounds bigger than the first two concertos, grander, more ambitious, yet which by its conclusion we recognize is filled with high good spirits.

Saving the best for last, however, is the most-popular concerto of the foursome and the only one to have been recorded previously, the Violin Concerto in C major by Antonio Lolli (c.1725-1802).  The booklet note describes it as a forerunner of and a possible inspiration for the later work of Paganini, whose own Violin Concerto No. 1 remains, of course, one of the mainstays of the classical violin repertoire.  One can certainly hear the similarities in Lolli's piece and Paganini's in their bouncy turns and radiantly charming manner.

To bring off these long-neglected works we need a virtuosic violinist in his own right, and we get that in Giuliano Carmignola, ably supported by the Venice Baroque Orchestra, an ensemble of about sixteen players.  Performing on a 1732 Stradivarius, Mr. Carmignola displays all the technical skill and fluency necessary and does so with precision and √©lan.

If there is any snag to the proceedings, it's the recording, which the engineers miked quite closely.  The violin takes pride of place, up front and center, but the accompaniment is spread out behind and beside him across the sound stage in seemingly a straight line.  This arrangement allows for little depth or hall ambience, although it does offer clear, articulate sound with the instruments practically on top of the listener.  Fortunately, the ear adjusts, and before long one is caught up in the music making and forgetting any minor shortcomings in the sonics.

As a footnote, I might add that the disc offers a remarkable eighty-one minutes of music, one of the longest such timings for a single compact disc in my experience.  In other words, you do get your money's worth.


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John J. Puccio

John J. Puccio

About the Author

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.

Mission Statement

It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.

When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job.

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa