Handel: Concerti Grossi, Op. 6, Nos. 7-12 (CD review)

Martin Pearlman, Boston Baroque. Telarc CD-80688.

The concerto grosso was an important type of Baroque concerto, usually featuring a small set of solo instruments contrasted against a full orchestra. The form first developed around the mid seventeenth century and continued well into the eighteenth century, sometimes distinguished as "church" and "chamber" concerti until Torelli, Vivaldi, Bach, and others discarded the distinctions. The concerto grosso obviously evolved into the modern concerto for solo instruments we know today.

Telarc's booklet note for this disc informs us that George Frideric Handel (1685-1759) wrote his twelve Concerti grossi, Op. 6 (1739), in an astonishing one month! The cheap shot would be to say that it sounds like it, many of the concerti seeming for all the world alike. In fact, when listening to these works, I'm never sure when one has ended and the next has begun. But for folks who enjoy them, this new recording of the last six of them by Martin Pearlman and his Boston Baroque orchestra playing on period instruments is probably as good as any.

Pearlman gave us the first six of the opus some years earlier, and I understand that the critics and the public were kind to them. Although I have not heard the earlier set, I expect they are much the same as these, because what's not to like. The performances are lively in the outer movements and often serenely introspective in the Largos and Adagios. If anything, the contrasts may appear perhaps too pronounced, but I enjoyed the intensified effect. On period instruments we don't get quite as imposing an effect as we do with some performances on modern instruments, but Pearlman and his players are certainly graceful and refined, which helps make up for any lack of outright weightiness.

Moreover, Telarc's sound, recorded in 2007, is wonderfully realistic: warm, mellow, resonant, yet miked closely enough to provide plenty of breadth, detail, and depth. If you like the music, this disc and its earlier companion are among the best you'll find.

JJP

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Meet the Staff
John J. Puccio, Editor, Publisher, Reviewer

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.
Karl W. Nehring, Contributing Reviewer

For over 20 years I was the editor of The $ensible Sound magazine and a regular contributor to its classical review pages. I would not presume to present myself as some sort of expert on music, but I have a deep love for and appreciation of many types of music, "classical" especially, and have listened to thousands of recordings over the years, many of which still line the walls of my listening room (and occasionally spill onto the furniture and floor, much to the chagrin of my long-suffering wife). I have always taken the approach as a reviewer that what I am trying to do is simply to point out to readers that I have come across a recording that I have found of interest, a recording that I think they might appreciate my having pointed out to them. I suppose that sounds a bit simple-minded, but I know I appreciate reading reviews by others that do the same for me--point out recordings that I think I might enjoy.

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Bryan Geyer, Technical Analyst

I initially embraced classical music in 1954 when I mistuned my car radio and heard the Heifetz recording of Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto. That inspired me to board the new "hi-fi" DIY bandwagon. In 1957 I joined one of the pioneer semiconductor makers and spent the next 32 years marketing transistors and microcircuits to military contractors. Home audio DIY projects remained a personal passion until 1989 when we created our own new photography equipment company. I later (2012) revived my interest in two channel audio when we "downsized" our life and determined that mini-monitors + paired subwoofers were a great way to mate fine music with the space constraints of condo living.

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa