Fabio Biondi, Europa Galante. Virgin Classics 7243 5 45723-2.
I suppose one should pursue what one is good at. In the case of Fabio Biondi and his Europa Galante ensemble, what they've good at over the years has clearly been interpreting the work of Antonio Vivaldi. Nearly half of Europa Galante's recorded output for Virgin Classics and Opus 111 would appear to be works of Vivaldi. Darn good thing he and his group do it with such popular appeal.
In this instance they provide their second volume of Concertos for various instruments, the various instruments being violins, violos, flutes, oboes, cellos, horns, bassoons, timpani, harp, and harpsichord, all in assorted combinations in seven separate concertos. As usual, I came away from the album unable to tell or remember one piece from another, except in the case of the opening work, the Concerto grosso a 10 strumenti, per violino principlae, 2 corni da caccia, tympano, 2 oboi, 2 violini, alto viola con basso, RV 562a. This is the biggest, broadest, and most imposing piece of music on the disc, making an appropriately theatrical attention-getter to begin the show.
Biondi and his players perform all of the concertos in a typically lively style, a hallmark of his success. While the readings may not be as polished as those by some other Baroque interpreters like Pinnock and the English Concert, Hogwood and the Academy of Ancient Music, and their kin, Biondi's enthusiasm makes up for any small deficiencies and quickly wins the day. Although I must say, in his defense, that he has calmed down somewhat since his first heady days on Opus 111. Nevertheless, the speedy tempos and wide dynamic contrasts remain, if not at quite so breakneck a pace.
The Virgin Classics sound is robust, to say the least. It is slightly closer than I'd like to hear, rather large in a melodramatic sense, fairly well detailed but a tad soft around the edges. For listeners who like their Vivaldi big and bold, Europa Galante should again fill the bill.
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.
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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