At last count the number of classical works I had never heard before stood at approximately 932, 876,562.3. After listening to this two-disc set of Albinoni concertos from Christopher Hogwood and the Academy of Ancient Music, that number is effectively reduced by twelve. I can sleep easier.
For those of you who, like me, recognize Albinoni's name largely from the Adagio in G-minor for organ and strings, famously reconstructed by Remo Giazotto but bearing little relationship to Albinoni's actual hand, these concertos from Hogwood may come as a surprise. Albinoni was a contemporary of Vivaldi, but while the latter is a household name, people play and recognize rather little of Albinoni's output nowadays. More's the pity; Albinoni's work shows sparkle and invention.
Even more so than Vivaldi, who was much more the showman, Albinoni's concertos appear more subdued, more distanced, yet still glistening with vitality. At least that's how Christopher Hogwood, his soloists, and the Academy players present them on period instruments and using historically informed performance practices. Most important, Hogwood takes them at relatively lively but modest tempos, never hurrying the music as so many period groups do. I was most taken by Nos. 2, 7, and 12 for their vivacious spirit, and Nos. 2 and 7 in particular for their lovely slow movements.
Decca's sound has its merits, as well. The engineers recorded it at a reasonably moderate distance for a realistic home-listening experience, offering an image that is set back from the speakers and not spread too far across them. Nevertheless, the timbre seems slightly bright and hard to me and somewhat lacking at the bottom end. I would have preferred to hear a more resonant mid bass to justify the ensemble's perceived location in my living room. Still, the performances and sound are of good quality, and for anyone even remotely curious about Baroque music the set makes an intelligent purchase decision.
To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click below: