In terms of their reputations, it is the misfortune of both Albinoni and Telemann that they shared their time and space with Vivaldi and Bach - respectively, the nonpareils of Venetian Baroque and Baroque everywhere else. Nonetheless, these oboe concerti of Albinoni testify to the considerable talents of the Red Priest's contemporaries. Three of the four concerti that begin CD1 (those in d, C and g) are probably the equals of anything that Vivaldi wrote for this instrument. They show the 51 year old composer (former dilettante now turned professional) at the height of his powers. Telemann's works on these discs, meanwhile - and especially the wonderful Sonata in g from 'Tafelmusik III' - show him at his most inspired…By Jon Chambers (Birmingham, England)
Il Nascimento dell’Aurora belongs to the genre of the serenata, which was so well-loved in the 18th century. These serenatas were chiefly short operas of tribute, set in arcadian-pastorale surroundings, staged either fully or partially, and often performed outdoors. Mythological figures first shown in the timeless world of legend leave their mythological framework at the end of the work to congratulate and pay tribute to an actual person. The commission for Il Nascimento dell’Aurora was presumably given to Albinoni between 1711 and 1717 to celebrate the birthday of Elisabeth Christine von Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel, wife of Emperor Karl VI. The work is for five solo voices, strings and continuo with obbligato theorbo.
The English Concert is a baroque orchestra playing on period instruments based in London. Founded in 1972 and directed from the harpsichord by Trevor Pinnock for 30 years, it is now directed by harpsichordist Harry Bicket. The orchestra has been led by Nadja Zwiener since September 2007. The English Concert was founded by Trevor Pinnock and others in November 1972. The date of foundation is often given as 1973, probably because they started with seven people and only later progressed onto the orchestral repertoire as their number increased. They were one of the first orchestras dedicated to performing baroque and early classical music on period instruments, their repertoire from then to now ranging approximately from Monteverdi to Mozart…
Although known almost exclusively for his instrumental concertos and the spurious Adagio attributed to him, Tomaso Albinoni was mainly a man of the theater; he composed 81 operas and, late in life, made his living as a singing coach. However, the best efforts of posterity to catch up with Albinoni's operatic creations are significantly stymied by the fact that only three of his stage works are fully extant, the rest preserved only in occasional and fugitive fragments in the form of single arias and other bits and pieces. "Il Nascimento dell'Aurora" is a serenata – or more specifically, a "festa pastorale" – a kind of courtly entertainment not really meant to be specifically dramatic or compelling and, in this case, dealing with the birth of Roman goddess of the dawn, Aurora ….
The artistry of Holliger (b1939) prompted Evelyn Rothwell (Lady Barbirolli) to call him 'The Paganini of the oboe' Holliger's mastery of the oboe ranges over a vast expanse of repertoire, from the baroque to contemporary – Bach to Berio and Zelenka to Zimmermann. His style is notable for its flexibility, agility, integrity and ability to communicate convincingly across the wide range of repertoire he performs. Holliger has done much to champion the oboe music of composers such as Zelenka and Krommer, and has also had over 100 works composed for him by composers including Berio, Carter, Henze, Ligeti, Lutoslawski, Penderecki and Stockhausen.
Better than I expected. Albinoni's Vespetta E Pimpinone is a 36 minute comic opera intermezzo, meant to be performed between the acts of an opera seria, in order to provide contrast. This is not a great work, yet the musicians perform it well.
The Savaria Baroque Orchestra, a period-instrument orchestra, was formed to re-discover and perform rarities from the 17-18th centuries. It is very good here. The soloists sing well, especially Edit Karoly, whose clear voice is a pleasure to listen to.
By Lynn Vale
Etcetera’s title of ‘Complete Cantatas, Op. 4’ is misleading. This two-CD reissue contains only the complete set (of 12) that appeared in his lifetime – several dozen more are extant. Published as his Op. 4 in Venice in 1702, these chamber cantatas are typical Baroque ‘languish ’n’ anguish’ love laments, six scored for solo soprano voice, six for solo alto. They are beautifully sung by Barbara Schlick and Derek Lee Ragin but, a handful of poignant arias apart, Albinoni’s music generally lacks the melodic and harmonic invention required to sustain over 90 minutes of protracted pastoral complaint. Graham Lock