The "Baroque Favorites for Guitar" title of this CD implies that it might be a greatest-hits compilation or a collection of tunes aimed at newcomers to classical music, and the presence of the not-really-Albinoni Adagio among the contents reinforces this impression. In fact, it is nothing of the sort. It is the product of a long study on Isbin's part (of course, this isn't the kind of detail the marketing department is looking for!), study that has resulted in quite distinctive music making. The album includes mostly transcribed concertos, with a few solo works.
The Great Classics series from Naxos is the perfect introduction to myriad genres of classical music. Comprising both complete and compiled selections from the greatest words in the repertoire, the boxes are bursting with wonderful pieces of music, both recognizable and unfamiliar. The boxes take the listener on a thrilling tour of some of the world's most dramatic musical media, encompassing music from six centuries and featuring sensational performers. All boxes come with a fascinating booklet with detailed information on the genre itself, chronological placement of each work, and a comprehensive study of the music. A fitting celebration of 25 years of superb music from Naxos, the world's favourite classical label.
Boston Baroque and Martin Pearlman recorded a splendid set of the Brandenburg Concertos on period instruments in 1993 and 1994. Made entirely in the US, these snappy, crisply articulated, and fluent performances rely heavily on the talents of violinist Daniel Stepner (who doubles as one of the two solo violists in Concerto No. 6). Among the highlights are the joyous finale to Concerto No. 4 and the superb cembalo cadenza in No. 5, played by Pearlman. Along with outstanding sound, there's a winning sense of freshness and discovery in these performances.
Lars Ulrik Mortensen is best known as a harpsichordist active largely in Baroque solo and chamber music repertory. But his career is quite multifaceted: he has regularly conducted both instrumental and operatic works and has taught harpsichord and historic performance practices at the Hochschule fur Musik in Munich. He has often appeared in concert as accompanist to singer Emma Kirkby and has regularly partnered violinist John Holloway and cellist Jaap ter Linden.
Over the last 20 years, the Naxos label has done a great deal to obtain its reputation as one of the leading classical guitar labels. Its very first guitarist was Gerald Garcia, who was not slow to show the way forward by extending the rather limited guitar repertoire by making arrangements of pieces originally written for other instruments. This is what he has done here, too: None of the music on this disc was written for guitar, it is all arranged by Garcia himself, who plays a modern guitar and definitely not a baroque instrument.
Despite the use of period instruments, including some fine blaring natural horns, this couldn't be called a historically informed performance of Handel's Royal Fireworks Music, HWV 351. The work was not composed for a pleasant onboard afternoon musicale like the Water Music, but instead was part of an event that would have been one of the top items on CNN Headline News for 1749: the celebration of the Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle, brokered by King George II.