Claudio Abbado isn't a name one associates with early music, in light of his impressive career conducting the masterworks of the Romantic and modern eras. Indeed, he didn't conduct any music by J.S. Bach with the Berlin Philharmonic until as late as 1994. Yet when he's leading the talented Orchestra Mozart of Bologna in Bach's Brandenburg Concertos, his ease with the music and his players is obvious, and the performances have almost as much Baroque style as many versions by period ensembles of greater longevity. Abbado led this ensemble in all six Brandenburgs in 2007 at the Teatro Municipale Romolo Valli in Reggio Emilio, and the live performances were recorded by Deutsche Grammophon with close attention to details, as befits chamber music.
In November 2004 a new name caused listeners to prick up their ears on the international orchestral scene: under Claudio Abbado’s artistic guidance the Orchestra Mozart came into being. It combines both young instrumentalists on the threshold of a first-rate career as well as eminent chamber musicians such as Danusha Waskiewicz, Alois Posch, Jacques Zoon, Michaela Petri, Ottavio Dantone, Mario Brunello, Alessio Allegrini, Jonathan Williams and Reinhold Friedrich. As with his famous Lucerne Festival Orchestra, Abbado hand-picked an ensemble to his liking, this time one of early- and Baroque-music specialists, all masters in their field.
In tandem with the “Vivaldian ardour” (International Record Review) of conductor-harpsichordist Andrea Marcon and his Venice Baroque Orchestra, violinist Giuliano Carmignola – “a wonderfully accomplished player” (Gramophone) – has raised the bar on recordings of the Venetian Baroque master. This 7-CD set contains many of Vivaldi’s most engaging concertos, enlivened with playing “full of character, energy and sensibility” (BBC Music Magazine) – including “a performance of the Four Seasons as fine as any” (ClassicsToday). It also features Carmignola and Marcon presenting the complete Bach Violin and Harpsichord Sonatas
Recording after recording, Giuliano Carmignola, Andrea Marcon and the Venice Baroque Orchestra have proven themselves as a winning combination. After previously triumphing in the music of Vivaldi, Carmignola discovers the almost completely forgotten repertoire of the Italian violin concerto, bridging the gap between the Baroque and Classical styles in the mid-18th century. During this time period, violin virtuosi would travel across Europe giving concerts to great acclaim. It is their music that Carmignola performs.
This disc is really something special. Collectors are so spoiled for choice in the baroque repertoire at present, particularly on period instruments, but even in a glutted market this disc stands out for imaginative repertoire selection and outstanding interpretation. Its particularly gratifying, in these days of complete editions of everything, to see a discerning artist like Giuliano Carmignola choose four remarkably diverse works by three different composers, and simply play the living daylights out of them. The result roundly disproves the notion that Italian baroque violin concertos all sound the same, a point made even more forcefully by imaginative continuo work (on harpsichord, lute, and organ) by the Venice Baroque Orchestra that helps to emphasize each pieces individual character. The two Vivaldi concertos, for example, couldnt be more different.
“Here Claudio Abbado is gambolling among the Brandenburg Concertos in this straightforward TV-style concert film, recorded in the classic 19th-century opera house at Reggio Emilia during an Italian tour in spring 2007. The orchestra is at first glance a curious gathering, mixing 'Baroque' players such as violinist Giuliano Carmignola and harpsichordist Ottavio Dantone with 'modern' names such as trumpeter Reinhold Friedrich and 'un-Baroque' recorder-player Michala Petri. Furthermore, a look round the instruments reveals mostly modern models, some hybrids…” Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010
As long as there are violinists around like Giuliano Carmignola, classical music will never be a museum for the dead because in his hands, Mozart's Concertos are brilliantly, vibrantly, irresistibly alive. Carmignola, who later signed with Sony and then Deutsche Gramophone after these recordings were made in 1997, is a violinist with a light bow, a warm tone, an impeccable intonation and a superlative technique, all of which are needed for Mozart's effervescent Concertos. But, best of all, Carmignola has an elegant way of turning a phrase and a graceful manner of expressing the inner life of the music. With the skilled if not especially characterful il Quartettone led by Carlo de Martini, Carmignola turns in performances of Mozart Concertos which while they might not challenge the greatest recordings ever made, certainly do reconfirm the life enhancing – life affirming – qualities of the music.(James Leonard)