Flat Earth Astronauts: "Its finally here. The debut album from Flat Earth Astronauts. Many thanks to everyone who has been directly involved with the project over the years or given me support and encouragement. What was initially supposed to be a rough demo turned out to be the most comprehensively ambitious record I've worked on. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Patrick Cootes, Leo Benjamin and Dave O'Brien whom without, this project wouldn't be what it has become. Thank you! I hope you enjoy it. A serious amount of time, effort and passion went into its creation".
The conventional view of Niccolò Paganini's 24 Caprices puts them among the encores and etudes violinists use to hone their skills and show off their prowess. But Julia Fischer regards them primarily as expressive works that are as rich in lyricism and emotional color as they are in advanced techniques, and her 2010 Decca album shows her considered approach to the music. There's no doubt about Fischer's impressive abilities, which are apparent from hearing the first Caprice, and all the trickiest double- and triple-stops, bowing styles, and various means of articulation that are included in this fantastic work reveal her phenomenal gifts. But as amazing as Fischer's performance is for sheer technique, it is highly pleasurable because of her polished musicality and firm control of every nuance that is either overt or suggested in the music. The notoriously difficult Caprice No. 6, which Fischer plays con sordino, has a special ghostly quality that makes it much more ethereal and Romantic in character than an exercise in playing trills. Even the ever-popular Caprice No. 9, and that favorite of composers of variations, the Caprice No. 24, have a freshness and vitality that come directly from Fischer's genuine feelings, not merely her dazzling skills. Decca's sound is crisp and clean, so the full range of the violin's timbres and dynamics come through without studio boosting. Highly recommended.
Antonio Vivaldi had his own cello specialist for part of his tenure at the Ospedale della Pietà, and there were several other virtuoso cellists in his orbit. His six sonatas for cello and continuo, of an unknown date of composition, are surprisingly simple technically and may have been intended as teaching pieces at the Ospedale. Most Baroque cellists and viol players, as well as quite a few performers on the modern cello, have recorded them, but this set by Dutch-Swiss cellist Roel Dieltiens stands out as dramatic and adventurous.
This 2-CD set puts together Vivaldi's all nine surviving cello sonatas. Vivaldi may have composed more sonatas for cello for all we know, but this is all we have left. And it is a wonderful legacy, although less known than his violin concertos, for example. Compared with the violin concertos, many of which sound rather run-off-the-mill, these sonatas sound more thoughtful and meditative.
The title and theme of this set of concertos is 'Human Passions.' The detailed booklet argues that Vivaldi was unique in attempting to portray human emotions in the instrumental concertos. As examples of this, the first disc consists of six violin concertos written around about the time of the opus 8 set which includes the Four Seasons. These extra concertos may have been intended to form a new set of six related concertos all linked by Human Passions. The concertos are are titled and five are as follows: Il Sospetto (Suspicion); L'Inquietudine (Anxiety); Il Riposo (Repose); Il Piacere (Pleasure) and L'Amoroso (The Lover). The missing sixth title could have been one of many options and on this disc the extra concerto played is Amato Bene (Beloved Creature). The second disc in the set comprises four reconstructed concertos from a similar period but where the concertos are incomplete, mostly as a result of missing pages or parts. These have been expertly reconstructed to the extent that they sound authentic. Given the sheer number of fully complete concertos already available it may seem a little strange that such an effort has been made in this direction, but they make an enjoyable group.