For her first collaboration with the period ensemble Il Giardino Armonico, violinist Isabelle Faust performs the five Violin Concertos of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, along with three shorter concertante works. This is an extraordinary set, for the historically informed performances, the polished sound of the group, the almost palpable presence of the players, which Harmonia Mundi has captured with superior engineering, and for the unrepressed joy in the music. Faust is the center of attention, naturally, and her refined and expressive playing immediately pulls the listener in. These are far from the most demanding concertos in the repertoire, so Faust is less concerned with technical execution than with conveying the pure feeling of the music, which is delightfully buoyant and uplifting. Under the direction of Giovanni Antonini, the group provides warm and sparkling accompaniment that gives Faust all the support she needs, but there's no doubt that she sets the emotional tone for these exquisite recordings. Highly recommended, especially for devotees of Classical style at its finest.
This album is full of surprises, not all of them associated with its musical contents. Advance PR materials stated that its contents were recorded originally for televised broadcast in 2004, then forgotten, and only just rediscovered. A final recording by the celebrated Musica Antiqua Köln, forgotten by its The music is a bit of a surprise as well, if not the result of an “original genius” that Goebel likens to C. P. E. Bach. Johann Friedrich Meister (1638–97) seems by all accounts to have been something of a rebel, getting himself imprisoned the year after his appointment as music director of the Hofkapelle of Duke Ferdinand Albrecht I of Brunswick-Lüneburg.
For fans of Il Giardino Armonico's flamboyant flourishes and exuberant expressiveness, it's like having all your birthdays at once, being presented with this great Warner Classics 11 CD set. My own feeling is that this "free" approach to Baroque music is at its best when applied to the theatrical music of disc 8 or the seventeenth century Italian music on disc 1. The showmanship and playfulness is an absolute joy in many of those pieces. I'm less satisfied with the interpretations of Bach's Brandenburg Concertos, (on discs 10 and 11), which require a different approach, I feel. I like my Bach to be a little more measured and subtle, I suppose. It has no need of the Il Giardino Armonico treatment. On the whole, though, I do love this set and wouldn't be without it.
Dutch-born composer Johannes Schenck is another in a long line of Baroque composers whose works are only now being discovered and given their first modern performances. Thanks to the intrepid investigative work of harpsichordist Pieter Dirksen – a member of the ensemble La Suave Melodia heard here – a set of 12 trio sonatas of Schenck's Opus 3 that were thought to be lost have been unearthed.