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"A Cavalier's Tour through Baroque Europe"

Marie Friederike Schöder, sopranoa
Concerto Grosso Berlin

rec: Feb 19 - 23, 2012, Berlin-Dahlem, Jesus-Christus-Kirche
Berlin Classics - 0300424BC (© 2012) (77'43")
Liner-notes: E/D
Cover & track-list

Pedro AVONDANO (1714-1782): Sinfonia à 4 for strings and bc in D; Michel CORRETTE (1707-1795): Sonata for 2 cellos in Cjk [1]; Willem DE FESCH (1676-1761): Concerto for 3 violins and bc in a minor; Johann Joseph FUX (1660-1741): Rondeau à 7 for violino piccolo, bassoon, strings and bc in C (FedF 111)ed; George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759): Concerto grosso in C 'Alexander's Feast' (HWV 318)gfk; Jean-Philippe RAMEAU (1683-1764): Castor et Pollux, tragédie en musique (Tristes apprêts pâles flambeaux)a; Johan Helmich ROMAN (1694-1758): Overture for 2 oboes, bassoon, strings and bc in g minor (BeRI 43); Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681-1767): Concerto for 2 violins, bassoon, strings and bc in D (TWV 53,D4)gfd; Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741): Concerto for oboe, 2 violins, strings and bc in C (RV 554)bih

[1] Michel Corrette, Méthode théorique et pratique pour apprendre en peu de tems le violoncelle dans sa perfection, op. 24, 1741

[soli] Eva Endelb, Birgit Bahrc, oboe; Thomas Rink, bassoond; Katharina Arendt, violino piccoloe; Britta Gemmekerf, Beatrix Hellhammerg, Andreas Pfaffh, Annika Schmidti, violin; Susanne Hartigj, Andreas Vetterk, cello

This disc offers music of the baroque era from across Europe. Concerto Grosso Berlin justifies its selection of music with a reference to the Grand Tour which men and (some) women from the higher echelons of society undertook in their formative years in order to complete their education.

The programme is a mixture of more (Handel, Fux) or less (De Fesch, Roman) well-known pieces from various countries. Some compositions are recorded here for the first time - at least, that is what the track-list says. That goes for the Overture in g minor by Roman, the Sonata in C by Corrette and the Concerto in a minor by De Fesch. One shouldn't expect large differences, reflecting the various 'national styles'. That is not because there were no such things as 'national styles', but because many composers also travelled across Europe and this way - or through publications and copies of manuscripts - became acquainted with what was written elsewhere, and often incorporated elements of such music in their own compositions.

There is nothing Swedish in Roman's overture, for instance, nor anything Dutch in the concerto by Willem de Fesch. Pedro Avondano worked in Portugal, but was Italian by birth - and that is how his music sounds - whereas Handel was influenced by the Italian style. Telemann, on the other hand, was under the spell of the French style, although he also had great interest in Polish traditional music and incorporated some elements of the Italian style as well. The juxtaposition of his Concerto in D with Vivaldi's Concerto in C is interesting, because Telemann did not - unlike his colleague Bach - follow the Vivaldian model of the concerto, but rather the pre-Vivaldian texture of a four-movement piece, based on the Corellian sonata da chiesa.

There are some issues which need to be mentioned. Firstly, the selection of pieces is a little one-sided, as only instrumental pieces are performed. The only vocal work is an aria by Rameau, which is not part of the programme itself, but included as a bonus-track. It is nicely sung by Marie Friederike Schöder; she could have been more involved in this project. The second issue regards the lack of differentiation between the various 'national styles'. These not so much concern the style of composing but rather the role of the various instruments and the conventions in performance practice, especially in respect to pitch. "For practical reasons and with a view to tonal uniformity, we have decided not to use diverse instruments from the respective countries or the usual forms of chamber pitch that prevailed in them. An Italian harpsichord is used throughout, tuned at the now standard early music pitch of a'=415 Hertz." That is understandable in the case of a public concert. However, a recording project offers the possibility to make such differences, which are very much part of the varied musical landscape in Europe in the 18th century.

The playing of Concerto Grosso Berlin is good, but not really remarkable. The performance of the Sonata in C by Corrette could have been a bit more lively, and the part of the violino piccolo in the Rondeau à 7 by Fux is short in differentation. "We have decided to fill out the rests in the short Adagio [of Roman's overture] with lute and harpsichord improvisations", Thomas Rink writes in the liner-notes. That seems a mistake: such rests usually have a rhetorical purpose and the key of G minor is often an indication of a great amount of seriousness and expression.

All in all, it is in particular the inclusion of some hardly-known pieces which makes this disc recommendable.

Johan van Veen (© 2013)

Relevant links:

Concerto Grosso Berlin
Marie Friederike Schöder

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