Twelve Concerti grossi, Op.6
Il Giardino Armonico
Recorded 14-18 June & 23-30 July 2008 in Centro Cultural Miguel Delibes, Valladolid, Spain
Reviewed by: Graham Rogers
Reviewed: March 2009
CD No: EDITIONS DE L’OISEAU-LYRE 478 0319 (3 CDs)
Duration: 2 hours 47 minutes
But – whether because the players mellow as they progress through the concertos, or because the listener becomes more accustomed to their stylistic eccentricities – the performances seem to settle into a more amenable norm, and there is much to enjoy. The disarmingly light and breezy conclusion to Opus 6/Number 10, for example, is delightful; and the apposite boogie-style swing of its third movement raises a smile. The gently mournful nature of the opening of Opus 6/Number 4 has a touching sincerity; and its hushed Largo third movement, with subtle archlute continuo, is fluid and noble.
Continuo instruments are varied throughout, to colourful effect: in addition to the lute, there are two harpsichords (used antiphonally), organ and harp. Such sumptuous variety may be too colourful for some tastes (and it is of dubious authenticity) but generally each instrument is employed sensitively for specific purpose.
Giovanni Antonini is clearly not concerned with slavish authenticity (witness the cheeky but effective use of pizzicato in the finale of Opus 6/Number 11), but with bringing the music alive. He certainly achieves this. Aside from a few moments of particularly contrived eccentricity, the group’s vibrant and provocative style generally has integrity.
Handel’s Opus 6 Concertos are full of music of astonishing breadth and invention, and these thoughtful, passionate accounts deserve to be heard. Whether they are accounts to live with comfortably is less certain. The sound is crisp and immediate, but beware: the overall level is incredibly high. At my normal listening level I was almost deafened by the opening chords of the first disc and had to turn the volume down by more than half!