Friday, November 19, 2010

Sunday Classics preview: Baroque composers, like musicians before and since, had it bad for Italy, Part 1


Another Winter: Giuliano Carmignola plays the last of Vivaldi's Four Seasons with Andrea Marcon conducting the Venice Baroque Orchestra from the harpsichord.

by Ken

One thing Bach and Handel, those champions of the Class of 1685, had in common was a passion for Italy, or at any rate the music that came out of Italians. Handel was a great traveler; Bach wasn't. But he too managed, even in those days before radios and records and easy air travel, to keep current on what was going on musically in the rest of Europe.

His passion for blessed-by-the sun Italian music was tremendous. Listen, for example, to the slow movement of Bach's ever-popular "Double" Concerto:

BACH: Concerto in D minor for Two Violins and Strings, BWV 1043:
ii. Largo

Roberto Michelucci and Felix Ayo, violins; I Musici. Philips, recorded c1960

I just don't think Bach could have written that without the sounds of Italy playing in his head. And no, it's not by accident that I chose this quintessentially Italian performance. No again, it's not "authentic" in performance style, but I have a good idea that Bach would be astonished that anyone would wish to listen to, let alone prefer, those imitation cat-screechings.


Every now and then I get a post to come out more or less right, which is why tonight I'd like to direct attention back to the one I devoted a number of weeks ago to Vivaldi's Four Seasons (plus the two previews, one and two).

Yes, what was intended -- as so many of these posts originally were -- to be simple and to the point, and wound up being long and involved. But we had four remarkable concertos, covering the four seasons, to encompass, and overall considerations to consider, and I really wanted you to be able to zero in on the individual movements -- in particular the four slow ones -- as well as whole seasons/concertos as well as the piece as a whole. And in particular I wanted us to be able to hear an assortment of ways of hearing the music. In the end we heard, in various forms, all of four recordings and parts of three others -- not to mention the movement-by-movement commentaries offered by violinist Gil Shaham when he recorded the piece at the tender age of 22. On top of which I offered you "what may be the only Four Seasons recording you'll ever need," violinist-conductor Szymon Goldberg's with the Netherlands Chamber Orchestra.

And here again we're going to here an Italian performance, somewhat lusher in style, by the Virtuosi di Roma under Renato Fasano, And then, while we're at it, why don't we hear that luscious Goldberg-Philips recording again?


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