Pergolesi -----> Classical Music Reviews


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Giovanni Battista Pergolesi 6 Concertini per archi e clavicembalo Recorded in October 2001 Warner Fonit 0927 43398-2 I Solisti Veneti Directed by Claudio Scimone TPT 57'30" With the `early music movement' now well over 30 years old we have a situation whereby the once inevitable seeming demise of the modern instrument orchestra playing baroque music has been avoided by those modern instrument orchestras assimilating the performing styles of the `historically informed' school and, as it were, stealing the period instrument groups' clothes. This has generally had the result of producing performances of baroque music that are much more lively and enjoyable to listen to than the previous stodgy offerings of past decades. It has also led to the discovery or rediscovery of large amounts of neglected music, much of it of great value. This has all occurred in an enlightened atmosphere based on sound musicological research and careful examination of original source material wherever possible. The combination of these factors has produced results in performance that make further consideration of the actual instruments being employed unnecessary. One only has to consider the outstanding recordings of Beethoven Symphonies by the modern instrument Chamber Orchestra of Europe under the (originally) period instrument director Nikolaus Harnoncourt to see the results of this combination in the finest flowering. Regrettably, there are still occasions where the various parts that go to make up `historically informed' performance do not quite get presented with the balance required, and this Warner recording of Concertini possibly by Pergolesi makes an excellent example. "Possibly" by Pergolesi because the state of Pergolesi research is not yet advanced enough, and the sources so confused, as to make any concrete attribution possible. Dozens of works were attributed to Pergolesi in the decades after his death, with a view to the marketability of a young, dead, genius. If he had actually composed all of them he would needed at least twice his 26 years, and then with never a moment of sleep. In this instance Claudio Scimone is desperate that these works should be by Pergolesi and goes to great lengths to underline the scholastic rigour which has led him to this conclusion. Unfortunately, his desire has got in the way of his rigour leading him to make unfounded and sweeping statements to dismiss potential other composers of the works, thereby undermining his own arguments. Dismissing the possibility of the pieces being by one Van Wassenaer because Wassenaer claimed they were by him and alleging that Wassenaer's "hypocritical style is in fact convincing proof that the `concertini' are not his work" would fail assessment in an undergraduate essay. An allegedly `hypocritical' style is proof of no such thing. Having gone to these extreme, but ultimately unconvincing lengths to prove provenance of the concertini with what Scimone believes to be `historical' research he then directs I Solisti Veneti in the most historically uninformed performances imaginable. The playing is undoubtedly fine - but the style and interpretation is so far off the mark accepted these days that these sound for all the world like interpretations from the 1960s. This reviewer had to go back to the booklet several times to convince himself that this was not a reissue of a recording from 30 or 40 years ago, but indeed it is not. These recordings were made in the Church of San Francesco in Schio on 22, 23 and 24 October 2001. One just wonders why on earth they bothered. Pergolesi, or any other Italian baroque composer, does not need lush, vibrato laden performances with four cellos in the band and a four bar ritardando at the end of every movement. Such a pity as these works are lovely, if slight, offerings from one of the most elegant periods of music history, but in these verbose and stodgy performances filled with faux-musicological zeal they are just not recommendable. (c) 2002. Peter Wells

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