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GRAMOPHONE (Awards Issue /2015)
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Reviewer: Lindsay Kemp


Nicola Francesco Haym (1678-1729) is not a totally obscure figure. Although this release may well be the first to add these three trio sonatas for strings to the slim count of recorded works by him, he is a name familiar to Handel aficionadas as one of the great man’s favourite librettists. A good one, too, for he lent his literary talents to such high-quality pieces as Giulio Cesare, Tamerlano and Rodelinda. His Op 1 Trios were published in 1701, shortly after his arrival in London from Rome, where he had been a cellist in Corelli’s orchestra. Inevitably they are firmly in the Corellian mould, yet, despite some awkward-nesses, are attractive and individual enough to merit this little outing. L’Aura Rilucente choose to interleave them with trio sonatas from Handel’s Op 2, which are both richer and longer, and, in an imaginative attempt to link the two composers in this instrumental chamber context, with arrangements of three arias from operas on which they collaborated.


So we know that this young Italian group, making their recording debut here, can plan a satisfying and original programme. Their playing is stylish and accurate too, full of smartly observed articulation, phrasing and ornamentation. Less pleasing, however, is a nagging meanness to the sound they make. One longs for them to find greater richness in the string tone, relish the music’s lyricism more and project more urgent energy and momentum. Gaps between movements are often enervatingly overlong (editor to blame?) and slow movements can also lose their direction sometimes. This is a shame, as faster movements do not suffer so, and there are places (for instance the Adagio of Haym’s Op 1 No 4) where an interesting sense of atmosphere is created. The inclusion of a harp in the continuo, though effective here, is elsewhere a mixed blessing. A group with something to say, then, but someone needs to encourage them out of their shells more.


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