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GRAMOPHONE (12/2018)
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Signum SIGCD549

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Reviewer: Lindsay Kemp

This disc is designed as a concerto showcase for four of The English Concert’s regular members, and does a very good job of it while also introducing us to some unfamiliar but deserving music. The name of Evaristo Felice Dall’Abaco doesn’t crop up too often but his Concerto a più instrumenti is full of life, mixing Corellian concerto grosso style with a French-sounding aria and chaconne, and a rumpty-tumpty finale. Perhaps it rambles a bit, but the playing here is so delightful, especially in the cleanly delineated duetting of the two solo violins, the sharp dynamic contrasts and the tellingly pointed inner-part details, that you won’t mind. Porpora’s Cello Concerto is alas not so interesting, especially in quick movements that display a fair amount of empty passagework, but there is a suaveness to the opening Amoroso and some operatic scene-setting in the inner Largo. Soloist Joseph Crouch is both agile and expressive, though one might wish for sweeter tone.

Alessandro Marcello’s Oboe Concerto is the best-known work here (it is the one Bach transcribed for keyboard) and is given a mellifluous and atmospheric performance with Katharina Spreckelsen as the warm soloist. The way the achingly lyrical slow movement creeps in from near inaudibility is particularly effective and I rather liked the oboe’s cheeky ‘spread chord’ at the very end. Next comes a typically tricky but composed and poetic violin concerto by Tartini; Nadja Zwiener’s violin is quite foregrounded here but does not suffer thereby, as the singing quality and nonchalant virtuosity of her playing (very assured in the frequent double-stopping) mean that it remains easy on the ear. To end, there is Telemann’s Viola Concerto, perhaps a little halting in the first movement where it could have moved more smoothly, but nevertheless played with bold assurance by Alfonso Leal del Ojo; the finale certainly rounds things off with a flourish. Harry Bicket directs the orchestra with precision, clarity and plenty of useful ideas. A nice way to spend 70 minutes of your time.

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