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GRAMOPHONE (06/2020)
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Reviewer: Mark Seow

This disc will divide listeners. There are many who, no doubt, will find the performances exciting. Certainly, at no point is the technical facility of soloists Giuliano Carmignola and Mario Brunello under question: both whizz up and down their instruments with undeniable flair. For listeners more like myself, however, it is just too much to take: a style of musicmaking that carries more sense in the flesh, requiring the potential threat of snapping strings, the flaying of horsehair and the smell of sweat – stuff that magically fuses to semiquavers in the concert-hall air – for these performances to translate into virtuosity. On disc, many moments come across as sloppy. The opening Allegro of Vivaldi’s Concerto in C, RV508, for example, is alarmingly messy and slapdash. The soloists’ performances would benefit from a significant dialling-down of risk; only then, perhaps, can the virtuosity so obviously at play be cast as something enjoyable upon repeated listening. In other moments, the playing is nowhere near together enough for this listener’s taste. By no means am I after click-track alignment; some semblance of communal navigation, however, is desirable for the movements of tightly wrought counterpoint.

Sonically, some of the arrangements will take some getting used to. The effect of octave displacement and octave doubling created by the piccolo cello is particularly strange in the opening Vivace of Bach’s Concerto in D minor, BWV1043 (known as the ‘Bach Double’ to most). The Largo ma non tanto wobbles in ego. While I have struggled to enjoy this recording in more ways than not, I recognise that there is some undeniably fine playing on offer, particularly from the Accademia dell’Annunciata, who in many orchestral ritornellos are enviously colourful and exuberant.

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