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GRAMOPHONE (06/2022)
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Reviewer :
Mark Seow

Many of these performances warm into truly enjoyable interpretations, though what inspires this slowly-does-it, tentative approach, I’m not certain. Take the Andante of Galuppi’s Sinfonia in G from Il mondo alla roversa (1750). By the movement’s close, we’ve reached a gorgeous swing, a stream of sound rippled through with Francesco Corti’s sparkling harpsichord figurations. But it starts off prosaic, as if not certain of its own melodic charm. A similar issue colours Vivaldi’s Mandolin Concerto in C, in particular the Allegro, which opens the programme. The continuo team of Il Pomo d’Oro could be far more thrilling, authoritative in energy and direction; there’s just not enough edge for my liking. Raffaele La Ragione’s gorgeous sound and technique can certainly take it, and there’s plenty of room in the texture for more ping and electricity.


Yet it’s a whole different story with the Concerto attributed to Giovanni Paisiello. On his four-course ‘Neapolitan’ mandolin (c1770), La Ragione is a total joy. His playing is nimble and lyrical, quirkily suggestive but never obvious. Il Pomo d’Oro up their game, too, and give us sunshine streaked through with a luscious bluesy bend or curvaceousness. In the following movement, a Larghetto grazioso, we’re treated to a mesmerising cadenza: melancholic breath at first, then La Ragione, swirling through a starlit sky, brings us back to place of stable sadness. The orchestral return is some of the most attentive musicmaking on the album, and when this gives way to the final Allegretto we’re treated to even finer playing. Well-calibrated energy pushes us through Paisiello’s sequences, and the somewhat nasal lower range of La Ragione’s mandolin brings much character. Corti’s imaginative pacing and varied touch do not go unnoticed either; I love the way he stirs the bass line into drama controlling an accelerando that teeters on the edge of danger.

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