Serendipity, pure and simple. This disc arrived along with several others I had not requested. I glanced at it and it "looked original instrument". I put it aside. A couple days later I was driving to Mansfield, Ohio for a workshop. On the way, the "local" PBS station played the announcer called the"echo" concerto. I had no idea that it was from this disc and but fortunately the piece ended as I was arriving, so I was able to find out that it was RV 552. I was hoping that it was, in fact, part of the CD at home and when I got there was happy to find that, indeed, it is. What a wonderful, insightful, learning experience this disc has been.
Prior to this my primary exposure to the composer was the well-known "Four Seasons". Of the several recordings I have, my favorite is the very up-HIP one with Stokowski and the London Symphony. I have other "Seasons" and also like the mandolin concertos. The rest I listened to, however, didn't really sound like much except for more of the same, harpsichord continuo with a lot of violins playing. Aural wallpaper.
This disc completely changed my perceptions. Not only does each composition sound different, there is also difference within each. The notes (excellent, written by Toussaint Loviko and translated by Hugh Grahm) say, "The present programme would suit a researcher into the subconscious… [it] strikes the music-over newly discovering the flamboyant Venetian's compositions: that is, the ever present theatrical dimension." The solo playing is nothing short of fantastic offering shadings that lend matters an almost romantic character. In fact, it is so good that I decided to list all the soloists. The opening piece is exciting and dramatic. The "echo" concerto opens with one of the most memorable tunes I can recall (pun intended, I fear - or is that a pun or just bad play on words?). The notes also offer insights to performance practice of the time that I found interesting. For the "echo" concerto the performers were behind "grills" so that the audience could not see them, thus enhancing the aural aspect.
In the search for the "right word" to describe my feelings about this disc "variety" is the one. I hear variety in each piece and within each piece. Nothing ever becomes aural wallpaper. I know that this will be one of the finest discs I have heard in the year 2000.
Another matter to discuss is how this disc affects what might be a prejudice of mine and perhaps yours, too. I generally dismiss anything that looks like it might be "historically" correct, informed or whatever. It is not really a prejudice since I have listened to many such recordings and feel certain that Stokowski would have been in favor of such performances. On the other hand, my experiences have been generally negative. The music sounds off-pitch (which, of course, it is) and sour to my ears. As a result I almost didn't bother to listen to this disc. I am glad for serendipity.
P.S. The chalumeau is an ancestor of the clarinet.
Copyright © 2000, Robert Stumpf II