I Solisti Veneti is one of the first rank of small Italian chamber orchestras with modern instruments. Founded in Padua in 1959 by Claudio Scimone, it has made a reputation especially with Italian Baroque music, recording many works by Antonio Vivaldi, Tomaso Albinoni, Francesco Geminiani, Benedetto Marcello and Giuseppe Tartini. Giuliano Carmignola and Piero Toso were two of the soloists in the ensemble. The group has made over 300 recordings, many on the Erato record label. A number of these were first-ever recordings of works of Vivaldi, Albinoni and Rossini.
The Avison Ensemble, directed by Pavlo Beznosiuk, present George Frideric Handel's complete Opus 6 Concerti Grossi on a three disc set. This work is widely regarded as the composer's greatest contribution to the Baroque period.
The first six sonatas, or the sonate da chiesa as they are commonly referred to, were published in Geminiani’s arrangements in 1726 and met with immediate success. Not only were the sonorities amplified by the instrumental expansion, but Corelli’s difficult-to-play sonatas were now within reach of violinists with more modest abilities. The skill with which Geminiani embellished Corelli’s music while remaining true to Corelli is immediately evident when Corelli and Geminiani are played back-to-back. It is roughly the aural equivalent of a black and white photo now viewed in color. Geminiani’s arrangements of the second set of six sonatas, the sonate da camera, were soon completed but did not meet with the same immediate popularity. The last sonata/concerto, No. 12 in D Minor, the Follia, is structurally different from the others. It is a theme with 25 variations and has taken on a life of its own separate from the other 11 concertos.
This two-CD set was originally issued by Hyperion on CDA 66891/2 in the mid-1990s; it’s good to have the collection available like this and it can be thoroughly recommended.
Wherever the Kaunas Chamber Orchestra comes from, they are excellent in the Baroque repertory – possessing a fine sense of nobilmente mixed with a lively sense of rhythm. The Marcello Concert Grossi may not be quite as fine as Corelli's or Handel's opp. 6, but it is certainly the equal of Torelli's op. 8, Avison's Scarlatti-inspired or Geminiani's opp. 2-5. Give it a try; you won't be disappointed by the sound as indicated by another reviewer.
Tomaso Albinoni was a contemporary of Vivaldi in Venice, and his Concerti a cinque opus 9, published in 1722, provide ample evidence of his felicity in composition. His wife was a well-known opera singer, and his oboe concertos sound like wonderfully cantabile instrumental da capo arias: first there is an energetic fast movement, then a lyrical slow movement, followed by another fast movement that once again takes up themes from the first movement. The music is contrapuntal, harmonious, balanced and, to put it blankly, full of sheer enjoyment…