Etcetera’s title of ‘Complete Cantatas, Op. 4’ is misleading. This two-CD reissue contains only the complete set (of 12) that appeared in his lifetime – several dozen more are extant. Published as his Op. 4 in Venice in 1702, these chamber cantatas are typical Baroque ‘languish ’n’ anguish’ love laments, six scored for solo soprano voice, six for solo alto. They are beautifully sung by Barbara Schlick and Derek Lee Ragin but, a handful of poignant arias apart, Albinoni’s music generally lacks the melodic and harmonic invention required to sustain over 90 minutes of protracted pastoral complaint. Graham Lock
Handel’s successful blend of new composition and arrangements of existing pieces in his Op. 4 organ concertos is winningly conveyed by this excellent recording. Van Asperen’s stylish playing and appropriate registration, aided by sensitive orchestral support, emphasise this music’s startling diversity. No. 1’s improvisatory organ solos; the expressive contrast between violin and cello concertino and organ in No. 3, and the enchanting atmosphere of the more delicately scored No. 6 are notable highlights.– Nicholas Rast, BBC Music Magazine
Karajan reportedly felt so strongly about his recordings of the Second Viennese School that he agreed to finance them himself when DG balked at picking up the tab. These are great performances, to be sure. Indeed, there may be some others that are comparable, but none are superior. The Berg pieces never have sounded so decadently beautiful, nor the Webern so passionately intense, or the Schoenberg so, well, just plain listenable. The Berlin Philharmonic strings make their usual luscious sounds, but here the winds, brass, and even percussion rise to the occasion as well. And sonically these were always some of Karajan's best efforts. Essential, then, and a perfect way to get to know these three composers on a single disc.