This is a very good recording of a selection of Vivaldi's "concerti a quattro" - concertos for string orchestra without a solo instrument. Here we have a selection from the vast Vivaldi archive in Turin, selected, as Standage tells us, "on musical and pragmatic grounds with the aim of presenting an attractive cross-section".
With this album, Simon Standage continues his survey of the 40 odd concertos for strings by Vivaldi. As with period practice, winds are added to a few of the works. The continuo consists of harpsichord and guitar, the latter a very appealing sounding period instrument. There is less unity of mood on this album than on Volume 1 of this series. Instead, one is prone to gasp at Vivaldi's prodigious invention.
Bessie Smith, even on the evidence of her earliest recordings, well deserved the title "Empress of the Blues" for in the 1920s there was no one in her league for emotional intensity, honest blues feeling, and power. The second of five volumes (the first four are two-CD sets) finds her accompaniment improving rapidly with such sympathetic sidemen as trombonist Charlie Green, cornetist Joe Smith, and clarinetist Buster Bailey often helping her out. However, they are overshadowed by Louis Armstrong, whose two sessions with Smith (nine songs in all) fall into the time period of this second set; particularly classic are their versions of "St. Louis Blues," "Careless Love Blues," and "I Ain't Goin' to Play Second Fiddle." Other gems on this essential set include "Cake Walkin' Babies From Home," "The Yellow Dog Blues," and "At the Christmas Ball."
Francis Poulenc reportedly felt uncomfortable writing for piano and strings and had harsh things to say about both the violin and cello sonatas, remarks duly parroted by critics and biographers ever since. And yet the fact remains that they are his most ambitious, lengthiest, and emotionally complex chamber works. As so often happens in these circumstances, it’s much easier to regurgitate received opinion than it is to actually listen to the music and take it on its own terms.