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The Godfather – Masters of the German & Italian Baroque

La Serenissima/Adrian Chandler (violin) (Signum Classics)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

The Godfather – Masters of the German & Italian Baroque
Concertos by JS Bach, Brescianello, Fasch, Pisendel, Telemann and Vivaldi
La Serenissima/Adrian Chandler (violin)
Signum SIGCD602   66:09 mins

There’s something a little odd about the title of La Serenissima’s debut on the Signum label. True it opens with Telemann who was CPE Bach’s Godfather. But the relationship isn’t pursued. Perhaps director Adrian Chandler has something less literal in mind? For if Vivaldi might be said to stand godfather to the high Baroque concerto, he also took a ‘godfatherly’ interest in his pupil Pisendel’s concerto movement in A minor, offering corrections to a work smuggling in nods to the Red Priest’s Op. 3 L’estro armonico. Then there’s Pisendel himself whose famed virtuosity on the violin possibly exerted an influence on JS Bach’s solo Sonatas and Partitas, not to mention an ebullient multi-instrument concerto movement composed some time after Bach’s 1741 trip to Dresden (where the violinist led the court orchestra). Add in Brescianello, an Italian working in Stuttgart who stitched German ideas into his native concerto inclinations and it’s clear that here is a disc about inter-connectedness. Intelligently planned; eager to stray from the tried and tested.

Bookending the line-up, and with a show-stopper halfway through, are D-major works revelling in three-trumpets-and-drums ebullience bolstered by winds and, in two cases, solo violin. Nothing, of course, quite matches the intricate, dancing exuberance of the Bach, Chandler’s direction customarily punchy and to-the-point. And Peter Whelan is a conspicuously suave companion in Brescianello’s Concerto for violin and bassoon. With La Serenissima on incisively tip-top form the programme’s Italo-German entente proves cordiale even when compositional inspiration sometimes flicks to cruise control.

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Paul Riley