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The English Concert (Bicket)

Katharina Spreckelsen, Nadja Zwiener, Tumo Sami, Alfonso Leal del Ojo, Joseph Crouch; The English Concert/Harry Bicket (Signum Classics)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

The English Concerto
Dall’Abaco: Concerto a piu instrumenti in D; Marcello: Oboe Concerto in D minor; Porpora: Cello Concerto in G; Tartini: Violin Concerto in B minor; Telemann: Viola Concerto in G
Katharina Spreckelsen (oboe), Nadja Zwiener, Tumo Sami (violin), Alfonso Leal del Ojo (viola), Joseph Crouch (cello); The English Concert/Harry Bicket
Signum Classics SIGCD 549   68:43 mins

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Here’s that increasing rarity: a Baroque disc with no conceptual axe to grind, no over-arching theme – save for giving members of The English Concert a concerto moment in the sun – and seemingly out to do little more than delight (which it does so in spades). Listeners determined to winkle out a seam of didacticism might note that the composers are pretty much all of the same generation, and that four of the five are Italian, suggesting a plausible snapshot of the concerto in its originating natural habitat. But then Dall’Abaco carved out a niche for himself in Munich; Porpora spent a decade in London locking operatic horns with Handel; and Telemann’s Viola Concerto in G fumigates a Corellian poise with what its composer gleefully described as ‘the smell of France’. (A slightly starchy Largo aside, soloist Alfonso Leal del Ojo’s performance is the very model of debonair sophistication.)

It’s not the only ‘French smell’ in prospect either. The Dall’Abaco looks to Paris in a Ciaccona that bounces along with knowing suavity, following which Harry Bicket adroitly segues into the jovial Rondeau without batting an eyelid. Galvanised, buoyant, everything is moulded with scrupulous good taste and sparkle, and Bicket’s measured tempo for the opening movement of the Marcello Oboe Concerto allows Katharina Spreckelsen maximum expressive leeway, while Joseph Crouch is certainly feeling the love in the aria-like Amoroso from Porpora’s Cello Concerto in G. There’s room on the disc for an extra concerto, but with such generous music-making, no one need feel short-changed by its non-appearance!

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Paul Riley