Albinoni: 12 concerti a cinque, Op. 5

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COMPOSERS: Albinoni
LABELS: Chandos Chaconne
WORKS: 12 concerti a cinque, Op. 5
PERFORMER: Collegium Musicum 90/Simon Standage
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 0663
Albinoni’s collection of 1707, the second of five spanning 30 years, demonstrates his remarkable distinctiveness. He was master of pert, memorable themes driven by powerful harmony, sequence, and those insistent repetitions of phrase which, far from holding the music up, paradoxically generate highly charged energy. There is, though, none of the soloistic display soon to emerge from Vivaldi. Textures are particularly rich with two viola parts, while his fugal skills impressed Bach, who used Albinoni’s music in his teaching. These 12 concertos fall into groups defined by three kinds of slow movement: four consist of seamless Corelli-like harmony, constantly side-stepping any cadence until the final chords. Four more present an adagio-presto-adagio sandwich (Standage strikingly snappy in the fast sections), while the remainder are gloriously lyrical.

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Collegium Musicum 90’s playing is splendid, energetic yet expansive despite the concertos’ relative terseness of structure and length – 12 on a single CD. Period strings are specially relevant for creating transparent textures: other available recordings are denser, on modern instruments. Crisply articulated, with almost impeccable ensemble from 15 strings and continuo, finely recorded in the spacious venue of a London church – this addition to the catalogue is delightful, and timely for this year’s 250th anniversary of Albinoni’s death. George Pratt