Biber/Locke/Zelenka

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2.0 out of 5 star rating 2.0

COMPOSERS: Biber/Locke/Zelenka
LABELS: Teldec Das Alte Werk
WORKS: Battalia; Passacaglia in C minor; Sonata representativa; Music for The Tempest; Canon 4 in 2; Fanfare in D
PERFORMER: Innsbruck Trumpet Consort, Il Giardino Armonico/Giovanni Antonini
CATALOGUE NO: 3984-21464-2
This disc brings together some unusual 17th-century music, much of it descriptive in one way or another, linked into thematic sequences. For example, Biber’s Battalia, with its Ivesian quodlibet of soldiers’ drinking songs, its imitations of battle and its final ‘Lament of the Wounded Musketeers’, is prefaced by a martial Zelenka fanfare (played by the Innsbruck Trumpet Consort), and followed by an elegiac Biber Passacaglia played on solo archlute. The performances are virtuosic and vivid, and brightly recorded, but sometimes free to the point of gimmickry: Biber’s Sonata representativa for violin and continuo is reduced to little more than a catalogue of sound-effects (with spoken titles). And the recorder-playing director Giovanni Antonini has a tendency to insinuate wind instruments into unsuitable places: his participation on tenor chalumeau in the continuo section of a Biber suite for two viole d’amore is bizarre, especially when he takes a little solo ‘break’ in the concluding variations; and Matthew Locke’s sometimes startling 1674 music for The Tempest does not gain character from the addition of recorders and oboes to the string band. Despite the period instruments, this is hardly ‘authentic performance’ as we now know it. Are all the old arguments about the letter and the spirit of interpretation – as if they were mutually exclusive – about to resurface? Anthony Burton

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