LABELS: Channel Classics
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Birds, Beasts and Battles
WORKS: Music by Virtuoso Violinists: Vivaldi, Muffat, Schmelzer, Biber, Farina
PERFORMER: Monica Huggett (violin/director); European Community Baroque Orchestra
CATALOGUE NO: CCS 4392 DDD
Subtitled ‘Music by Virtuoso Violinists’, this is a set of Baroque party pieces that call for phenomenal technique to produce a variety of novel and humorous effects. Carlo Farina’s Capriccio stravagante, for example, is a 15-minute tour de force that requires the first violin to imitate the sound of the lira, the fife, the trumpet, the flute, hens cackling, dogs barking and a screeching cat-fight! Biber’s Battalia is similarly programmatic, its sound-effects including back-slapping and pistol shots.
The pieces by Muffat and Schmelzer are less spectacular, evincing a gentle charm; while Vivaldi’s Il grosso mogul concerto is the disc’s most impressive work, not least for two remarkable cadenzas and a middle-movement recitativo that give us a glimpse of the composer’s legendary prowess as an improviser.
Monica Huggett delivers this music with characteristic panache; her Vivaldi in particular is a gripping and bravura account. The 20 students of the European Community Baroque Orchestra (selected anew each year) here offer a spirited, sensitive response that bespeaks their reputation as the continent’s most talented young players of Baroque music. An enjoyable disc, even if the repertory is a shade lightweight. Graham Lock