Colista: Sinfonie a tre

Ensemble Giardino di Delizie
Brilliant Classics 96033

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Lelio Colista seems the classic example of a prolific and admired composer, who (having failed to publish his music) has slipped into obscurity, with many of his compositions having been lost. He moved in the culturally rich ambience of late 17th-century Rome, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Cesti, Stradella and even Corelli, and as the ‘go-to’ continuo lutanist played in all the ground-breaking performances of the day. These nine Sinfonie a tre and single Ballo a tre are all taken from the Giordano 15 manuscript at the Biblioteca Nazionale in Turin, and reveal an inventive and accomplished composer at the height of his powers. The Ensemble Giardino di Delizie playing in the pleasingly resonant acoustic of the Church of St Francis in Trevi, take an energetic and imaginative approach to this fine music, alternating organ and harpsichord, and archlute and guitar in their continuo group and playing with sensitivity and considerable musicality. Undoubtedly reminiscent of the music of Corelli, there is a busy freshness about Colista’s writing which makes the loss of much of his larger-scale music disappointing, but certainly makes these world premiere recordings a very welcome addition to the catalogue. These days, a strikingly high percentage of my review CDs feature performances by Italian ensembles of Italian music of the late 17th and 18th centuries, and both the quality of the music and the standard of the performances is generally very high indeed. Notwithstanding the ubiquity of Corelli and Vivaldi, it is good to see these musicians delving further into their very rich and still largely unexplored Baroque heritage.

D. James Ross

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