Castello, Marini, Merula, Uccellini, etc.
Rather disorientatingly, two of the four seasonal sections of this programme begin with decidedly 21st-century preludes on recorder and violin respectively, which to my mind add nothing musically to the programme of otherwise 16th- and 17th-century Italian instrumental works – hard to imagine who thought this was a good idea. The witty mosquito imitations of the violin prelude and the lute homage to Yves Montand, shoe-horned into the Autumn selection would probably be well received in a concert but don’t really belong on a serious CD. However, even once we are safely into the real subject of the CD where the choice of repertoire is impeccable and fascinating, and the playing is wonderfully idiomatic, we are still occasionally dropped into episodes ‘arranged’ by the group members, where the early music is forced through a prism of modern textures. I found this approach self-indulgent and annoying, as well as slightly patronizing to the original composers – why bother to learn to play period instruments in an idiomatically authentic manner, only to randomly present some of the music in a context in which it could never have been conceived by its composers? This is a huge pity as most of the repertoire is beautifully and imaginatively presented, and there is fine music here which has rarely been heard before. Isn’t that enough, without cheap gimmicks?
D. James Ross