Vivaldi Undercover

Floral design

Passacaglia Baroque ensemble
Barn Cottage Records bcr017
Transcriptions of Vivaldi by Bach, Chédeville & Passacaglia

[dropcap]P[/dropcap]assacaglia are renowned for their wonderfully passionate and detailed playing, and for their custom of arranging Baroque music to suit their instrumental ensemble. This CD illustrates both these characteristics. It features arrangements by later composers – J. S. Bach and Nicolas Chédeville – of Vivaldi’s music, which then undergoes a further transformation at the hands of Passacaglia, who re-instrument it all over again. While I love their lively playing, I find that some of their arrangements have something of a ‘mock-Baroque’ feeling to them, with some of the instruments, particularly the recorders, being asked to do rather unidiomatic things in rather unidiomatic keys. Of course, in the hands of the wonderfully virtuosic Annabel Knight and Louise Bradbury, the playing is never less than superbly accomplished, but sometimes it all sounds a little contrived. The group’s rearrangements of Chédeville’s transcriptions for musette or hurdy-gurdy of two of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, where a hurdy-gurdy is ‘enhanced’ by recorders and a violin along with continuo instruments, seems to me to be neither one thing or another – or rather a whole new thing conjured up by Passacaglia. We have all heard the Vivaldi original and I have heard Chédeville’s transcription on a hurdy-gurdy, both of which are very effective, but what is this? I am always puzzled by Baroque ensembles who feel bound to create their own versions of Baroque music, given that there is such a treasury of music from the period out there which has never seen the light of day. You will enjoy the wonderfully fresh playing on this CD, but I must say I prefer my Baroque music less comprehensively ‘under cover’.

D. James Ross

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