The Italian Job
My heart skipped a beat when this new offering from La Serenissima and Adrian Chandler landed on my desk, such was my enjoyment of their Gramophone Awards-shortlisted Vivaldi Four Seasons recording (10/15). So to discover that with this all-Italian assortment of sinfonias and concertos they’ve actually topped their 2016 triumph – and apparently effortlessly – gives me no small amount of pleasure.
La Serenissima have a glorious and all-too-rare ability to make one’s pulse race afresh with every new project, and ‘The Italian Job’ has all their typical hallmarks: a fresh, zinging tone alive with vitality and enjoyment, an effortless easy panache from both ensemble and soloists, and the whole underpinned by a scholarly attitude to programming and performance style which is yet worn with light grace.
They also throw the recording critic a problem, because when faced with such a consistently excellent, colouristically and stylistically contrasting programme whose differences absolutely sing together as a unit, then to draw readers’ attentions to ‘highlights’ feels thoroughly unhelpful. However, I will say that Chandler’s violin solos in the Tartini Concerto for violin, strings and continuo are ones of a singing sweetness and ease that leave you wishing it wouldn’t end. Also, that never has an Albinoni oboe concerto held me in such rapt delight as this double concerto did with soloists Gail Hennessy and Rachel Chaplin. Finally, that while with recordings I’m usually focused only on the finished package in my hands, with Torelli’s Sinfonia in C I couldn’t help but dream of what an extraordinary listening experience it must have been at the recording session, at St John’s Smith Square – both in the lavishly ringing tuttis (this sinfonia has a monster-sized solo line-up of four trumpets, timpani and two each of oboes, bassoons, violins and cellos) and in the sudden drops down to unexpectedly intimate string forces.
In short, were I asked to condense this review down to two simple words, they would be: buy it.