I love music.

I write about the music I like and have purchased for the benefit of better understanding it and sharing my preferences with others.

Improvisata by Europa Galante

Fabio Biondi and company recently released a new CD on Virgin Classics based on more "concerti con titoli" although many are not concertos at all. And aside from Vivaldi and Boccherini, the composers are not too baroque or too familiar. I just read the Gramophone Magazine review of the CD which said, to paraphrase, that the music was a curious choice, not great. But Europa Galante brought spirit to the pieces. But would it survive repeated listenings? The title of the CD comes from a Vivaldi work (boring, snoozer, skip it). But the real gem on the recording is the Boccherini (and Biondi does Boccherini well) Casa del Diavolo which was recorded earlier by Il Giardino Armonico. To start, the CD has a wonderful recorded sound. Those record companies don't always get a good take in terms of the acoustic and the microphone placement. This one is done well; Europa Galante many never have sounded so rich and full. I feel a lot of the content is wasted on filler. These pieces ought to be heard, for sure, but the album as a unit will fail over repeated listenings. Mix a few of these numbers up in a custom playlist, then we start to build a little interest. For instance, in the Demachi sinfonia: there are some interesting textures, the horns sound great, and... it's fluff. This is not great music. It works. It's fresh. It's light. I want some high-calorie stuff when I listen. And that my friends leaves us with the Boccherini. That's the gem on the disc, the main entrée if you will, and it is fantastic. I compared it with my Giardino Armonico recording. Antonini is about contrasts in dynamics, and has a very brassy horn sound. The strings never really burst forth into the foreground. With Biondi, they do. It simply sounds as if Biondi has more string players. When you're playing loud and fast, it can be difficult to sound together, or "tight" if you will. Europa Galante does it with great skill. I like both performances, mind you, but Europa Galante steals the gauntlet with this one. EG has a flawless technique, and combined with a specially-miked continuo (with all its crunchiness and percussive bite), the sound is simply superior. Antonini's approach might win on "creativity of interpretation." No doubt, the IGA disc is overall more satisfying, musically. But this recording by Europa Galante is 5 star based on their reading of the Boccherini Casa del Diavolo. Turn up the volume, and prepare to have your breath taken away. (It's that good.)


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