Back in June of 2005, I listened to a new CD of concertos by Torelli. Wow: it was a little harsh. Collegium Musicum 90 under Simon Standage record Concertos by Giuseppe Torelli (p) 2005 Chandos Records. 10 concertos, 77 minutes, trumpets, strings, must all culled from Torelli's opus 8, a more mature collection of the Neapolitan's works. I don't know much about Torelli, personally, I know a quadruple concerto recorded some years ago by Musica Antiqua, and from my own study of the baroque, know he was a formulaic composer of concertos, and his writing for trumpet also stands out in my memory. We wonder, then, why Torelli isn't more often recorded? Standage and company take the concertos with a large ensemble (8+ violins, etc.) but also with smaller forces, for variety's sake. The recording was made at All Saints' Church in London, and was recorded at 24 bit: "these improvements [in digital recording] now let you the listener enjoy more of the natural clarity and ambience of the 'Chandos sound.'" I don't like the sound. Not sure it's the saintly part, or the Chandos part, but in a concerto like op 8 no 4, with Standage and Elizabeth Weiss opposite, the sound is far too wet, there's such boom with the lower register, it cancels out, it seems, a lot of detail. Maybe it's my headphones, but listening on the hifi didn't make much improvement. While we're pitting director against the leader of second violins, I should say, Ms. Weiss sounds angular and rough in comparison to the leader. What I like least, however, is the mushy sound that's left when the ensemble does things like trill together. As any musician recognizes and merits technical precision, we might too, if we could hear it in that awful plume of sound where everything but clarity might be found. Chandos and CM90 sold me a record many years ago with music by Marcello. The playing was okay, but the music stunk like last week's garbage. It wasn't worthy enough, in my estimation, to commit to record. I always had hoped I wouldn't run into that again. This record, however, comes the closest to any other, I must confess, I'm not a big fan of it. Here are my complaints. First, for the composer: * Big ensembles may work in some instances, but I think your music stands better with small, one on a part players. * Some of your ideas are so simplistic, and harmonically stale that we soon lose interest. Please only give your music to musicians who are willing to improvise and extrapolate upon your simpleton ideas. * Give more direction in your scores for dynamic variation. I see the opportunities are there, but evidently you never wrote these in the score. I half-blame you, because three-quarters of the population of musical composers in your time period didn't do anything like this, either. * Perhaps you should have studied the ritornello-solo structure used by Vivaldi. Some say he got his from you, but talk to the man, you might have learned something, or two... despite my jabs, you're not all bad, Torelli, some of your mature work reminds me of one of the first concertos I wrote. Awkward transitions of key, and the like... Next, for the ensemble: * Your recording is exceptionally top-heavy. You're using what? Cellos? Bass violins? Double bass? Organ? It's a shame we can't hear any of this. I mean, I hear the organ, and the lute, but it's all very washed out and it sounds like a system whereby we simple disconnected the sub-woofer. * Let's get a little more creative with dynamics. I hear them in the music, after all. Certainly, you can too? * In the middle of Op. 8, no.8 (C minor), there's these wonderful opportunities to really shine as a soloist. Torelli's setting up this opportunity for pontification of his (simple) ideas... it seems we're not up to taking them? * The playing is good, for the most part; I detect some unevenness with regards to intonation in a couple spots, but generally you guys pass well: you play the notes, and maintain rhythm. But I want you to excite me. Some of the tracks simply bore me. * Listen to the middle movement to op 8 no 6... sounds Vivaldian with those big repeated chords... dot dot dot dot... then a nice smooth legato line in between, right? You're playing all the notes, but where's the style? and the next movement? All those nice ornaments sound like mush again... it's not you guys on that, I know, it's the recording... but come on... This recording is not one I'd highly recommend. I am not sure why, but it sits on my shelf here as a bland release. Torelli's music, of interest to scholars, is performed here, but we now know why he's not rolling off the tongues of today's musical patrons like the names Vivaldi, Bach, or Mozart. He didn't have the same level of giftedness as a composer. Meanwhile, CM90 sounds stodgy (just a bit), and undynamic, in a world that has since brushed the dust off music through energetic performances (say, IGA, Europa Galante, Rare Fruits, etc.). The trumpet playing (Perkins, Blackadder) is good, I only wish they were playing with singleton forces, as I think the music would sing more. I used to really like Standage's music, but this release for me shows a lack of strong direction. Music played well, but without real style. And this music, frankly, could use some style to sell.