Red Priest performs Pirates of the Baroque ℗ 2008 Red Priest Recordings. The recording includes works arranged by the ensemble, written by: * Jean-Marie Leclair * Giovanni Simonetti * Tomaso Albinoni * François Couperin * Antonio Vivaldi * Tomaso Vitali * Giuseppe Tartini I wonder what audience this music is really intended for; on one hand I might suspect the casual listener who wants something amplified and exciting; I mean, how many ensembles are so theatrical, to dress up as pirates on the CD cover? Sonically, there's something missing in the small ensemble of cello, harpsichord, recorders, and violin. It's chamber music, at best. Yet, as "classical" a fan as I am, I can't help but use my modern technology to turn-up the volume a bit. The group Red Priest, named after Vivaldi of course, is all about having fun. I think ultimately that's what the outfits are about. And yet in that fun exists a lot of virtuosity, too. Their Bach Album (Johann Dancing) and Vivaldi album (Nightmare in Venice) were interesting, for no other reason, it allowed me to re-visit favorite pieces by the two composers in a very energetic, extreme type of way. At the same time, it's not a CD I could keep repeating over and over. There's something lost in repeating the extroverted, theatrical performances over and over (either when we go back to the more stoic originals, or because we get so used to this one method of creative interpretation that, in their hands, they'd likely perform differently each time around). The case is different in this recording of lesser-known composers and lesser-known works. First, Piers Adams is once again in top-form, and more so than any of the other players, he's simply amazing to take-in. He's a technical genius, and we can't blame him for pushing anything too hard… he can do it. For me the two main highlights are two concertos by Vivaldi, RV 565 and RV 433. These are the tracks that "set the CD on fire," so to speak, while some of the others, like the Tartini, might be considered "filler." But I think that's unfair. A good album is like a good concert; each item contributes to the whole, and Red Priest's approach here is more like a concept album, or a concert, than "an entire opus of one composer's works." The ensemble tries hard, as in the middle movement of the RV 433 concerto, to emulate the sound of a larger group, which while may not be "authentic," nevertheless is done tastefully enough and is convincing. The ensemble's ability to turn the "tempo" dial at whim to speed things up, then slow them down immediately later for effect/affect is a hallmark in this recording; if I were to compare it to Fabio Biondi, this treatment is a few levels more extrovert. What I didn't like was the ensemble's vocalizations (i.e. "Ship's Ahoy, Shiver me Timbers!") in the ultimate track. I get the theme, guys, but I'd have saved that for the concert, not a recording I may want to play over and over. Perhaps they did a little too much of a kitschy thing. I do realize Vivaldi's concerto is named "Tempest of the Sea," but turning the virtuosic performance of a baroque concerto into a pirate theme song seems out of place. The opening works by Leclair and Simonetti are a good contribution, offering a nice blend between the toe-tapping virtuosity and technical fireworks, versus the more contemplative. The Couperin "suite" was the most unfamiliar of pieces; so now named for piratey-scenes. I think in time I'll grow to better appreciate these pieces as they become more familiar. This recoding defies comparison to most all the other recordings I review here. These four do some incredible things. Yes, I recommend their albums! The music is "amplified" for the 21st century, but at the same time, they're probably doing something very baroque-era-esque by "re-inventing" these pieces for today's audience. My ultimately reservation is the adherence to their theme for the album; the music and the performances were perfectly fine without the "piratey" focus.