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.

Con Amore - Corelli, Vivaldi, Handel, Mozart, and Pachelbel

Conamore I'd been teased several years ago by an announcement on Mr. Onofri's website of a new album entitled Con Amore, and while it was available in Japan, it was hard to find here in the U.S. What I don't understand, really, is why music distribution in this age has to be so difficult (or even this expensive). But that being what it is, I finally purchased it and a yellow envelope arrived with a customs-form attached from Asia. This album contains Corelli's first concerto from his op. 6 collection, the Winter concerto from the Four Seasons, replaced with an opera number that uses material from the opening Allegro, Gelido in ogni Vena. Some Handel, the Mozart Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, a Vivaldi sinfonia RV 149, and as an encore, the Canon from Pachelbel's Canon and Gigue. Onfori performs with Japanese ensemble Cipango Consort and soprano Maki Mori. For not being a "well known" baroque ensemble, Cipango come across very well in this presentation, no doubt coached by Onofri. While the recording lacks the level of detail that I prefer sometimes (likely due to the use of multiple microphones throughout the orchestra), the over all "sound" of this ensemble and the performance space is very nice, and sympathetic to this repertoire. Played on loudspeakers, I get the "sense" of the hall in which this was performed. In the first concerto, Onofri shines coming on top of the texture enough. This performance overall is conservative, but tastefully done. Things get more interesting in the opening to "Winter", replaced with RV 711. This isn't my first recording of this aria from Il Farnace but it is up there with what we might call a classic "Il Giardino Armonico" sound. Maki Mori is a talented soprano, making the more challenging things sound easy enough, with a rounder, sweeter voice, than say, Cecilia Bartoli. I'd also say she isn't as "historically minded" as, say, Emma Kirkby, but her voice is light enough to work, I think, in this repertoire. In terms of balance, she is clearly in "front" of the orchestra which seems appropriate. What's interesting if you go from "movement 1" to the third for "Winter" is the juxtaposition of the soprano voice vs. Onofri's violin as the lead voice. Here's where the pairing of violin and soprano isn't quite right: her sound is a little thicker, a little richer, and over all, more legato than Onfori's playing. I like both, as I imagine the audience did. But the two styles employed -- for as much as you can between and instrument and a voice -- wasn't 100% of the same aesthetic. Doing so, I think, would have required compromises from both artists, and who knows whether that would have been worth it. A Handel movement from his op. 6 concerti grossi open for the next number, Tu del Ciel Ministro Eletto. While the performance and violin sound is exquisite, it isn't cut from the same hardy cloth as Il Giardino Armonico's reading, which was more aggressive and mannered. The Handel aria poses a solo for violin with the soprano solo. Here you can better hear the juxtaposition of styles: the contribution from Onofri is what we typically might expect, his phrasing is delicious, reserved in some delicious ways, with notes that never vibrate too much. Mori's vibrato isn't strong, but it's there, and her style is less fragile. She has an operatic voice for sure, one that is over powering the match of the violin. Their playing is mostly back and forth, but I'd love to hear the violin part played more extravertly, with vibrato, and in a more "modern style." Then, I'd like to hear Mori sing with a less strong voice, taking cues of style from Onofri's violin. What we have is nice, but I'm only pointing out an area for improvement. Mozart is a little different, eh? This was a holiday (Christmas) concert, and likely the repertoire chosen was to be a crowd pleaser. The notes say they switched bows for the Mozart. I think Onfori is a good interpreter of Mozart; I can hear a little bit of his style in the phrasing, from what he did in his album of Mozart's Symphony no. 40. Surprisingly, the piece works with a baroque continuo configuration (harpsichord is there, and I may just detect plucked lute or guitar, too). The orchestral sound can get a little blurry within their acoustical space, but the use of the click and clack in the bass helps keep everything cohesive. The continuo in the slower and quieter parts of Mozart's famous serenade are even more surprising. Using the lute stop on the harpsichord helps maintain the character of the pieces. The closing rondo gets downright rustic at the end, a fitting closer to a concert. When it's finished, applause and a yelled "bravo" are kept in the recording. The Pachelbel encore is a bit strange; it starts with the continuo of course, with a lot of strumming that doesn't quite "lock in" at the start. But it soon enough does, and the strumming from the guitar gives a little bounce to the canon which quite often is never heard from a "classical" or "baroque" performance. While it is played by the whole ensemble and not just three violins with continuo, by the end, it's one of my favorite performances. The bounce in the continuo and swing the ensemble takes up is simply joyous. You can't help but be smiling by the middle of the last track, awash in a beautiful string sound. This was no doubt a very successful concert experience and I'm so glad it was documented in a recording. Bravo, indeed.

Bach Fantasy

Baroque? Or at the least, ornate