Several ensembles have presented to us variations on a Spanish-origin tune, Follias. By the late baroque, this was pretty much codified around a harmonic progression, not unlike, perhaps, the one use to frame Pachebel's variations for three violins. One of the highest forms this piece took was with Corelli's variations on La Follia, in his opus 5 collection published in 1700. This recording from Savall featuring violinist Manfredo Kraemer (and guitarist Rolf Lislevand) puts Corelli in the center in a survey of this piece from around 1500 until 1750. It's a follow up to his companion recording, going back further into the 1400s. I actually prefer this recording, the performances are good, but they're also of music that I think is ultimately stronger. The CD opens with percussion in an anonymous version entitled Folias Criollas. The rhythm is immediately recognizable, while the harmonic structure isn't yet solidified. It's fun, featuring treble viol in the melody. It's a dance tune, for sure. Things become more intimate and quiet in the next track, Folias antiguas. The harmony here is easily recognizable, where the "characteristic" rhythm is absent. Percussion comes to the party later, yet the piece never takes on a "dancy" character. Hespèrion XXI's sound comes out, with a rich palette of colors, including harp in the texture. The sixth track is familiar, listening to Lislevand's recordings with Ensemble Kapsberger, Piccinini's Partita sopra la Follia. The version here is a little more straightforward, and certainly less colorful than what EK is capable of doing. These variations on the lute are nevertheless beautifully captured. Falconiero offers a version of La Follia for violins "Para mi señora Doña Tarolilla de Carallenos." The violin playing is stylish and the color of the entire ensemble is both tasteful and colorful. The ninth track offers a pre-Corelli version known as Faronell's Division. Kraemer's sound is rustic and full-bodied, which seems to be a perfect match for Hespèrion's color. Lislevand returns with one of Corbetta's folias on the baroque guitar. His performance rivals, I think, the one by Jakob Lindberg from his all-Corbetta recording on BIS. HXXI offers two all-harpsichord versions which I could have done without; doing so would perhaps ignore music history, but both the metallic sound and straighter-playing seemed to be a strong contrast to the other performances. Among the two, however, the variations on track 12 by Juan Bautista Josep Cabanilles is the most interesting, I think; musically more mature than the version by François Couperin for the same instrument. The Albicastro version for violin and continuo from 1704 was new to me. It takes some interesting harmonic turns, and is supported by cello and harpsichord. Frankly, I think the piece is even more exciting than Corelli's more famous version. Kraemer does an excellent job on the violin, adding a significant amount of raw energy into the multiple instances of chordal writing for the violin. One of my real favorites from all of the baroque is Vivaldi's version, which is presented here as the fitting last track for two violins and continuo. Savall pulls out all the color for their reading, using cello, guitar, violone, and harpsichord to fill out the continuo. All that flavor takes Vivaldi to a different place, but it's a good place. Kraemer dominates in the balance between the two violins (he is here joined by Mauro Lopes on second violin). There's a lot of virtuosity spilling over by the end. The booklet is nicely done, with full color photographs of the performers during the recording session. My only gripe with the recording is the closeness of the Kraemer's violin to the microphone. It sounds too close, offering a very aggressive tone at times. The amount of talent on the CD is generous, and for me, it offered several new versions of "follias" to my collection. This has to be one of my favorite "Follias Variations" CDs to date.