The discography for Tomaso Albinoni is firmly centered around his concertos for oboe, from which the "Adagio" is likely his most famous work today. I have explored more of his work beyond these concertos, however, mainly because he's a contemporary of Vivaldi and an Italian composer from the nearly-late baroque period (Veracini and Locatelli are behind him, and their works can take on a whiff of the galante and a change in musical flavor). Elizabeth Wallfisch had come out with some of his violin sonatas, recording his opus 4 and opus 6; I also picked up his collection of sinfonias, opus 2, by Ensemble 415. These performances, while competent, never really sold Albinoni to me as a composer I should be paying attention to.
This newer recording by Guillaume Rebinguet-Sudre (violin), Claire Gratton (cello) and Jean-Luc Ho (harpsichord) includes selections on Wallfisch's earlier CD. In listening today to Wallfisch for comparison, her concept of phrase is choppy to my ears; the natural phrases are short, but I think the performer needs to stretch a larger phrase sentence over these smaller chunks. Her playing lacks the expressivity and polish compared to what we find in this new recording; in fact, it sounds more like a student recital compared to a great master. I did, however, appreciate the sound color of the organ used by Paul Nicholson in her basso continuo line.
Bianchini and her ensemble are captured with a very special sound; the acoustic gives the recording a kiss of warmth. Her violin playing, however, lacks the expressive depth that's present in his newer disc of solo sonatas. That, and the fact that the op. 2 collection isn't the same music.
What I was waiting for were performers who might inject a little more passion and emotion into the music. Someone or some group that would really sell Albinoni as a better composer than a guy who did this just for fun.
This release may just be what we were waiting for. First, the instrumental sound and colors (from baroque violin, harpsichord, and cello) are really nice. The violin in particular has a beautiful tone, and is in the hands of a player who is not shy to extract a number of different colors from it. The harpsichord may be miked a tad soft in comparison to the violin, but the playing is sharp and the tone of the instrument is bright. The cello is captured at an appropriate distance from the violin so that is clearly heard as its own voice in the soundstage. As a team, the continuo fits the line together like an agile hand in a well-fitting glove. The liner notes describe how the violin was especially made to work as an ideal Venetian instrument, apropos to the period.
This CD features a sampling of Albinoni sonatas for violin and continuo from across his ouevre, but not from one single collection (the notes say the sonatas date from 1711-1717). Immediately I like the sound of the violin but it goes beyond that. The violinist is very competent at the faster movements, making them sound exciting, giving them character. The tempos are well-chosen and fast movements go fast. You, in fact, feel the wind in your hair just a bit. But it's in the slow movements (that, I will admit in os many musician's hands can be boring, to me) where this trio especially shines, in great part, to the phrasing the ensemble has chosen (slowing and going faster to fit the line, not just sticking to one metronome reading) and because of the technique the violinist has in playing those slow lines with great expressivity. It is not surprising to me that he studied with Helene Schmitt, who can also make a slow movement sing. The shape he gives to a line, combined with his very slow vibrato in the left hand contributes to a beautifully-expressive line. Once you hear it, it's hard to switch to a recording that has the same (or simliar) line played "straight."
There's enough variety here from the choices in the sonatas to not have everything sound the same (this is what happened for me in the Locatelli Trio's reading on Hyperion). While this small trio is likely made up of musicians new to you, they've made a very exciting recording together. Albinoni the composer may be finally getting his due with his violin repertoire. I had found his oboe concertos under Paul Dombrecht to be a big improvement over what came before, and now, this is how I think we can appreciate his follies for violin in comparison to those already well recorded by Corelli and Vivaldi.
Bravo to Rebinguet-Sudre, Ho, and Gratton on Rebinguet-Sudre's first solo CD. I look forward to more collaboration and recordings.