Passionate scholarship, scholarly passion
Sean47 | 09/14/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Andrew Manze and the English Concert have given us one CD already: their performance of Mozart's "Night Music" (one of the best Mozart programs I've ever seen) redefined how Mozart should sound. After such an amazing first release, I wanted to be the first kid on my block to own this new CD and I believe that I am. I hope that someone will give me a cookie for my effort.
This reviewer knows that everyone is human, but Andrew Manze has reached a level of performance that surpasses perfection and only his best peers have the right to criticize. When every major publisher and performer in the world "fixes" one of Mozart's notes in Eine Kleine Nachtmusik and Andrew Manze restores it and it finally sounds right, maybe we should listen to Mr. Manze--he has much to teach us and we have much to learn.
And teach he does; Harmonia Mundi was nice enough to send buyers of "Night Music" a full length CD which features Mr. Manze's "director's commentary" on Eine Kleine. (This sort of commentary may be the first of its kind; we must all pray that it is not the last.) I listened to a seasoned music teacher at my Conservatory tell me that she had always despised Eine Kleine; when she heard the commentary, she fell in love with the piece. This sort of phenomena is common. Mr. Manze always writes the most fascinating and erudite liner notes that never cease to illuminate the music for both laymen and scholars. Young American music students who have an interest in period performance must seek out Manze's work.
So what about the Vivaldi, then? From the tray card and liner notes: "This programme brings together for the first time a reconstruction of six violin concertos from the manuscript which Vivaldi presented to the Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI in 1728." "This recording presents... the six concertos which can be reconstructed from alternative sources." "Performing editions for this recording were prepared from existing sources by Andrew Manze." Andrew Manze's devotion to music through his scholarship is not peerless, but his peers are few and you've probably heard of most of them: Cecilia Bartoli, Rinaldo Alessandri, and Alessandro di Marchi. Looking at those names brings up the question: can English groups perform Vivaldi well?
The short answer, of course, is "damn yeah they can," but this issue could use a paragraph. With all due respect to the founder of the English Concert, Trevor Pinnock's Vivaldi did not sound like this, and neither did Christopher Hogwood's--both English keyboard players, both respected scholars. Europa Galante, Il Giardino Armonico, and Academia Montris Regalis have shown the world that they know how Vivaldi should sound; their interpretations can be very intimidating because Vivaldi is simply in their blood and you can hear it. But Handel, a German, became an Italian composer, Bach successfully combined the French and Italian styles, Geminiani was loved in England. The Italians may have Vivaldi in their blood, but the best of Baroque musicians transcended their nationality and enjoyed the diverse flavors of Europe's musical geography--even if it posed considerable headaches with instrumentation, continuo style, ornamentation, and so forth. The same is true today; the English Concert cannot escape their name, but their consummate musicianship surpasses their nationality. (Think of Rachel Podger's extremely successful recording of Vivaldi's La Stravaganza--an English violinist playing Italian music with a Polish orchestra recorded by a company based in the Netherlands.)
I would write more about the passionate side of this recording, but writing about passion is more futile than describing the internet to a walrus who has never seen a computer. Let's just say that Andrew Manze has barrels of "it," and uses "it" judiciously and deliciously. Of course, it would be worthless to comment on the performance itself, what I liked about this track and that track. (If you're a violin student, be over a toilet when you listen to the third track for the first time. I mean this figuratively.) The recorded sound is, of course, unbelievably amazing--audiophiles will definitely want to wait for the SACD release. If you heard "Night Music," you know as well as I that you must buy this disc. If you haven't heard Andrew Manze play, you need to and this CD is a great place to start--it represents the current climax of his career which he will continue to surpass every year with his continued success. Do you remember what Leonard Bernstein did for classical music appreciation? If these performers continue what they have been doing, they will be the leaders of a very large musical revolution that brings laymen back into our concert halls and gives seasoned musicians new tools to express themselves. This historical revolution has been building a larger and larger audience for the past three decades and shows no sign of slowing down. If classical music is flat-lining, Andrew Manze's performances represent those heart-paddle things that jolt you into the air and back into the world of the living. Clear!!!
If all this sounds too fantastic to be trustworthy, buy the CD, write a review, and show me where I am wrong. But for those of us familiar with his passionate scholarship and scholarly passion, this is just the latest in a long line of desert island discs from the world's most talented period performance ninja, Andrew Manze."
A different Vivaldi
jsa | San Diego, CA United States | 07/09/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"What we've got here are six "reconstructed concertos" that come from a group of 12 that bear the same name as their famous counterparts, "La Cetra," but are completely different. Without going into the history of these pieces (the attractive & well informed harmonia mundi liner notes tell the story better than I can), let me just say that they existed in virtual obscurity until this recording. Let me also say that I wasn't quite prepared for the Vivaldi I heard here, but immediately loved it.
The music is most unusual as it presents a more complex picture of Vivaldi than we may be used to. There's an angularity & occasional turbulence here along with whimsey & sweetness that's completely beguiling. No doubt, some of the appeal can be attributed to the brilliant playing of The English Concert & their leader, Andrew Manze. There's a dash & elan to their treatments that others have written extensively about, & just when you think there may be a little TOO much dash, things quiet down & you realize that they've got the music figured out just right. Coming as I do from the I Musici school of Vivaldi, Andrew Manze's ultra-virtuoso attacks require listening with slightly different ears, but it didn't take long for him to win me over. His playing, while sometimes a little frenetic, is heartfelt & not just for display.
In short, this is bona-fide great music, beautifully recorded (all 79 minutes of it), that should be included in a desert island Vivaldi collection."