Various Artists

Essential Baroque

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AllMusic Review by

EMI's Essential Baroque is a double-disc of 40 short pieces and excerpts that represent the best of western art music from the 17th and early 18th centuries. While the use of references to popular movies that featured themes from these works is a little obvious -- remember that snappy tune from Die Hard? -- they do point up the fact that Baroque music is still a part of our popular culture, and deservedly so, because much memorable music was composed by Johann Sebastian Bach, George Frederick Handel, Antonio Vivaldi, and the 12 other composers represented here. As is typical of EMI's compilations, the recording dates range over several decades, and here the selections date from 1965 to 1994, so there is a mix of analog and digital recordings, as well as fairly broad sampling of performance styles. The last half of the 20th century saw many changes in the way Baroque music was played, so this collection reveals how historically informed performance practice led to contemporary preferences for stream-lined ensembles, greater freedom in ornamentation and idiomatic improvisation, and using original instruments wherever possible. Of course, the older conventional styles of playing are represented, too, so the Pachelbel Canon (Runaway Bride) is heard in an ultra-slow version, and the spurious Albinoni Adagio is played with all the Romantic passion required of a popular soundtrack theme (Gallipoli). Still, despite the occasional stylistic misstep, the producers have put together a decent introductory package that will help beginners break into this beloved music and lead them to great recordings by the label's many distinguished artists.

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Te Deum
1 1:49
Cantata No. 208, BWV 208
2 4:35
The Four Seasons: 'Winter'
3 2:08
4 2:52
Partita No. 3 for solo violin
5 3:37
Guitar Concerto in D major, RV 93
6 4:37
Concerto for two violins in D minor, BWV 1043
7 7:43
Vespro della Beata Virgine
8 5:51
Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 in F major, BWV 1047
9 2:50
Funeral Music for Queen Mary
10 1:37
11 2:21
Harpsichord Concerto in F minor, BWV 1056
12 3:19
Suite in A minor
13 2:21
Prelude and Fugue No. 1 in C major, BWV 846
14 2:49
Guitar Concerto in C major, RV 425
15 4:18
Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G major, BWV 1048
16 5:48
Les Fêtes d'Hébé
17 3:02
Orchestral Suite No. 2 in B minor, BWV 1067
18 1:26
19 3:52
Cantata No. 140, BWV 140
20 3:27
Concerto for lute and two violins, RV 93
21 3:38
Messiah
22 4:00
blue highlight denotes track pick