Ensemble Benedetto Marcello

Albinoni: Balletti a tre, Op. 3

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Tomaso Albinoni, through the intrigue of the musicologist who loved him too well, Remo Giazotto, is largely known to the public through a work he'd no part of, the completely spurious Adagio for organ and strings. Had it not been for Giazotto's appealing forgery, drawn from J.S. Bach, the public might never have known Albinoni's name and he would remain a specialist taste. But on the other hand, it obscures Albinoni's genuine works, which are immediately appealing; in one respect dance-like and filled with close, busily polyphonic textures that we associate with Bach, and in others with a loving, generous kind of melodic line that has its roots in the 83 or so operas he composed, all but three lost to us. There have been occasional attempts to represent Albinoni's catalog a bit more fully, and a major catalog gap in his output is filled by Bongiovanni's Albinoni: Balletti a tre, Op. 3. Performed by the Ensemble Benedetto Marcello, this disc contains the 12 trio sonatas contained in Albinoni's Opus 3 set, which appeared in 1701 and is such a rare edition that only two copies of the early print are known to exist.

Like Hyperion's recording of Albinoni's Trattinamenti armonici, Op. 6, performed by the Locatelli Trio, makes clear, there is a lot to love in Albinoni's instrumental music, and recording whole published sets of it, as is common for his contemporary Vivaldi, is a good idea. The Ensemble Benedetto Marcello succeeds in making the case for the Balletti, but just barely. Bongiovanni's recording is almost totally lacking in low end, so the cello is rather hard to hear, and the clavicembalo (which suspiciously sounds like a harpsichord, but who can really tell?) is absent for the whole recording. That leaves the two violins in the foreground carrying most of the musical weight, and between these two players, there is almost no vibrato employed. There is no information about precisely what instruments are employed -- they look old in the photograph -- or about tuning, so the playing, while rhythmically fleet and stylish, is compromised by the fact that instruments and recording both sound underfed and scrawny.

This doesn't mean, though, that this recording is unlistenable. It can be quite pleasant to listen to in short stretches, and for those whose systems can artificially add some bass to the sonic picture may be able to enjoy it for longer spans of time. Nevertheless, Bongiovanni cannot be excused for making the listener work so hard to enjoy this disc. It's great middle-Baroque dance music, and one can easily hear in this what Bach gained from listening to Albinoni. Despite it being touted as a "World-Premiere Recording," one cannot be blamed for pretending that the Opus 3 set will not be truly recorded until someone else does it, or until Bongiovanni scraps its exiting Albinoni: Balletti a tre, Op. 3, and issues it in better sound that this.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
Balletti à tre (12), for 2 violins, cello & continuo, Op. 3 (T. 3)
1 01:18 Amazon
2 02:14 Amazon
3 01:53 Amazon
4 00:48 Amazon
5 02:20 Amazon
6 01:26 Amazon
7 02:17 Amazon
8 01:08 Amazon
9 01:38 Amazon
10 02:05 Amazon
11 00:51 Amazon
12 01:09 Amazon
13 01:52 Amazon
14 01:28 Amazon
15 02:10 Amazon
16 03:21 Amazon
17 02:02 Amazon
18 02:31 Amazon
19 01:20 Amazon
20 02:09 Amazon
21 01:58 Amazon
22 00:41 Amazon
23 01:09 Amazon
24 02:30 Amazon
25 02:13 Amazon
26 01:18 Amazon
27 03:25 Amazon
28 01:56 Amazon
29 01:34 Amazon
30 01:17 Amazon
31 01:41 Amazon
32 01:14 Amazon
33 00:41 Amazon
34 00:57 Amazon
35 01:46 Amazon
36 02:50 Amazon
37 02:20 Amazon
38 03:41 Amazon
39 01:14 Amazon
40 01:05 Amazon
41 01:37 Amazon
42 02:37 Amazon
43 01:58 Amazon
44 01:56 Amazon
blue highlight denotes track pick