I Musici

Bach, Vivaldi: Concertos

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Both musically and sonically, these Bach and Vivaldi recordings by the Roman ensemble I Musici were state-of-the-art Baroque performances in the 1970s. In this audiophile reissue from the PentaTone Classics label, they're still at the top of the heap after remastering by the Polyhymnia studio for hybrid multichannel Super Audio CD, reproducing the effect of the original "quad sound." Even heard on standard stereo equipment, the spaciousness of the sound is impressive. The glittering string antiphony of the two Vivaldi violin concertos on the program -- recorded in a different place from the two Bach concertos, but not at all jarring in the shift -- is captured in striking detail, and the listener has the feeling of being close to front and center for the music. The music itself is no longer state-of-the-art, it's true. Once a small ensemble compared to, say, the Gewandhaus Orchestra of Leipzig, I Musici drowns out the harpsichord of Maria Teresa Garatti in the Concerto No. 1 for harpsichord, strings, and continuo, BWV 1052 (the vintage of the recording is shown by the references to Bach's "piano concertos" in the apparently original notes). The swooping string work sounds a bit odd to anyone whose ears have been retuned by historically oriented ensembles as well. But one can also hear why this recording was so popular in its time; it is crisp, detailed, and never unmusical. Certainly of interest to audiophiles, and also for those fascinated by the chain of interpretations of Baroque standards.

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