casa diavolo naive

Déjà Review: this review was first published in May 2005 and the recording is still available.

La Casa del Diavolo
Enrico Onofri (violin)
Ottavio Dantone (harpsichord)
Il Giardino Armonico/Giovanni Antonini
rec. 2004, Pieve di Palazzo, Pignano, Cremona, Italy
Naïve OP30399 [69]

Listening to this disc will certainly blow the cobwebs away. On second thoughts, the experience could more accurately be described as blasting the cobwebs away. Superbly performed interpretations breathe life and a sense of adventure into this music that ranges from late Baroque to the Classical period.

Il Giardino Armonico are one of several outstanding specialist period instrument ensembles that have come to prominence on the early music scene in the last ten or so years. They have successfully ratcheted-up the level of technical proficiency and interpretation. Undoubtedly the earlier pioneering interpretations using period-instruments were dictated by the severe limitations of their instruments. Consequently the performance style often came across as technically mechanical, lacklustre, frequently insipid and even sterile. Present-day players explore and exploit the strengths of their period instruments rather than being restricted by the weaknesses. Other notable specialist period instrument ensembles in this repertoire include: Concerto Italiano under Rinaldo Alessandrini; Venice Baroque Orchestra under Andrea Marcon with Giuliano Carmignola; Europa Galante under Fabio Biondi; Arte Dei Suonatori with Rachel Podger; The English Concert under Andrew Manze; Ensemble Explorations under Roel Dieltiens; and the Freiburger Barockorchester under Gottfried von der Goltz.

Il Giardino Armonico, founded in Milan in 1985, bring together a number of graduates from some of Europe’s leading colleges of music, all of whom have specialised in playing period instruments. The ensemble’s repertory is concentrated on the 17th and 18th centuries, from Biber to Boccherini, Depending on the demands of each programme, the ensemble will consist of anything from three to thirty musicians. Il Giardino Armonico first came to my attention with a stunning version of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, a disc that gained the prestigious Diapason d’Or, Choc de la Musique and Grand Prix des Discophiles, in 1994.

Here they concentrate on a programme of eighteenth century repertoire. Gluck’s Dance of the Spectres and the Furies is the final piece from his opera Don Juan ou Le Festin de pierre. Baroque trumpets punctuate the work, blaring out incisively like modern-day car horns, together with those swirling strings.With C.P.E. Bach’s three movement Sinfonia we see the composer’s expression of feelings and emotions in what is an early characterisation of Romantic music. Bach’s abrupt dynamic shifts, bold modulations and sudden switches of mood are handled expertly.

Locatelli’s Concerto grosso features a remarkable series of slow movements but is in fact an instrumental cantata where the part of Arianna is taken by the solo violin in imitation of the human voice. The violin is expertly played by Enrico Onofri. The continual mood changes provide the true character of a cantata.

The three movement Concerto in F minor is attributed to W.F. Bach, although there is some doubt over the authorship. For me this is the highlight of the release. The players and soloist are most adept in this vividly dramatic work of substantial emotional power. Boccherini composed his five movement Sinfonia in D minor in 1771, in Madrid. His incomparable rhythmic convulsions are powerfully done.

For their fiercely propulsive and compellingly vital performances Il Giardino Armonico has few equals.

Michael Cookson

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Presto Music

Christoph Willibald Gluck (1714-1787)
Dance of the Spectres and the Furies, Allegro non troppo (1761)
Carl Philip Emanuel Bach (1714-1788)
Sinfonia Wq. 182/5 in B minor for strings and continuo
Pietro Antonio Locatelli (1695-1764)
Concerto Grosso Op. 7/6 in E flat major (1741)
Wilhelm Friedemann Bach (1710-1784)
Concerto in F minor for harpsichord, strings and continuo
Luigi Boccherini (1743-1805)
Sinfonia Op. 10/4 in D minor “La casa del diavolo” for two oboes, two horns, strings and continuo (1771)