Fully two thirds of this disc, Stradivarius’ Evaristo Felice Dall’Abaco: Concerti à più Istrumenti Opera Sesta, had passed under the laser, with the reviewer’s jaws agape at the undeniable excellence of the proceedings thereon, before note was taken that this performance was the work of the Verona-based orchestra Il Tempio Armonico under the direction of Alberto Rasi. That much should have been obvious; Rasi and his group have been recording Dall’Abaco’s 6 opus numbers seemingly entire, with the whole Opus 2 on ORF and Opus 5 on a previous (and outstanding) Stradivarius disc. As good as that was, this one, which contains the 12 concerti in Dall’Abaco’s last opus, issued in Amsterdam when the composer was 60, manages to exceed the already high standard set by its predecessor. Firstly, the recording quality is perfect; this was made at the Villa Verità in Verona, a seventeenth-century edifice now used as a resort hotel which regularly serves as a low key concert venue — its acoustics are just right to accommodate the 15 pieces comprising Il Tempio Armonico; the decay just enough to provide warmth and a sense of room size without swallowing the music. Secondly, although the dimensions of the group are modest, they put out a BIG sound — it seems hardly possible that Rasi’s band could produce such a full, rich ensemble, but they do. Il Tempio Armonico likewise benefit by being efficient, fleet of foot, well drilled and scrupulously in tune.
Thirdly, though, one must take note of the quality of the work itself. Dall’Abaco was an Italian musician roughly the age of Antonio Vivaldi, and superficially sounds like Vivaldi, though in their day the two were regarded as peers. While Vivaldi worked practically his whole career in Venice, Dall’Abaco was based in Munich from about 1715; his music combines the scrappy angularity and drive of Vivaldi with a subtle hint of the hardy counterpoint and ballast of the German Baroque. Most of the latter aspect goes toward filling in the underpinnings of the music and results in a very satisfying texture. Dall’Abaco’s opus 6 was published in 1735, and while normally one might assume these 12 concerti were written over a long period of time, Dall’Abaco introduces some slight elements drawn from the galant style then emergent in Italy, which demonstrates that even in the twilight of his career Dall’Abaco still had his ear to the ground for new and worthwhile sources of inspiration.
Rasi and Il Tempio Armonico have wisely arranged the opus in an order to best facilitate listening, rather than recording the whole work in its original order, and each concerto appears to open upon new and unheralded vistas; this music is often immediately memorable and makes you want to listen — even to just individual movements — again and again. Stradivarius’ Evaristo Felice Dall’Abaco: Concerti à più Istrumenti Opera Sesta with Alberto Rasi and Il Tempio Armonico is two discs of top flight Baroque orchestral music that are built to last, and perhaps Rasi was aware of the sense of occasion, as after Opus 6 there is nothing left of Dall’Abaco except his chamber music. This is urgently recommended to those who appreciate and enjoy the Baroque. ~ Uncle Dave Lewis