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Timbre, originally a French word for bell, did not acquire any musical connotations until the mid-18th century, although it’s clear earlier composers, such as Bach and Vivaldi, were expert at using instrumental colours in all kinds of ways. Vivaldi composed more than 20 chamber concertos – works for three to six solo instruments with continuo – many of which employ striking timbral contrasts. On this CD, the focus is on the juxtaposition of high and low winds, so four of its five concertos feature recorder or flute and bassoon, with violin a middle voice; the sole trio sonata, RV86, is for recorder and bassoon alone.

Given such intriguing repertoire, it’s galling that I Fiori Musicali do it scant justice. The group is not helped by a murky acoustic or a recording balance that seems at times to push all the instruments into a background clamour. But the playing too lacks polish: the group can sound like a muddle in a hurry, and their shaping of phrases, of dynamics, shows little finesse. Fortunately, Il Giardino Armonico include three of these concertos (RV91, RV100, RV103), as well as RV86, on their splendid Concerti da Camera series for Das Alte Werk. Their versions demonstrate all the flair, poise and acoustic clarity that I Fiori Musicali fail to muster.

Graham Lock Read the full review on Agora Classica


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Early Music Today, 2015 - ©Rhinegold Publishing