The Strad Issue: January 2007
Musicians: Ensemble Il Falcone
Composer: Galuppi

Charles Burney praised Baldassare Galuppi’s skills as a contrapuntist and as ‘a friend to poetry’. These seven ‘Concerti a quattro’ largely endorse Burney’s approbation, incorporating much contrapuntal expertise and expressive lyricism.

Ensemble Il Falcone’s interpretations are thoughtfully prepared, even if they seem unsensational and sometimes, like Galuppi’s music, verge on the routine. Indeed, one might have expected more flair from Italians who have collaborated with musicians such as Fabio Biondi. Neverthless, the ensemble is tautly controlled, tempos are well judged and the playing is crisply articulated, sensitively phrased and unanimous in sound and purpose. The fugal allegros are energetically realised, especially that in no.2. They admirably off-set the pleasing sense of cantilena of many of the slow movements, in which there is some expressive ‘vocalised’ shaping of the line over a wide dynamic range (as in the Grave of no.4), some pleasing rubato and some welcome glimpses of the emerging galant style. Most enjoyable are the jaunty final Allegro assai of no.2 and the spirited Allegro and cheeky final Allemanda of no.6. Less convincing is the unpolished decorative violin passagework in the Allegro of no.5.

The recorded sound is close and at times a touch astringent, yielding some occasional coarseness of tone – sample the Allegro of no.4, for example – but the balance is generally good and the acoustic pleasingly spacious. Irksome, however, is the infiltration of essentially modern bowing and vibrato techniques into these period-instrument readings, and most notably the vulgar over-accentuation of the final chords of numerous allegro movements.