The English, historical-instrument, Baroque ensemble La Serenissima (the term was a nickname for the city of Venice) has specialized in somewhat scholarly recordings that nevertheless retain considerable general appeal, and the group does it again with this release. The program offers some lesser-known composers, and some lesser-known pieces by famous composers like the tiny and fascinating Concerto alla rustica for two oboes, bassoon, strings, and continuo, RV 151. What ties the program together formally is that it covers a range of Italian cities that were becoming cultural centers as they declined in political power: not only Venice (Vivaldi, Albinoni, Caldara), but also Padua (Tartini), Bologna (Torelli), and Rome (Corelli). There are several works by composers known only for one or two big hits, and these are especially rewarding. Sample the opening movement of Tartini's Violin Concerto E major, DS 51, with its unusual phrase construction and daringly chromatic cadenza passage: it has the exotic quality for which Tartini became famous, but it does not rely on sheer virtuosity. That work is played by leader Adrian Chandler himself, but he also chooses pieces for a large variety of other solo instruments: the Italian Baroque was about more than the violin. Each work on the album has something to recommend it, and collectively the performances may make up the best album of 2017 whose booklet includes footnotes.
One of the piano's most lyrical contemporary proponents, Murray Perahia was born in New York City. After first sitting down at the piano at the age of four, he entered Mannes College at 17, later graduating with degrees in conducting and composition. At the same time, Perahia spent his summers in Marlboro, Vermont, collaborating with musicians including Rudolf Serkin, Pablo Casals and the members of the Budapest Quartet; he also studied with Mieczyslaw Horszowski. Upon winning the Leeds International Piano Competition in 1972, Perahia gave his first concert at the Aldeburgh Festival a year later, where he met and worked with Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears, subsequently accompanying the latter in many lieder recitals. Perahia became co-artistic director of the Aldeburgh Festival in 1981, a position he held for eight years; his recordings include the complete concertos of Mozart, Beethoven and Chopin.
Great thriller soundtracks back to back on one CD – the soundtracks for both French Connection films, both handled by funky jazzman Don Ellis – plus the even rarer score for the later Popeye Doyle film, by Brad Fiedel – packaged here with other rare bonus tracks too! The music by Don Ellis is really incredible – a real cut above other 70s cop and action soundtracks, with a dark edge that shows that Ellis had been listening to some of the hipper European soundtrack composers of the time, but was still also cool enough to kick in with a badass kind of groove whenever he could! The instrumentation on the tunes is very odd – familiar, yet askew – as trumpet, guitar, and keyboard bits come off with some very weird effects. The sound of Popeye Doyle is a bit different – given that the film was an 80s TV addition to the French Connection narrative – with Ed O'Neil in the lead role that was previously handled by Gene Hackman. But Brad Fiedel's score is still pretty nice – definitely more 80s in its instrumentation, but handled with a mode that echoes the Ellis years, with the flavor of a decade later. This 2CD package has way more material than the previous issue – with a total of 48 tracks from the first two films – and 29 more from Popeye Doyle – a whopping 77 tracks in all, with some great notes too!