Thursday, 13 May 2010

A Dilemma and a Freebie

Deepest apologies for my long absence! I've been doing paid work, now that I'm in the 4th (and, let's hope, final) year of my PhD and no longer have a stipend...

First, the freebie: pursuing my grumpily unfashionable theme of unloved early music records, here is the Quartetto Italiano (Paolo Borciani and Elisa Pegreffi, violins; Piero Farulli, viola; Franco Rossi, cello) playing Italian mid-Baroque 4-part sonatas - or, as the lovely Columbia sleeve has it:

Class, eh?And yet - not one of the Quartetto's best albums, to be honest. Still, I think it's well worth hearing - this is a wonderful repertoire, which I've been collecting and enjoying on CD for years, and now I'm often finding that musicians of the 1950s and even earlier made some very honourable stabs at it.

Of special interest, as noted by J.N. (Jeremy Noble?) in The Gramophone (May 1957, pp.453-54), is the way 'the Quartetto Italiano have made a gesture towards authenticity by abjuring vibrato in the earliest pieces' - so, yar boo sucks to all those who imagine such devices were only thought of in the 1970s. The rest of this review strikes me as a tad churlish, which can't have helped this LP to sell; in his haste to point out that these are not really string quartets and mostly have a continuo part, the writer forgot that modern string quartets (notably André Mangeot's various formations) had been playing 16th, 17th and 18th C string consorts for more than half a century - and why the hell not!? No string quartet today will start a programme with Gabrieli, Marini or Vivaldi - and we're the poorer for it. Even the Pro Arte Quartet recorded a Vivaldi concerto (DB 2148, 1933 - never reissued - and, again, why the hell not!?) and if he was good enough for them...

So, 7 mono FLAC files at

I've tried to identify all the pieces but I got lazy with Vitali's Capriccio - if anyone can pin-point that (or confirm that this is Neri's Sonata quinta from Op.2*) I'll be... less grumpy than usual. Michael Gray's data ( gives a recording date only for the items on side 1 (and the Italian LP number); I've assumed side 2 was recorded the same day. Talking of the Italian issue, the Quartetto's own very useful website gives the date of April 1957, which must be the release date, as well as the entire original Italian sleeve note by Luigi Pestalozza. I hope you can make out Columbia's translation in my scan, and also the section titles: each piece is one file but three consist of more than one section. In fact two aren't quite right here: the Marini apparently goes (a) Entrata grave (b) Balletto allegro (c) Gagliarda (d) Corrente (e) Retirata (so my Manze CD says); and the Vivaldi should be (a) Largo molto (b) Allegro ma poco andante.

[*P.S. This has now been confirmed by the mighty Jolyon!]

The Dilemma

Should I give recordings away free? This one, yes: I've done nothing beyond the usual ClickRepair and the condition of side 2 was not quite what I was led to believe by the seller, so there's quite a bit of shushy noise in the Vitali and some clunks in the Vivaldi. (Also, are my dubs getting worse or what?) But I have a couple of other LPs of this type which are rarer and musically more rewarding. If academic work is not forthcoming after I finish my Phd (if I ever do...) and even if it is, I'd like to make a living in this reissues racket; if these guys can do it, why not me?