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Judging from the penetrating performances of Elizabeth Blumenstock, Kinoch Earle and Peggy Spencer, I would be hard pressed to recall anyone playing the violin with such verve, gusto and finesse since Alice Harnoncourt gave voice to the Brandenburg Concertos. Elsewhere, Richard Earle's (Kinoch's brother) oboe playing is at once elegant and haunting; witness his taut but deftly nuanced performance in Handel's Il delirio amoroso.

Emily van Evera delivers savvy, if somewhat breathy readings of Purcell's Sweeter than Roses, a composer who seems to suit her perfectly. But in the Italianate solos of the Handel, where her musicianship is likewise exemplary and well informed, her light, airy soprano favors restraint over the affective vigor so boldly conveyed by the rest of the ensemble. She misses opportunities to color the text, eviscerating the crisp, plosive consonants and long fruity vowels of the kind of seductive, excess and affective precision that would conform to the interpretive agenda of the period. Her approach tends to compromise the music's rich textures and internecine dramas. Even so, beyond the quality of her voice, which in the end is a matter of taste, I would prefer the more opulent, intense and intonationally varied vocalism of early music singers such as Guillemette Laurens or Agnes Mellon.

In Vivaldi's concerto for sopranino recorder Sarah Cantor certainly has her work cut out for her. Though the recorder went out of fashion as early as the mid seventeenth century, even Bach took occasional advantage of it in several of his cantatas. Unlike Vivaldi's Four Seasons and his violin concertos, this work is a more placid affair, abandoning the intense repetitive effects of the stile concitato that so excited seventeenth century listeners. Ms Cantor brings to the work a kind of heightened sensibility and energy that forsakes nothing of its lyrical demeanor.

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Copyright © 4 December 2002 John Bell Young, Tampa, Florida, USA


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