Arcangelo Corelli (1653 – 1713): Concerti Grossi Op. 6, Volume 2 (concerti nos. 7 through 12). Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, directed from the harpsichord by Nicholas McGegan.
Recorded in April 1990 by Skywalker Sound, Nicasio, California.
Harmonia Mundi USA Originally issued on HMU 907015, re-issued in the budget Classical Express series as HMCX 3957015. Total time: 57’13”.
Anyone who wants to become more familiar with that typically baroque musical phenomenon, the Concerto grosso, ought to start with the most famous set of all, the twelve concerti by Arcangelo Corelli. These were published one year after the composer’s death in 1713, but had been performed by him in Rome for over twenty years with one of the most polished orchestras of the age. The modern historical performance practice movement has brought forth quite a large number of recordings of these works, but the 1989/1990 offering from San Francisco’s Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra is still able to hold its own; after many years at full price, it is now being almost given away as part of the “Classical Express” series, and lovers of baroque music are themselves to blame if they do not buy these two CDs. The second of the set was recorded a year later at a different venue, and after listening to both parts one after the other, I personally reached the conclusion that Nicholas McGegan and his team did rather better on Nos. 7 through 12: the playing seemed a little less hectic, rather smoother and even more polished, with the chamber organ of the continuo shining through rather more convincingly. Also, the recorded sound was rather more balanced, without the slightly “churchy” acoustics of the first volume. McGegan’s tempi are relatively fast in comparison with, say, Sigiswald Kuijken and La Petite Bande on BMG-DHM, but this tends to enhance the listening experience as a whole, although the Largo at the end of the Christmas concerto (No. 8) does lose something of its traditional sentimentality in this way. But altogether, this is a firm recommendation, particularly for baroque music-lovers who need to budget carefully.