Baroque Instruments

Albinoni: Oboe Concerto in D minor Op. 9 no 2 (1722)

London Virtuosi | John Georgiadis | Naxos 2016

This is a short concerto for oboe with strings and basso continuo (harpsichord) accompaniment. I found it unexpectedly dry and boring – possibly due to a limited harmonic scope; it seems to move around the circle of fifths an awful lot! The basso continuo accompaniment is also quite predictable and plodding, but I do like the use of different articulations in the solo oboe part and the melodic lines, which I think have a clear sense of direction and effective climaxes.

Tartini: Sonata in G minor (‘Il Trillo Del Diavolo’) (c.1740)

Gordan Nikolitch | Orchestre d’Auvergne | David Oistrakh | 2015 Musical Concepts

I had to double check that this was really played by just one violinist – there are what sounds like some incredibly difficult passages with double stops and simultaneous trilling! The recording I listened to has a piano accompaniment, and the violin is played with lots of vibrato which I think is probably not historically accurate. It creates a passionate and intense sound that reminded me a little of Spanish gypsy music. The second movement has a solo section with an extended dominant section that really builds up the tension. The last movement has a melancholy melody to start with before resuming the devil’s antics! There are some quite fast harmonic progressions in this movement (the chord changing every one or two beats) which adds to the overall feeling of energy.

Vivaldi: Concerto for Two Mandolins (c.1740)

Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment | unCLASSIFIED 2016

This is an unusual instrument to pick for a concerto – it has a fairly quiet sound so would probably have been performed with a chamber orchestra (the version I listened to had strings and harpsichord accompaniment). I enjoyed the contrasting percussive sound of the mandolins against the strings. The first movement is a fast Allegro, with lots of tonic-dominant-tonic chord progressions. I found the second, slow movement more interesting; this was written for the solo mandolins with just a pizzicato string accompaniment which blends in with the sound. It has a thoughtful mood, and the mandolins play a kind of duet which passes the melody between them like a conversation. There is a brief pause before the final note which seems to be characteristic of this period.