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CD Feature/ Christoph Timpe & Academia Per Musica Roma: "Venetian Ensemble Music"

img  Tobias
As soon as one leaves the relative safety of the 21st and 20th century behind, the sky turns dark and everything suddenly seems shrouded in some great big mystery. Mediaeval and even Baroque music are still suffering (or unrequestedly profiting) from these occult associations, not exactly helped by the kind of sombre visions of the past Hollywood indulges in. Which is why standing ovations are due as “Venetian Ensemble Music” cuts through the fog of forgery with a single, effortless stroke.

Admittably, the album merely covers a niche segment, focussing on three composers of 17th century Venice. The fact that their combined oeuvre has noticeably shaped the musical output of the city (and beyond) for decades and that this disc comes as part of a highly seductive series of releases, which furthermore deal with the “Musica Napolitana” (on an extensive 3CD set) as well as the “Sinfonia Romanae”, however, makes for a broader picture, which puts an entire century in perspective.

This is all the more remarkable, as Giovanni Legrenzi, Antonio Bertali and Massimiliano Neri are still, even to initiated audiences, relatively unfamilar names – to most of today’s music fans they will constitute outright aliens. As Christoph Timpe elucidates in his pointed lines notes, this is not only unjustified in terms of their historical importance, but also on the merrits of their repertoire, whose vivid and vivacious character holds the promise of a belated rennaissance.

Common to the compositions of all three featured artists, after all, is the rapid succesion of musical scenes of colourfully contrasting moods and tempi, a knack for snappy and smart openings which lure the listener in and then refuse to let him go as well as a wide freedom in deciding on the final form of the arrangements: Bertali enjoys stretching his sonatas to up to eight minutes, while Legrenzi creates statements of concise and pointed outlines. Neri enjoys opening his pieces with a solo violin statement and an ensuing canon, while the others explore various variations. Part of this diversity and the shared characteristics may be down to the choice of the musicians involved in this project, but more importantly, they serve to display the pronounced musical personalities of the composers.

Timpe and the Academia per Musica Roma also present the music in its complete bipolarity. On the one hand, it is serene and serious, artfully conceived, artistically arranged and craftedly realised. On the other, it is elegant and energetic, a music which speaks to the body first and the brain later – and even to both at the same time on many occasions.

In these ideal circumstances, there is no room for unnecessary transfiguration. Clarity of presentation and precision in execution are the main guidelines for Timpe and his friends and this motto has resulted in a disc which sounds every bit as spontaneous as carefully planned, equally relaxed and ambitious. Everything is there for the listener to see and this conscious neglect of any kind of mystery makes this such an honest and immediately appealing album.

By Tobias Fischer

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