Fabio Biondi, Europa Galante. Virgin Classics 7243 5 45723-2.
I suppose one should pursue what one is good at. In the case of Fabio Biondi and his Europa Galante ensemble, what they've good at over the years has clearly been interpreting the work of Antonio Vivaldi. Nearly half of Europa Galante's recorded output for Virgin Classics and Opus 111 would appear to be works of Vivaldi. Darn good thing he and his group do it with such popular appeal.
In this instance they provide their second volume of Concertos for various instruments, the various instruments being violins, violos, flutes, oboes, cellos, horns, bassoons, timpani, harp, and harpsichord, all in assorted combinations in seven separate concertos. As usual, I came away from the album unable to tell or remember one piece from another, except in the case of the opening work, the Concerto grosso a 10 strumenti, per violino principlae, 2 corni da caccia, tympano, 2 oboi, 2 violini, alto viola con basso, RV 562a. This is the biggest, broadest, and most imposing piece of music on the disc, making an appropriately theatrical attention-getter to begin the show.
Biondi and his players perform all of the concertos in a typically lively style, a hallmark of his success. While the readings may not be as polished as those by some other Baroque interpreters like Pinnock and the English Concert, Hogwood and the Academy of Ancient Music, and their kin, Biondi's enthusiasm makes up for any small deficiencies and quickly wins the day. Although I must say, in his defense, that he has calmed down somewhat since his first heady days on Opus 111. Nevertheless, the speedy tempos and wide dynamic contrasts remain, if not at quite so breakneck a pace.
The Virgin Classics sound is robust, to say the least. It is slightly closer than I'd like to hear, rather large in a melodramatic sense, fairly well detailed but a tad soft around the edges. For listeners who like their Vivaldi big and bold, Europa Galante should again fill the bill.