Scariest record of the year?

Scariest record of the year?


norman lebrecht

February 21, 2017

Er, do I really want this on my coffee table?

The composer is Vivaldi.


  • Robert King says:

    This cover was indeed so strange that I googled the CD and found a demo video

    SD readers will doubtless judge for themselves, but for my own part I was reminded that we are just coming to the end of major building work to create our large, new “live space” classical recording complex. And the treatment of the instruments in this recording in what is apparently an aria by Vivaldi reminded me of some of the heavy demolition and ground piling that took place at the outset of construction. I am all for pushing musical boundaries, and doubtless there will be someone out there who actually likes what has here been done to this aria, but I have to admit that on this aural battering I am not one of them. (And little wonder when you can actually hear an occasional instrumental melody that the strings are so out of tune: few instruments could enjoy having that done to them).

    • tif robinson says:

      I am surprised that some on with Robert King’s particular history is allowed to be so vial about a fellow musician’s work. It is embarrassing that his self-promoting wittering and snide remarks are allowed on this platform. Maybe he once had a voice worth listening to within the early music world but surly, his comments are of little relevance these days.

      • Sixtus says:

        King’s comment is also surpriseingly poorly written. His Hyperion liner notes must have undergone some thorough editing.

      • John Borstlap says:

        But the man is right. This way of performing baroque music is a thoroughly distorting version, seen through the glasses of ‘modernity’ that are completely ignorant of the nature of the historical culture. The art music of the 18th century was, as in the 17th century, a matter of either church, theatre or nobility, and while in the theatre some boisterious fun was occasionally accepted, all other music was defined by the same nobility and refinement of expression that those patronage circles demanded from every other aspect of their life. Musicians who would play like on this recording would have been thrown-out after 2 bars. It is rude, hard, accentuating aggression etc. etc. merely to make it ‘compatible’ with the rudeness and aggression of our day. Embarrassing!

        • tif robinson says:

          Very well put and surly this is the very point of exploring music from earlier generations.
          The greatest power of music and music theatre is that reflects the time that it was written and that it can be equally inspiring to a modern ear when sung/played or produced with the drive of a contemporary motor.
          Let us not forget that contemporary music of the 17th and 18th Century; be it court, theatre or church; was modern, exciting and in many cases confrontational.
          Each generation has a view on authenticity and priority when exploring music from previous periods. This is not only health but vital.
          Both the general listener and academics, presuming the right to dismiss out of hand or herald a performance, have equal voice and responsibility when discussing the virtues of interpretation. The less informed listener will seek insight from those who are privileged to be held in high esteem. It is therefore sad when the possibility of enlightening comment has been lost and replaced by lazy and bitter words.

          • Robert King says:

            It’s good to read your musical and historical viewpoint on what is surely one of the more controversial recordings of 2017. This track (and I only commented on the freely available Vivaldi track, albeit a substantial 10 minute aria) does seem to set out deliberately to challenge and, indeed, to shock.

            I listened with open ears, but my personal viewpoint was, after a few minutes’ listening, one of distress. The dramatic value of thwacking the string instruments, over and over again, wore thin, and even worried me on behalf of the musicians and their instruments. If you repeatedly and violently bang a string instrument so hard that you can hear it going out of tune straight after (and you can in this recording), that surely is not playing the instrument as it was intended, let alone doing it much good.

            I’m sorry if you think that holding (and stating) such an opinion makes me “embittered”. After 37 years in the profession, I still love performing music, and I also Iove listening to the music making of my many fine colleagues across the world. So I was careful when writing my lines above not to make any comment against any individual (in particular I did not mention the singer): my comments were made as a reaction to the concept of the accompaniment. Baroque and classical music is full of vivid and starling effects, but usually these are presented in moderation (think of the amazing effects in Rebel Les Élémens, or in Haydn’s overture to The Creation). In my experience, a few iterations of a “shock effect” is more effective than the repeated and violent “hammer blows” that we hear across the entire ten minutes of this aria.

            But the recording has certainly had its effect – it has got people talking, which is surely what it was intended to do. And, as with marmite, there are probably not going to be many people sitting on the fence…

  • Olassus says:

    The composer is Attilio Ariosti, Antonio Caldara, Francesco Bartolomeo Conti, Georg Friedrich Händel, Johann Adolph Hasse, Giuseppe Maria Orlandini, Domenico Sarro, Pietro Torri and Antonio Vivaldi.

    If the producer is the same as for Decca’s CDs of this group, Giovanni Prosdocimi, that might explain any close miking.

  • Selim says:

    Good if Norman listens the whole recording and lets us know his opinion 😀

  • Stefan Treddel says:

    The composer of one of the arias is Vivaldi. Reading the track list before blogging!

  • Sixtus says:

    This recording was selected by Netherlands Radio4 as a record of the week and can be heard in its entirety at