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06 / 2017

The Italian Job CD

‘…collectively the performances may make up the best album of 2017’

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The English, historical-instrument, Baroque ensemble La Serenissima (the term was a nickname for the city of Venice) has specialized in somewhat scholarly recordings that nevertheless retain considerable general appeal, and the group does it again with this release. The program offers some lesser-known composers, and some lesser-known pieces by famous composers like the tiny and fascinating Concerto alla rustica for two oboes, bassoon, strings, and continuo, RV 151. What ties the program together formally is that it covers a range of Italian cities that were becoming cultural centers as they declined in political power: not only Venice (Vivaldi, Albinoni, Caldara), but also Padua (Tartini), Bologna (Torelli), and Rome (Corelli). There are several works by composers known only for one or two big hits, and these are especially rewarding. Sample the opening movement of Tartini's Violin Concerto E major, DS 51, with its unusual phrase construction and daringly chromatic cadenza passage: it has the exotic quality for which Tartini became famous, but it does not rely on sheer virtuosity. That work is played by leader Adrian Chandler himself, but he also chooses pieces for a large variety of other solo instruments: the Italian Baroque was about more than the violin. Each work on the album has something to recommend it, and collectively the performances may make up the best album of 2017 whose booklet includes footnotes.

American Record Guide

06 / 2017

The Italian Job CD

‘The soloists and ensemble are superb and Adrian Chandler is very effective...

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‘The soloists and ensemble are superb and Adrian Chandler is very effective both as leader and soloist in the Tartini concerto. …they play with precision and passion, both readily evident on this new release.’

‘The Italian Job’ CD - American Record Guide, June 2017

Classical Candour

04 / 2017

The Italian Job CD

‘The ensemble plays comfortably, and Chandler never leads them on any..'

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‘The ensemble plays comfortably, and Chandler never leads them on any helter-skelter barnstorming. That is, the tempos are lively but never rushed.’

‘The Italian Job’ CD - Classical Candour, April 2017

Gramophone Magazine

05 / 2017

The Italian Job CD

...'all their typical hallmarks: a fresh, zinging tone alive with vitality and enjoyment...'

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‘My heart skipped a beat when this new offering from La Serenissima and Adrian Chandler landed on my desk, such was my enjoyment of their Gramophone Awards-shortlisted Vivaldi Four Seasons recording (10/15). So to discover that with this all-Italian assortment of sinfonias and concertos they’ve actually topped their 2016 triumph – and apparently effortlessly – gives me no small amount of pleasure.

La Serenissima have a glorious and all-too-rare ability to make one’s pulse race afresh with every new project, and ‘The Italian Job’ has all their typical hallmarks: a fresh, zinging tone alive with vitality and enjoyment, an effortless easy panache from both ensemble and soloists, and the whole underpinned by a scholarly attitude to programming and performance style which is yet worn with light grace.

They also throw the recording critic a problem, because when faced with such a consistently excellent, colouristically and stylistically contrasting programme whose differences absolutely sing together as a unit, then to draw readers’ attentions to ‘highlights’ feels thoroughly unhelpful. However, I will say that Chandler’s violin solos in the Tartini Concerto for violin, strings and continuo are ones of a singing sweetness and ease that leave you wishing it wouldn’t end. Also, that never has an Albinoni oboe concerto held me in such rapt delight as this double concerto did with soloists Gail Hennessy and Rachel Chaplin.

Finally, that while with recordings I’m usually focused only on the finished package in my hands, with Torelli’s Sinfonia in C I couldn’t help but dream of what an extraordinary listening experience it must have been at the recording session, at St John’s Smith Square – both in the lavishly ringing tuttis (this sinfonia has a monster-sized solo line-up of four trumpets, timpani and two each of oboes, bassoons, violins and cellos) and in the sudden drops down to unexpectedly intimate string forces.

In short, were I asked to condense this review down to two simple words, they would be: buy it.’

The Guardian

02 / 2016

The Four Seasons

‘…an avant-garde approach that would have awed Hendrix’

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It might come as a surprise to learn that the third largest collection of Vivaldi manuscripts belongs to Manchester. How these priceless scores came to reside in the city’s Henry Watson Music Library is a fascinatingly convoluted tale involving the acquisition by Charles Jennens, the librettist of Handel’s Messiah, of manuscripts purchased – by weight – from a bankrupted Italian cardinal.

It wasn’t until the 1970s that this stack was discovered, by Michael Talbot, to contain 12 previously unknown violin sonatas and the only fair copy of The Four Seasons bearing the evidence of supervision in Vivaldi’s own hand. Appropriately, it was the Manchester Four Seasons that Adrian Chandler’s ensemble La Serenissma elected to play with the part-books proudly on display in the foyer.

In truth, the differences between the Manchester Seasons and the more familiar one exist at the scholarly level of the articulation of slurs and certain antiphonal effects. But the main Mancunian revelation was the less prescriptive approach these parts took to the figured bass, enabling the violas to become pleasingly present in the resulting transparency of texture.

Among the more obscure items in the Manchester stash is a pair of concertos written for a defunct version of the violin known as a “violin in tromba marina”. Little is known about them other than that they mimicked the original, one-stringed instrument (tromba marina), probably had three strings, were very loud and featured metal components intended to rasp like a trumpet. Chandler’s conjectural reconstruction is the only playable example in the world, and raised the question: why might you take a perfectly good fiddle, remove one of the strings and make it buzz? The answer supplied by these dark, abrasive concertos seemed to lie in Vivaldi’s avant-garde approach to tone colour; exploring the sonic combination of virtuosity, volume and distortion 250 years before Jimi Hendrix.

BBC Music Magazine

06 / 2017

Vivaldi – The Four Seasons

‘…If the sheer sweep and vivacity captivates, details are just as telling.’

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‘La Serenissima’s fresh approach grows out of The Four Seasons itself.

Listeners that usually find the ritornello that launches Autumn a touch twee will be diverted by the energising thrum of the guitar… If the sheer sweep and vivacity captivates, details are just as telling.

The appoggiatura Chandler applies to the end of his first solo entry in Winter plumbs the chill of the grave, and in the perky Largo he delivers an object lesson in how to decorate the music meaningfully. Two concertos showcasing Peter Whelan’s playfully agile bassoon are paired with two rare concertos for a specially constructed three-string ‘violino in tromba marina’ lending a touch of raucous exoticism.’

Vivaldi – The Four Seasons - BBC Music Magazine, Concerto Choice, December 2015


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‘La Serenissima have a glorious and all-too-rare ability to make one’s pulse race afresh with every new project’

Established in 1994, La Serenissima is recognised as the UK’s most dynamic voice of Italian baroque music. Hailed by The Guardian as ‘presenting an avant-garde approach that would have awed Hendrix’, La Serenissima has become synonymous with virtuosity, dynamism and accessibility, uncovering a plethora of new repertoire and making it available to all through live performance, high calibre recording and outreach work. Uniquely, its entire repertoire is edited from manuscript or contemporary sources.

La Serenissima has been universally applauded for its performances on the Avie Label, receiving regular award nominations, frequent rankings in the Top 10 of the UK Specialist Classical Chart and featuring as ‘Editor’s Choice’ and ‘Concerto Choice’ (Gramophone Magazine), ‘Disc of the Month’ (BBC Music Magazine), as Classic FM’s ‘Drive Discovery’ and on BBC Radio 3 programmes ‘Building a Library’ and ‘Record Review’. The group’s hotly-anticipated recording of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons (Manchester version) received numerous accolades and was ranked among the Top 3 choices in Radio 3’s Building a Library (which covered a discography beginning in the 1940s). In 2010, the group was awarded the Gramophone Award in the ‘Baroque Instrumental’ category for Vivaldi: The French Connection. Their latest release The Italian Job won the same accolade in the 2017 Gramophone Awards. The 2018 release Vivaldi x2 spent 11 weeks in the UK Classical Charts and has been widely reviewed: ‘Under Adrian Chandler, the playing, vibrant yet polished to perfection, is superb.’ The Sunday Times September 2018

La Serenissima has championed a host of neglected works by composers ranging from Dall’Abaco to Composer X and has also brought to life Vivaldi’s operas Catone in Utica, Giustino, La Fida Ninfa, L’Olimpiade, Ottone in villa and Tito Manlio. The ensemble has appeared at most of the UK’s leading festivals (from Bath Bach to York Early Music) and venues (from Bridgewater to Wigmore halls), it gave its first residency in London’s St John’s Smith Square during 2016-17 and has performed in Belgium, Estonia, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Malta, Mexico and Spain to great acclaim. La Serenissima is proud to announce His Excellency The Italian Ambassador as the group’s Honorary Patron.


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