“Venice in Mexico: Baroque Concertos by FACCO and VIVALDI” = GIACOMO FACCO: Concerto in E Minor, “Pensieri Adriarmonici” for violin, strings, and continuo, Op. 1 No. 1; Concerto in A Major, “Pensieri Adriarmonici” for violin, strings, and continuo, Op. 1 No. 5; VIVALDI: Concerto in D Major for strings, RV121; Concerto in A Minor, “L’estro Armoncio” for violin, Op. 3 No. 6; Concerto in C Major for sopranino recorder, RV443; Concerto in D Minor for strings, RV127; Concerto in C Major for psaltery, RV425; Concerto in A Minor for sopranino recorder, RV445 – Manuel Zogbi, violin / Daniel Armas, psaltery / Miguel Lawrence, sopranino recorder / The Mexican Baroque Orch. / Miguel Lawrence – Divine Art DDA25091, 60:43 [Distr. by Albany] **(1/2):
Unless your interests lie in the unusual instruments employed in these performances, the chief draw of this CD will probably be the concertos of Giacomo Facco (1676-1753). A near contemporary of Vivaldi, Facco was born outside of Venice but was employed in other Italian cities before finally landing at the court of Madrid. Famous in his own day as a composer, violinist, teacher, and conductor, he fell into an obscurity that lasted well into the twentieth century. The Mexican connection is an interesting one: Facco was virtually unknown to modern performers and audiences until a copy of his twelve violin concerti Pensieri Adriarmonici (“Adriatic Harmony Thoughts”) was discovered in a library in Mexico City in 1961.
Published in two books in 1716 and 1718, Facco’s concertos are fine works that bear comparison to Vivaldi’s. The two concertos by Facco on the current disc are gracious pieces, with slow movements that mimic the tender sentiments of an opera aria, which is understandable since he was a much sought-after composer of operas.
The Vivaldi concerti on offer here are mostly thrice familiar and available in a number of rival recordings. Frankly, your best bet is to seek alternatives. Miguel Lawrence’s Mexican Baroque Orchestra was founded in 2009 specifically to play the works of Facco that turned up in Mexico City’s Colegio de las Vizcaínas, and while it might make some sense to perform them using traditional Mexican continuo instruments—the viheula and the guitarrón—I’m not sure what kind of sense it makes for Vivaldi’s concertos except that they may (or may not) have been played this way in the New World. The same is true of the Mexican psaltery, standing in for the mandolin in Vivaldi’s Concerto RV425. The psaltery has a spindly tinkly sort of sound that’s exaggerated in Divine Art’s resonant recording, which adds a touch of glare to the strings. It’s no match for what you hear, for example, in Fabio Biondi’s superior rendering of Vivaldi’s mandolin concertos (Virgin Veritas 545527-2).
On the other hand, Miguel Lawrence is a very fine recorder player, and the performances of Vivaldi’s concertos for sopranino are good ones, though you’ll probably have recordings of these pieces already on your shelves. In the violin concertos, the playing in the outer movements is lively and engaging, but the slow movements are played with more portamento and legato phrasing than you’ll hear in the most with-it performances of today. In short, it’s nice to have the Facco concertos served up by a group dedicated to their perpetuation, and at mid-price, but the performances and recording leave something to be desired.
— Lee Passarella
Mid-century performances, Eduard Erdmann, piano