ARMONIOSA CONCERT IN INNSBRUCK
(6th May 2017 – Innsbrucker Festwochen der Alte Musik)
The Ensemble Armoniosa from Asti did not let any notes or sounds fall into the wind. The cellist Stefano Cerrato, who wonderfully played the early Classic Sonata by Graziani, and the violinist Francesco Cerrato, with one of the RosenkranzSonaten by Biber, are outstanding “virtuosi”, and also with the continuo of Michele Barchi (harpsichord) and Marco Demaria (violoncello) they are a fully experienced “Team”, as they demonstrated at the end with the Vivaldi’s Follia.
TIROLER TAGESZEITUNG, 8th May 2017 (Austria)
Original German text:
“Das Ensemble Armoniosa aus Asti ließ sich weder Noten und Töne noch seinen Anspruch vom Wind verwehen. Die Sonaten des spätbarocken Italieners Giovanni Benedetto Platti, der lange Jahre in Würzburg wirkte, schwingen in den raschen und singen in den langsamen Sätzen, noch deutlicher war die Frühklassik in der Violoncello-Sonate des Carlo Graziani auszumachen. Der Cellist Stefano Cerrato und der Geiger Francesco Cerrato, der mit einer der Rosenkranzsonaten von Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Bibern nach höchstem Anspruch griff, sind vorzügliche Virtuosen und mit dem Continuo von Michele Barchi (Cembalo) und Marco Demaria (Violoncello) ein eingespieltes Team, demonstriert zuletzt bei Antonio Vivaldis „La Follia“.”
TIROLER TAGESZEITUNG, 8th May 2017
GIOVANNI BENEDETTO PLATTI, TrioSonatas for Violin, Violoncello and Continuo (MDG, 2016)
The main Armoniosa’s qualities consist in the cohesion of the players’ sound and in a research aimed to obtain a soft and bright timbre amalgam, carefully avoiding those harshness that often emerge with the original instruments and by using a well balanced agogic directions, quality widely enhanced by a high-level recoding for naturalness and brightness. The result is perfectly suited to the name of the Ensemble, so harmonious, persuasive, sometimes dreamy, always very pleasant.
MUSICA, April 2017 (Italy)
Original Italian text:
“I maggiori pregi di Armoniosa consistono nella coesione dell’insieme e in una ricerca finalizzata ad ottenere un amalgama timbrico morbido e luminoso, evitando accuratamente quelle asprezze che spesso emergono con gli strumenti originali e facendo ricorso ad una condotta agogica nel segno dell’equilibrio e della misura, qualità ampiamente valorizzate da una registrazione di alto livello per naturalezza e limpidezza. Il risultato finale è perfettamente rispondente al nome della formazione, vale a dire armonioso, suadente, a tratti sognante, sempre assai gradevole.”
MUSICA, April 2017 (Italy)
Le panache avec lequel les musiciens de l’Ensemble Armoniosa s’emparent de ces partitions gomme ces inégalités. L’abondance des motifs en imitation et des fugatos (mouvements rapides), les arcs mélodiques en tierces parallèles (mouvements lents) attestent de leur parfaite cohésion. On est aussi sensible à la chaleur et la rondeur des timbres qui se dégagent des instruments anciens, même si davantage de charme ressort de la musique de chambre avec hautbois du compositeur.
The performances by the Italian ensemble Armoniosa are very attractive, being accomplished technically, thoughtful and unfailingly musical. I was especially taken by the readings of some of the slower movements, where there is much affecting cantabile playing. Full marks, too, for the stylish ornamentation the players apply to repeats (most movements are binary form). One curiosity is the use of both harpsichord and organ as keyboard continuo at the same time, which presumably accounts for the thickening up of the bass texture.
earlymusicreview.com, 30th March 2017 (UK)
The interpretation is fascinating, elegant, light and flaky. The music seems pulsating, nuanced, lively and technically clean. And this interpretation sparkles with a liveliness and sensuality, as the music from Italy does very well. Platti, so played – is simply cool!
TOCCATA, March 2017 (Germany)
It is very substantial music in an attractive mixture of Italian and German style; similarities with Handel and Telemann are not uncommon.
The ensemble Armoniosa exudes its qualities with warm timbres, intimate expression and moving cantility. The composition of the basso continuo with cello, harpsichord and organ adds to the opulence. (Music ***** – Sound *****)
FONO FORUM, February 2017 (Germany)
What is interesting about these six trio sonatas beautifully played on period instruments (at A’=415 Hz pitch) by Armoniosa, an Italian ensemble founded in 2012, is that they feature the cello as a partner to the violin, rather than the typical two-violin melody voices. The fantastic Super Audio sound achieves a clear separation of all the instruments with perhaps a slight bias towards the cello, which is flattered throughout. The continuo alternates between harpsichord and an especially attractive chamber organ. (…) There is no sense of routine in the playing; the ensemble shows great attentiveness to nuances of the style. There is just about enough variety in the recording, although one would gladly have welcomed a diversionary oboe or transverse flute. All in all, these are very fine performances which expand our knowledge and appreciation of the Italian Baroque during a fertile period of transition. MD&G has once again shown why they are among the best in delivering unadulterated sonic experiences with great depth and precision.
AUDIOPHILE AUDITION, December 2016 (UK)
The only four-year-old ensemble Armoniosa has set itself the goal to belong to the top. You can see that on this recording. Their colourful and technically appealing orchestral make the Plattis’sonatas an enrichment not only for the cello lover, but also for every other baroque listener.
PIZZICATO, 12th December 2016 (Luxembourg)
The sonatas are all very elegant, sometimes seductive and suggest a pleasing to playful tone. Imitatorically, the fast sets of assuming ease, expressive melody lines in the slow movements – all this speaks for Platti’s Italian heritage; Coupled with an insensible sensitivity, Platti’s sonatas in their departure from the strict counterpoint, but also to what is called the so-called gallant style. The ensemble Armoniosa, based on original instruments and historically orientated, makes this music completely unpretentious for itself. It is true that some of the rhetorical aspects might be somewhat more elaborate, or a little more attention may be given to the emotional content of many sentences. But the clear articulation and excellent phrasing art, at all, the fine elasticity and the natural vocal expression in the play of the entire ensemble, take for granted.
KLASSIK-HEUTE.COM, 6th December 2016 (Germany)
Benedetto Platti’s Trio Sonatas are no works to trigger enthusiasm. Irrelevant pieces for the court of Würzburg which best are taken with a Silvaner glass. But the young Ensemble Armoniosa teaches a better lesson: they turn these six pieces into elegant and empathic music. This recording, released by the audiophile label Dabringhaus and Grimm, appears and makes the icing on the cake. (***** Outstanding)
JOURNAL FRANKFURT, November 2016 (Germany)
ANTONIO VIVALDI, La Stravaganza op.4 (MDG, 2015)
The exquisite chaconne from the final concerto of Vivaldi’s La stravaganza may be worth the entry price alone. But this second set of 12 concertos for violin and strings with continuo – published, like the hugely influential 1711 set L’estro armonico, by Estienne Roger of Amsterdam – positively o’er brims with further musical delights. So it’s hard to believe it was less well received than its predecessor, especially when performed by such persuasive advocates of Vivaldi’s bravura originality as Italian period instrument band Armoniosa and violinist/director Francesco Cerrato. Cerrato and Armoniosa enter, well, if not a crowded field then one distinguished more by quality than quantity, and among my enduring favourites are the suavely elegant Monica Huggett with the Academy of Ancient Music under Hogwood, the characterful Rachel Podger with Arte dei Suonatori and the ardently stylish Fabio Biondi with Europa Galante (Virgin, 7/11 – though the latter’s is not a complete recording). But the new kids on the block – Cerrato founded Armoniosa only in 2012 – have convincingly staked their claim with this debut recording for MDG. Using both harpsichord and organ continuo for colouristic effects throughout, the general approach is however immediately apparent with the opening B flat major concerto. The strongly accented down-bows of the Allegro anchor a gentler flow enlivened by strong contrasts between solo and concertante episodes, presaging Cerrato’s deliciously ornamented line in the Adagio before he cuts loose in the final stages of the closing Allegro with some typically Vivaldian high-register passagework. And so it goes on. Armoniosa render the following dramatic E minor concerto (No 2) with the requisite chiaroscuro, connecting with the sfumato of the atmospheric slow movement of the A minor concerto (No 4), marked Grave e sempre piano. The relaxed expansiveness of the Largo of No 7 in C – the only four-movement concerto – is masterly and recalls La Serenissima’s approach (Avie, A/09). The brisk antiphonal exchanges between the two solo violins in the D major No 11’s Allegro create an electricity that dissipates in the following Largo, which features a particularly rich cello accompaniment. An impressive debut indeed. William Yeoman
GRAMOPHONE, August 2015 (UK) – Click here
This is an extremely elegant, beautifully poised and nuanced rendering of Vivaldi’s Op.4. It stands up to the great recent recordings of Vivaldi, notably by Avi Avital, and will be a brilliant addition to any enthusiast’s shelf. The works themselves are, not to be too obvious, highly Vivaldian. Works such as Op.4 are so acutely emblematic of Vivaldi’s composition methods, innovations and approaches to timbre that they could stand as a ‘typical’ or ‘representative’ Vivaldi work: and, if you ask me, are delicious precisely for this reason. All those tessellated patterns and cycles of fifths we remember from the Four Seasons, and those virtuosic string flourishes with punchy continuo from the mandolin concerto: these are amply represented here on this enormous double-disc, and the variety here is a testament to both Vivaldi and the editors. The performances are also exceptional. The first violin (Cerrato) is a truly wonderful player, with such delicate nuance in every phrase. His understanding of Vivaldi is exceptional, and he truly balances that festivity and solemnity always at odds in Vivaldi’s corpus. I would buy this pair of discs just to hear him play. It is the most impressive rendering of Vivaldi’s string work I have heard for a very long time. In all, this is one to buy immediately, and not just if you like Vivaldi: if you fancy something richly detailed and complicated, but something moving and fun, then buy this over any other recent recording of Vivaldi or other Venetian Baroque. It is stunning. Dan Sperrin
FANFARE MAGAZINE, Mar – Apr 2015 (USA)
A recording of the Concertos op. 4 by Antonio Vivaldi that is fresh, powerful, and absolutely compelling stylistically.
Armoniosa is still a relatively young ensemble. It was founded in 2012 in Asti, a small Italian town between Trieste and Genoa. Two years later, in 2014, the ensemble signed a contract with the German label MDG for a five-year project with recordings of Italian music from the seventeenth century. This cooperative venture has now yielded its first fruits: Antonio Vivaldi’s Twelve Concertos op. 4, printed under the name of La Stravaganza. A lofty goal, one might think, inasmuch as Vivaldi recordings are really more than plentiful enough, and the twelve violin concertos have also been recorded more than once.
And yet: the listener is immediately surprised. What freshness comes his way! A production conveying the audio impression of a result of the various endeavors – if not the experiments too – in Vivaldi interpretation during the last good twenty years. Every musical utterance seems to have been perfectly formed with a sleepwalker’s flawless intuition; every tempo, every dynamic nuance is just right. The ensemble really has no need at all to call attention to itself with a one-sided, new, original interpretation. Under its leader and soloist Francesco Cerrato, who renders the music with finely balanced virtuosity and melancholy and both with fiery verve and calm narrative flowing, it has no need of dynamic excesses, breakneck tempos, or the brutal aggression of endless sound exposure in order to be completely convincing. The ensemble instead plays the concertos just a bit more rigorously, more powerfully, and more swiftly in the tempos than it would if tending toward the romanticizing of the music. Even after almost two hours one does not have the feeling that one now has heard enough Vivaldi. The exciting, bold extravagances after which the twelve concertos are named are found where they belong: in Vivaldi’s music, not in the interpretation.
The concertos were recorded in the concert hall of the Marienmünster Abbey. The sound engineer Friedrich Wilhelm Rödding has done a tremendous job. The sound is fresh, powerful, and transparent. A recording that makes the listener happy and arouses his interest in the further productions on MDG! Prof. Dr. Michael Bordt
KLASSIK.COM, July 2015 (Austria) – Click here
Within the new Comparing Discography this recording comes 2nd after Rachel Podger. If in comparison with Vivaldi’s “average” violin concerto we are here talking more about experiment and phantasy [or fancy], then this vital, brillant young Italians prove it. Regarding Francesco Cerrato we are talking about the debut CD made by a young, enthusiastic and very good youthful ensemble who know the devices of the authentic line. They care for strong accents and useful [wholesome] contrast. Within the slow movements they take advantage of the ornamental options. As it should be, the continuo is shared by harpsichord and organ. Altogether a promising, refreshing and admirable debüt. To realize this you should listen for example to the last movement of no. 6, the second movement of no. 7 or the last movement of no. 2. Moreover everything has been wonderfully recorded. Jan de Kruijff
MUSICALIFEITEN, May 2015 (Netherlands) – Click here
This interpretation of Armoniosa is designed to fly high. Reveals a deep understanding of the composer’s music and exudes strength, energy and internal tension, has very judicious times, Cerrato exhibits a unique technical skill and a round sound is achieved, perfect bound and rich in color… The listening is, really, a joy. We warmly welcome Armoniosa ensemble that will bring us in the future many rewarding moments. Good, very good starting!
ELARTEDELAFUGA.COM, May 2015 (Spain) – Click here
The recording by the Italian ensemble Armoniosa sounds so immediate and incisive that it is as if one were experiencing it live. Each instrument can be located with precision; virtuosity can be admired individually, and the ensemble effort conveys sonorous enjoyment.
AUDIO, May 2015 (Germany)
The Italian baroque ensemble Armoniosa, founded little more than two years ago, has come up with an incredibly exciting reading of Vivaldi’s twelve violin concertos op. 4 “La Stravaganza”. These concertos are at least as well known as the famous “Four Seasons”, and thus not necessarily easy to interpret freshly. But the thirteen players around the violinist Francesco Cerrato have dared to do it and gone for a rigorous approach. They combine an exuberant zest with the strict observation of tempo favoured by reconstructionists and the crystal-clear, mordant tone, almost aggressive in its effect, of the disciples of authentic sound. In this these musicians are not following any dogma, simply their own instinct for effect and flamboyance.
JOURNAL FRANKFURT, 1st April 2015 (Germany)
The Ensemble “Armoniosa”, founded in 2012 in Asti under the leadership of Francesco Cerrato, plays Antonio Vivaldi’s “La Stravaganza” op. 4 with a sumptuous sound, bold rhythms, strong colours, well-marked accents, yet clear and distinct articulation. With this recording “Armoniosa” marks out its own special place on the Italian baroque scene. MDG’s 2 + 2 + 2 sound is superb.
PIZZICATO, 22th February 2015 (Luxembourg) – Click here