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Chamber Music - Released May 17, 2019 | Ars Produktion

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Classical - Released January 23, 2010 | Ars Produktion

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Classical - Released June 19, 2009 | Myrios Classics

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Alte Musik Köln is a breakaway ensemble; its members once belonged to Musica Antiqua Köln, but decided to form their own group after Reinhard Goebel effectively abandoned MAK. Alte Musik Köln is led by cellist Klaus-Dieter Brandt, himself an instrument builder in addition to being a player, and the group made its recording debut in January 2009 on the ARS Produktion label with -- surprise! -- a recording of Mendelssohn's piano trios. Alte Musik Köln's sophomore effort, Roma, is likewise the second release on a new label, Myrios Classics; it features the group in material that has a more idiomatic relationship with period instruments than Mendelssohn might be. Roma focuses on the last decades of seventeenth-century Rome; Arcangelo Corelli was at the height of his influence on Italian instrumental music and Antonio Vivaldi was yet to emerge. The music of Corelli is not featured in this program, but some of the musicians he inspired -- such as John Ravenscroft and Francesco Bonporti -- are heard; the decision behind this program was to revive as many previously unknown and unrecorded works as possible within the locus of the theme. This brings along with it some names seldom encountered on recordings -- Lelio Colista, Carlo Mannelli. Giovanni Lulier, and perhaps most significantly Carl Lonati -- in a program dominated by early sonatas, but also including a couple of concerti and even a sinfonia by Alessandro Stradella. While the Lonati, the Bonporti D minor Sonata, and the Caldara and Lulier works all stand out to some degree, the first thing that comes to mind in listening to Roma is not the repertoire, but the playing. In composers such as Lonati and Caldara one normally notes their use of odd and seemingly incongruous harmonic ideas, but in their expert interpretation and seamless ensemble sound, Alte Musik Köln reproduces such passages in a way where the oddness remains but the incongruity disappears. The program and playing on this disc flow together so well that one views the Italian music of the late seventeenth century not as the immediate predecessor of the Bach and Handel that we know, but as belonging to its own unique language. Roma reverses the usual process of artistic evaluation whereby one sets the repertoire as the apogee and the quality of the work is determined based on how close the performers get to it; the playing of Alte Musik Köln is rather an absolute and one's grasp of the disc depends on how ready the listener is to get up to speed...with them. Some of the ornamentation in the Lonati is unbelievably complex and executed with jaw-dropping precision; throughout the whole program there are so many countless little details that it would take many listens to gather them all up. Moreover, hearers will want to return at least that many times, and likely many more. Myrios Classics and Alte Musik Köln's Roma raises the bar on the performance of seventeenth-century ensemble music and really ought to be heard by anyone with an interest in the Baroque.