The twelve concerti of Locatelli's opus 3 are among the most engaging instrumental works of the Italian baroque. They were clearly designed, as their title `L'Arte del Violino' indicates, to show off the sweet nature and brilliant capabilities of their widely admired composer's chosen instrument. They are works of attractive melody and adventurous harmonies, comprising twelve violin concertos with twenty-four optional `capricci', each one enclosed in the outer concerto movements. These capricci, with their copious trills, double-stopping and high tessitura, present the player with technical demands that have scarcely if ever been surpassed; in this recording the capricci, while correctly placed and incorporated toward the end of their respective concerted movements, are each given a separate CD track for the convenience of listeners who wish to hear them on their own.
These performances, by Elizabeth Wallfisch and the Raglan Baroque Players directed by Nicholas Kraemer, are careful, refined and civilised, with a delicate and fine-sounding texture from the period instruments including that of the soloist. It's a very worthy effort, but it's all a bit too strait-laced for my liking, especially when compared to the brilliant panache and energy of the recording from Luca Fanfoni and his Concerto Reale ensemble, Locatelli: L'arte del Violino. The composer clearly had violinistic fireworks in mind with these concertos; and fireworks are what you get from Fanfoni and co., but not from the present set.
Locatelli's ground-breaking works not only look backward to Corelli, but forward to the likes of Paganini, and somehow these performances don't quite capture this latter aspect of their character. There would certainly be an argument for giving a 4-star score to this recording; but for me, to emphasise the substantial gulf between this and the far more exciting Fanfoni set, three stars it is.