on 7 April 2012
I like much of this disc. Browsing the BIS website I chanced upon Paradiso Musicale's promo video: they came across as good fun personalities with a great attitude to improvisation and so I bought the album. In fact some of the performances really throw caution to the wind in terms of articulation, swerving rubato and unique arrangements of familiar material (it's nice to see a bass recorder and baroque viola making prominent appearances, for example). I also appreciate the fact that Dan Laurin doesn't feel the need to overblow notes on the recorder in the name of 'expression'. It's a common excuse for HIP that just sounds out of tune. However, if I were to be critical I'd say that some of the renditions on this release are less than memorable. Also, Laurin's recorder sounds clogged up in the J.S. Bach sonata (or perhaps it's inauthentic to clean one's instrument?) and Marion Schwebel's recorded balance is perhaps a little too dry overall. However, this latter point is subjective and I do think the presence of squeaking chairs and breathing on a record is important. The final track is particularly exciting with its gritty drones and daring tempo, and I could only describe the group's general use of percussive taps and folky timbres as rock 'n' roll! Short of going for a group like Respectable Groove, The Father, The Son & The Godfather provides a healthy marriage of folk improvisation and high-end period performance.
I'm afraid I didn't get on as well with this disc as most people have. It has received very favourable reviews in prestigious journals and on this page, so plainly there is nothing whatever wrong with the performance and this is just a matter of personal taste. This disc wasn't really to mine.
The idea is a good one and it is true that there is a very fresh approach here and the musicians are very good. However, the overall effect for me was a bit flat and left me with the feeling that the ensemble were sometimes striving for quirkiness at the expense of the music. The use of rubato is so extreme in places that the effect is more as though they have got lost and are stopping to catch up with themselves, rather than lending meaning to a phrase. I also have to say that the J.S. Bach flute/recorder sonata felt rather turgid beside Ashley Solomons and Trevor Charleston's version.
So...sorry to be critical, but this disc just didn't do it for me. Don't let me put you off, though. It is an imaginative disc with fine music played by very good musicians which many people have enjoyed very much. I just thought I'd mention my view of it in case your taste coincides with mine.