At prices like these, Apex's set of Albinoni's Opus 10 concerti for violin offer excellent value. Especially so given that Giuliano Carmignola is the soloist in four of the six concerti offered on this second CD (although for accuracy's sake two of the six accredited to him are in fact ripieno concerti - for strings without soloist). Piero Toso is the other solo violinist. Carmignola, of course, is a great exponent of the Italian Baroque - perhaps we should make that THE great exponent.
But although my three star rating is arguably harsh, these recordings aren't as astonishingly dynamic as those of the Vivaldi concerti Carmignola made with Andrea Marcon on the Sony label. Carmignola shows the same mastery of technique, but the sound he creates here is much more conventional. There are probably several reasons for this. One is that the soloist recorded these pieces in 1979, at the start of his career. The sound he makes is not yet that of his maturity. (His vibrato in this early phase, for instance, is a constant feature, rather than the more subtle and varied embellishment it has become in his later career.) Another reason is probably technical - those Sony engineers created miraculously multi-layered recordings in 2000-2002. This recording, although DDD, is undeniably flatter. Another reason is that the ensemble isn't as colourful as a really modern, historically informed one - there are no theorboes, lutes or chamber organs here to provide variety and authenticity in the continuo. A final reason is that these late Albinoni concerti just aren't that compelling - they're often charming, and never less than competent, but rarely seat-gripping. As is often the case with Vivaldi, the concerti in minor keys are more dramatic and engaging. Here, that means No 8 in g, and No 11 in what is actually C major but often feels more like the minor key.
As the informative accompanying notes tell us, the Opus 10 set soon fell into complete oblivion. It would, perhaps, still be languishing on a dusty shelf today if it hadn't been for the efforts of academic Michael Talbot, who discovered a copy in Leufsta Castle in Sweden. In rescuing music of the Italian Baroque from undeserved neglect, Talbot has made something of a name for himself. His identification of Vivaldi's masterful violin sonatas in Manchester's Public Library was a major triumph. So too is this rediscovery, but the Opus 10 would really benefit from an updated recording.