Great credit has to go to Charivari Agréable, the group whose technical proficiency has given life to a series of very obscure opera overtures. This CD is a worthy companion piece to other opera anthologies, both popular and obscure, since it nestles happily in the genre of “introductory" rather than “exhaustive": an intention highlighted by the obvious fun the orchestra has with its solo moments and general camaraderie.
This disc is unpretentious, very enjoyable, and the music is brilliantly played. Charivari Agréable, well known for its unconventional programming, has added another gem to its already impressive discography.
Kah-Ming Ng and his period-instrument ensemble Charivari Agréable continue their laudable attempt to unearth little-known gems from the Baroque era. Here they turn their attention to 17th- and 18th-century Italian opera overtures, which typically take a fast-slow-fast form and eschew any subtleties of counterpoint or dynamics: this is music written for noisy theatres intended to be played while the audience were busy finding their seats, talking to their friends, and generally not listening to the pit orchestra. Hence the attention-grabbing fanfares, the lively dance finales and the emphasis on hear-it-once simplicity. The overtures were generally interchangeable too, not tailored to fit that evening’s opera, Leonardo Leo’s brash, brassy Catone in Utica being as good an example as any – jolly music hardly calculated to prepare listeners for a tragic story of Ancient Roman sacrifice and suicide! But Charivari Agréable live up to their name and provide a pleasantly agreeable tumult indeed.
International Record Review
An inspired piece of programming collects together 17 Italian Baroque opera overtures ranging from Albinoni to Ziani (in between come the likes of Ariosti, Leo, Bononcini, Caldara, Pollarolo, Alessandro Scarlatti, Bernabei, Pasquini, Legrenzi, Steffani and Conti). They are played by Charivari Agréable, directed from the harpsichord by Kah Ming Ng, with a disarming naturalness and elegance that exchanges the theatrical near-hysteria of 'special effects' indulged in by some period ensembles for a sense of sheer delight that brings these enticing scores resplendently to life.
Early Music Review
This is a thoroughly enjoyable disc, with no fewer than 17 opera overtures by 13 composers (there are three by Giovanni Bonocini, and two each by Alessandro Scarlatti and Pollarolo). They range from the "patchwork" overture to Totila by Legrenzi to the basically melody and bass with padding Catone in Utica by Leo. In between there are real jewels from Ariosti (the overture from Vespasiano...) and, I have to say, Giovanni Bonocini. Steffani's Acheloo, which I actually publish, sounds very Purcellian. All in all, this disc is full of insight and revelation, and to be highlly recommended.