Bojan Čičić and the period instrumentalists of his Illyria Consort have put together a sparkling collection of Baroque chamber music from central Europe, and it’s sure to appeal to those who hanker after something other than the usual standard fare for this time of year. And you can forget the ‘Pastoral Symphony’ from Messiah, the Sinfonia from Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, and even Corelli’s ‘Christmas Concerto’. The programme is bookended by two Vivaldi concertos (although emphatically not ‘Winter’ from The Four Seasons!), but the rest is from largely Germanic, Catholic south-central Europe: Austria and the Habsburg lands. There are rarities aplenty, and even a couple of premiere recordings ... the whole work shimmers with a tender luminosity that is completely captivating ... Čičić and his colleagues deliver consistently assured, lively and polished performances, with bucolic edginess where appropriate, and a variety of continuo instrumentation including not just harpsichord and organ but also theorbo, Baroque triple harp and bassoon. They are vividly recorded for Delphian in a nicely focussed church acoustic by Paul Baxter, and there are detailed notes on the music by Robert Rawson. It’s an immensely enjoyable disc, fizzing with delights from start to finish, and a most welcome alternative to the carols and songs that seem to take over the airwaves and public address systems at this time of year. Recommended with all enthusiasm!
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