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Giuseppi Valentini (1681-1753) was a man of several hats,
being a poet and painter as well as a composer — the
later being what he is known for today. He was nicknamed
"Il Straccioncino" — The Bohemian, or in other translations
The Little Ragamuffin. Well of course I just had to check
out a composer called The Little Ragamuffin, seeing that
I had been one myself in high-school and early college.
Come to think of it, I'm back to being a ragamuffin these
days, too.

To my ear, Valentini's music sounds a bit like Corelli.
So I was surprised to read in the excellent album notes
by David Plantier that evidently Valentini took great pains
to separate himself from Corelli, with whom he worked in
such proximity. I guess it just goes to show that, across
history, similarities often count more than differences.

I first came across Ensemble 415 through a few people on
youTube with channels devoted mainly to the Baroque. They
are an excellent period orchestra, one that to my mind
ranks up there with the Musiciens du Louvre, the Concert
de Nations and Les Arts Florissants. What first caught my
attention was the impressive volume they can roject for
such a small orchestra, which including conductor Chiara
Banchini, who does double duty on violin, currently consists
of only slightly more than a dozen musicians — about the
same size as the Venice Baroque Orchestra. But in the long
run it wa not the dynamics but their dynamic performances
that won me over.

I also have to praise the label that they record with on
this particular Valentini album, which goes by the rather
odd name of Zig-Zag Productions. Not only is the engineering
top rate, but the physical CD — with original paintings by
Anne Peultier — is a little work of art unto itself.

On the back of the program booklet there are a few lines
which, loosely translated, run

There is a great pleasure to music
In bringing that love to others.

Ensemble 415 and Zig-Zag Productions truly put that
into practice. I think the Little Ragamuffin would be
proud.


Ensemble 415.

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