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Jean-Yves Duperron
Classical Music Sentinel, October 2009

Boyce was from the late Baroque period, born 25 years after Handel was born. These short symphonies are full of inventive melodies and bouncy rhythms, and he sets a perfect balance in his use of all the instruments of the ensemble. The Aradia Ensemble under Mallon play with plenty of élan and finely judged nuances. When released, this recording was a Gramophone Editor’s Choice. First rate Baroque music!

Fanfare, November 2005

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Gramophone, August 2005

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Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb International, June 2005

"These gloriously tuneful and eventful symphonies, derived mainly from Boyce’s overtures for his odes and serentas, have never lacked for adherents on disc. Even so there have been times when choice has been severely confined so a new entrant is more than welcome. Mallon and his Arcadia Ensemble have been producing fine work for Naxos and they were a reliable bet for this repertoire, especially since their baroque recordings have been refreshing and attractively accomplished.

One won’t be disappointed overall. The balance between harpsichord and strings, for example, is just and the bass line pointing in the slow movement of the B flat major [No.1 to distinguish it from No.7 in the same key] is well nuanced and weighted. The Allegro assai of the A major is well shaped, with strings that are pert and good entry points. Then, too, the pomposo gait of the Vivace of the Third is well characterised and there’s graciousness in the same symphony’s Minuet finale (if arguably just a shade too much). The brass is on good form for the splendid middle movement of the Fourth and the horn harmonies of its finale are finely chiselled. The trumpets flare in the Fifth, with antiphonal voices to the fore, and things are kept flowing in the Largo introduction to the Sixth with its stately Larghetto well deployed.

All this is fine; the winds are as adept as the brass and one can hear this in the First Symphony in particular. They phrase and shape with great nuance and feel for the Handelian lines. But turn to the 1992 AAM/Hogwood (now on Decca in their British Music series) and to the English Concert/Pinnock (Archiv 1990) and I think you will hear how much more immediate the earlier recordings are. Partly this is to do with sound. The church acoustic of Grace Church on the Hill in Toronto does blunt the attacks and gives a rather distant and diffuse quality to the recording. It obscures wind lines on occasion as well. But as much as this one can hear there’s more sheer zest in the other recordings - a more earthy immediacy. Hogwood makes Boyce sound bigger and manlier in the First, and for all their skill the Fourth sounds earthbound and more amorphous in the Naxos than it ever did with Hogwood and Pinnock. The AAM strings are more lithe in the Fifth. But there are certainly interesting points of departure. Mallon is far brisker than Hogwood in the Vivace second movement of the Second Symphony and imparts a different mood to the music - just as valid as his competitors. Then again I do prefer the greater sense of sprightliness and incision Hogwood brings to the Sprituoso section of the Seventh. On balance, and throughout, I have to say I prefer Hogwood.

He would be my first choice, irrespective of price considerations, though perhaps this antediluvian can put in a mournful plea for a resurrection of the old cycle recorded by Jörg Faerber and his Württemberg forces - such gusto and brio. Maybe it won’t win any prizes for its historically informed manners but let’s not be precious about that. But Hogwood is still the front-runner."

David Vernier, May 2005

"Artistic Quality 10 / 10 Sound Quality

William Boyce's eight Op. 2 symphonies have been fairly well treated on disc--versions by Pinnock (Archiv), Marriner (Capriccio), Boughton (Nimbus), and Ronald Thomas (CRD) have long satisfied both period- and modern-instrument fans--but it's been about 10 years since anyone's had a go at these very fine and enormously appealing exemplars of 18th-century English style, albeit in the manner of Handel's theatrical works. In fact, casual listeners would be forgiven for believing these relatively short, tuneful, rhythmically buoyant, skillfully scored pieces were from the pen of George Frederic himself. These so-called "symphonies", three-movement works most of which are cobbled from Boyce's stage compositions, are so ingratiating and melodically ear-catching that it's a wonder they aren't more common to concert programs. And certainly, if you're looking for a recording that shows these symphonies at their best, this one should be your first choice, as the vibrant sound, clean articulation, apt dynamic contrasts, and lively rhythms combine to make these performances both irresistible and worthy of many repeats. Kevin Mallon's Aradia Ensemble executes these pieces as well as we can imagine, and the sound places us in an ideal listening perspective. If you like Handel and you don't know these pieces, don't hesitate."

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