There’s some question as to whether or not all of these works are by Gluck, but it doesn’t matter. The music is unfailingly enjoyable, the performances vigorous and full of life. A couple of the pieces are scored just for strings and horns, plus continuo, but the remainder also feature flutes, oboes, and bassoon in various combinations and can have anywhere from two to four movements. The lack of firm attribution or composition dates may account for the music’s neglect, but that hasn’t stopped tons of Bach from being accepted, so we might as will give Gluck the credit and then sit back and enjoy.
L’Orfeo plays on period instruments with results that are well above average. The winds, horns especially, are pretty terrific, and they have some impressive solo licks. The string ensemble is clean and the tone generally attractive (save for the Andante of the Symphony in F major, which is surprisingly thin given the appealing slow movement of the previous symphony). The harpsichord continuo is a touch too prominent, as usual, but it’s a pleasant-sounding instrument and the engineering flatters the players. This is an important addition to the Gluck discography and definitely worth the collector’s attention.