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Early Music

Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger



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Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
Seven Violin Concertos

Concerto in E major for violin and strings, RV 270 ’Il riposo’
Concerto in D major for violin, strings and harpsichord RV 208 ’Grosso Mogul’
Concerto in E major for violin, strings and harpsichord RV 271 ’L’amoroso’
Concerto in B flat major for violin, strings and harpsichord RV 363 ’O Sia il corneto da
Concerto in C minor for violin, strings and harpsichord RV 199 ‘Il sospetto’
Concerto in D major for violin, strings and harpsichord RV 234 ‘L’inquietudine’
Concerto in B flat major for four violins, strings and harpsichord RV 553
I Solisti Veneti/Claudio Scimone
Piero Toso (violin RV 270, RV 271, RV 363, RV 199); Marco Fornaciari (violin RV 208, RV 234); Kazuki Sasaki, Glauco Bertaguin, Fabrizio Scalabrin (violins RV 553)
Recorded at the Villa Simes, Piazolla sul Brenta, Italy: first five concertos in July 1970 ADD; final two concertos in June 1983 ADD
WARNER CLASSICS APEX 2564 60150 2 [71:29]

A special composer who is always identifiable but never predictable. I never cease to be amazed by Vivaldi's innate gift for invention, colour and melody and his violin concertos bear testament to this. On this release Apex have compiled seven concertos for violin, strings and basso continuo from their back Erato catalogue. The first five concertos appear to come from a 1980 release which was themed to included a selection of violin concertos to which Vivaldi had given descriptive titles. The final two violin concertos were contained on a 1984 release; one of which bears the title L’inquietudine’ and strangely the other selected concerto is untitled and scored not for one but for four violins, strings and harpsichord.

Vivaldi was a most prolific composer and according to my latest works list he composed a massive 639 instrumental scores; the vast majority featuring a solo instrumental part. In fact, as many as 253 were composed for solo violin, string orchestra and basso continuo; which was clearly his favoured instrumentation. It should be borne in mind that the titles that Vivaldi gave, or were given by others, to his works often only indicate the general atmosphere rather than a strict programmatic intention such as in ’The Four Seasons’.

All the violin concertos featured on this release are composed in Vivaldi’s favoured three movement Allegro-Adagio-Allegro structure. There is however a discernible contrast across the selected concertos, which vary subtly in weight and technical complexity. They give an excellent cross-section of Vivaldi’s compositional expertise, aptly displaying his ability to combine virtuosity and expression.

Of the six violin concertos here featuring the solo violin the duties are shared by two soloists: the experienced and often recorded Piero Toso and Marco Fornaciari, about whom I know very little. There is little to choose between the performances of both soloists who play with equal enthusiasm displaying a consistently fine tone throughout. With regard to the concerto for four violins RV 553, annoyingly the booklet notes only state who three of the soloists are, presumably the fourth player is Marco Fornaciari.

I have several other recordings that feature the ensemble I Solisti Veneti under the skilled direction of Claudio Scimone. They are consistently impressive in this late-baroque repertoire in which they specialise. Ensembles such as I Solisti Veneti and Canadian based I Musici using modern instruments and the Academy of Ancient Music and The English Concert on period instruments were the first generation then at the cutting-edge of Vivaldi performances some twenty or so years ago. However our knowledge of Vivaldi and other early composers has increased and performers have become vastly more proficient in performing technique and style, exploiting the strengths of their period instruments as opposed to being restricted by their weaknesses. Consequently I feel ensembles such as I Solisti Veneti cannot now compete equally on disc with the current new crop of Vivaldi performers.

Overall I favour my Vivaldi played with more instrumental colour, richer sonorities and greater expression as achieved by the new-generation ‘period instrument’ ensembles namely: the Venice Baroque Orchestra with violin soloist Giuliano Carmignola under Andrea Marcon, on Virgin Veritas, Europa Galante under Fabio Biondi, on Sony Classical, the Ensemble Explorations under Roel Dieltiens, on Harmonia Mundi, the Freiburger Barockorchester under Gottfried von Der Goltz, on Opus 111 and the Concerto Italiano under Rinaldo Alessandrini, on Naïve.

The booklet notes from Apex appear to originate from the 1980 release and only contain information relating to the first five concertos. There is no description of the concertos in D major RV 234 and B flat major RV 553, which is a shame as there is no excuse for booklet notes being anything other than comprehensive.

Overall the warm recorded sound is acceptable, although the first five concertos recorded in 1979 in ADD are slightly cloudy, especially in the forte sections of the ritornellos and are not as successful as the two later concertos recorded digitally in 1983. To have increased the instrumental colouring I would have preferred a sharper focused sound. Furthermore the single discreet harpsichord accompaniment does not I feel provide a sufficiently prominent and rich basso continuo.

Anyone looking for a cross-section of Vivaldi’s violin concertos using modern instruments may feel satisfied with this Apex release however there are many exciting newer recordings available that are guaranteed to please.

Michael Cookson


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