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Early Music

Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger


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Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
Concertos for Flute and Orchestra

Concerto for flute and orchestra, in F major Op. 10, No. 1 RV 433 ’La tempesta di mare’ (A storm at sea)
Concerto for flute and orchestra, in G minor Op. 10, No. 2 RV 439 ’La Notte’ (The night)
Concerto for flute and orchestra, in D major Op. 10, No. 3 RV 428 ‘Il Cardellino’ (The Goldfinch)
Concerto for flute and orchestra, in G major Op. 10, No. 4 RV 435
Concerto for flute and orchestra, in F major Op. 10, No. 5 RV 434
Concerto for flute and orchestra, in G major Op. 10, No. 6 RV 437
Concerto for flute and orchestra, in D major RV 427
Concerto for flute and orchestra, in G major RV 414
Jean-Pierre Rampal (flute)
I Solisti Veneti/Claudio Scimone (Conductor)
Recorded at San Giorgio de Venise, Italy. No exact recording dates c.1965 ADD
WARNER CLASSICS APEX 2564 60373 2 [67:44]

Although Vivaldi was a virtuoso violinist and wrote prolifically for that instrument he was able to compose imaginatively and expertly for a wide range of combinations of instruments. Vivaldi would certainly have been aware of the possibilities for flute writing as owing to its high register the instrument can penetrate a full string section without the fear of being drowned-out in tutti passages. Consequently Vivaldi left the catalogue with at least fifteen concertos for solo flute, strings and basso continuo and over double that number also featuring the flute as a solo instrument or in other instrumental combinations.

The flute as a solo instrument took some time to become popular in Italy although it had been widely composed for in northern Europe. The flute became especially fashionable in Germany where Johann Quantz the court composer for Frederick the Great was particularly prolific, composing an amazing several hundred works for the flute. It is likely that Vivaldi’s inspiration for writing specifically for the flute came following the visit of Quantz to Venice in 1726 where Vivaldi was in station at the Pio Ospedale della Pieta. Despite Vivaldi’s slow association with the flute the six Opus 10 concertos seem to be the first in Europe to appear in print when published by Le Cene of Amsterdam in 1728.

I understand that five of the set of six Opus 10 concertos were arrangements that Vivaldi made of his recorder concertos or from chamber concertos which included a flute or recorder. It is possible that concerto No. 4 of the set is the only original flute concerto composition; although an original version could have been lost or destroyed.

For the flute as with the recorder Vivaldi often used these high pitched instruments to attach certain imaginative subjects such as birdcalls, pastoral and romantic themes etc. Clearly Vivaldi’s listening public were perceptive to the clever use of providing his works with programmatic and descriptive titles; a marketing device that he had used so successfully in The Four Seasons.

Performed on modern instruments these works, from the Apex label, were originally released on Erato back in 1966 and this Vivaldi listener now expects more imaginative performances than those presented here. I do not find that the playing is particularly evocative of Vivaldi’s imaginative pictures of ‘A storm at sea’, ‘Nightmares‘, ‘Sleep’, and ‘The Goldfinch’ etc. The playing from soloist Jean-Pierre Rampal is acceptable but he leaves the listener wondering what might have been possible with more imagination and creativity; there is insufficient vitality, never any element of risk taking and the picture painting is uninspiring. A standard performance too from I Solisti Veneti under the experienced direction of Claudio Scimone, readings which forty years ago would have been more than acceptable but far more is now expected of today’s Vivaldi interpreters. The warm sound is adequate but more clarity would have enhanced the proceedings. As usual from an Apex release the booklet notes are concise yet reasonably informative.

The competition in the catalogue for these Opus 10 compositions is remarkably high with at least ten versions being recommendable. My particular favourite is the exhilarating and spirited version from Christopher Hogwood directing the Academy of Ancient Music featuring Stephen Preston on flute on Double Decca 458 078-2. Played on original instruments the Opus 10 flute concertos together with the 12 violin concertos L’Estro Armonico, Op.3 form a generous set and are analogue to digital re-masters; now available at budget price. I await with bated breath any new interpretations of these works from new-age ensembles at the cutting-edge of Vivaldi performance; such as Europa Galante under Fabio Biondi and the Venice Baroque Orchestra under Andrea Marcon.

A re-release from Apex of tired sounding and rather uninspiring performances of eight Vivaldi flute concertos.

Michael Cookson


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