Chandos on their early music label Chaconne present
the third volume of Vivaldi’s string concertos. These are technically
concertos for strings and basso continuo. I understand from my catalogue
of the complete Vivaldi works that he composed some forty-four such
concertos. By my reckoning there are enough remaining to make a welcome
Directed from the violin by their joint founder Simon
Standage, the specialist early music ensemble Collegium Musicum 90 are
a standard sized orchestra of twenty players. They use authentic instruments
for the most part with a handful of modern copies. To call this ensemble
‘enthusiasts’ would be an understatement as they play in a seriously
professional and most persuasive manner and have now clocked up some
fifty recordings. I recall a recent recital in Lancaster given by the
quartet Florilegium, the period instrument specialists, whose violinist
was Rodolfo Richter also a member of Collegium Musicum 90 on this recording.
Richter, playing a Jacobus Stainer violin c.1670, was absolutely superb
in live performance and is by no means one of Collegium Musicum 90’s
With one exception all the string concertos are composed
in Vivaldi’s favoured three movement fast-slow-fast structure. Chandos,
in their rather technical booklet notes, states that all these works
have been chosen on musical and pragmatic grounds with the aim of presenting
an attractive cross-section.
The most notable and certainly most attractive string
concerto is the first on the disc, the RV 158 known as the Concerto
ripieno, the main theme of which is used as one of the pieces
featured on BBC TV’s ‘Antiques Roadshow’. The remaining works, of which
some themes are familiar from being recycled from other Vivaldi compositions,
could never be described as being amongst Vivaldi’s most memorable.
However all these pieces are securely crafted and have a certain charm
if often seeming rather ‘assembly line’ repetitious.
Collegium Musicum 90 seem comfortably at home in these
concertos, technically assured and polished providing a relatively restrained
performance. Overall I would have favoured a touch more energy and panache,
with that certain authentic Latin flair. You can hear what I mean if
you listen to the crack Italian period instrument ensembles the Venice
Baroque Orchestra under Andrea Marcon and Europa Galante under Fabio
Biondi on Sony Classical and Virgin Veritas respectively.
This is no epoch-making recording by anyone’s standards
but an honest and well played release with the excellent sound quality
that we have come to expect from the Chandos engineers.