The mandolin doesn't
hold an important place in today's music
life. It doesn't frequently appear on
the concert platform, and not many compositions
for mandolin are recorded. The best-known
classical music for mandolin is by Vivaldi,
in particular the concertos recorded
One of the reasons
for the small attention the instrument
enjoys is that it isn't taken that seriously.
The mandolin is often associated with
rather light-weight music written for
But that wasn't always
the case. From the middle of the 16th
century onwards the mandolin was part
of large and small instrumental ensembles.
And at the end of the 17th century it
was used in chamber music, cantatas,
oratorios and operas. In the 18th century
the mandolin started to be treated as
a solo instrument, when composers wrote
solo concertos and sonatas for the instrument.
It wasn't an instrument
for the lower classes as well. Vivaldi's
protector in Ferrara, the Marquis of
Bentivoglio, played the mandolin, as
is proven by a letter Vivaldi wrote
It seems tempting to
believe that Vivaldi wrote his compositions
for mandolin for the Marquis, but there
seems to be very little evidence of
that. For exactly what reason Vivaldi
composed the concertos on this disc
is still unclear. There is little doubt
that the Ospedale in Venice did possess
at least one mandolin.
It seems the Concerto
in C (RV 425) dates from the same period
during which the oratorio Juditha Triumphans
was composed (1716). There the mandolin
is used to accompany Juditha in the
aria 'Transit aetas'. It is thought
that around 1740 the Ospedale possessed
two mandolins. This could explain why
the Concerto in C (RV 558), which dates
from 1740, contains two mandolin parts.
The Concerto in G (RV 532), which is
also written for two mandolins, could
date from the same time.
The recording was originally
made in the 1980s, when performances
with modern instruments were still the
norm. But at that time there were already
many recordings of Vivaldi's music on
period instruments, played with period
techniques. From this recording one
has to conclude that I Solisti Veneti,
for all its undeniable qualities and
its admirable efforts to contribute
to the popularity of Vivaldi's music,
missed the opportunity to keep in touch
with the developments in the interpretation
of baroque music.
That is not to say
that these performances are bad or boring.
I am sure that still many people enjoy
this kind of playing, and it is great
that they are offered the opportunity
to grab these recordings at budget price.
But for those used
to more up-to-date interpretations,
like those of Il Giardino Armonico,
too much is missing to make this disc
There are some aspects
which I find especially difficult to
deal with. The orchestra is pretty large
- at least by the sound of it, since
the players are not listed - and the
mandolins are barely audible once the
full orchestra is stepping in.
The other point is
that all notes get their full length.
There is no differentiation between
them, and that makes these performances
What I dearly miss
is the theatrical character which is
such an important feature of Italian
instrumental music of that time. And
one of the features of Vivaldi's music
is the rhythmic drive, and that is what
is mostly absent here.
This recording is certainly
not my cup of tea, but for those who
enjoy the kind of performances which
were in vogue in the 1960s and 1970s
this disc is a worthy addition to their
Johan van Veen