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Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
String Concertos, Volume 2
Concerto for strings, RV 109 in C major
Concerto for strings, RV 152 in G minor
Concerto for strings, RV 128 in D minor
Concerto for strings, RV 117 in C major
Concerto for strings, RV 163 'Conca' in B flat major
Concerto for strings, RV 153 in G minor
Concerto for strings, RV 168 in B minor
Concerto for strings, RV 124 in D major
Concerto for strings, RV 120 in C minor
Concerto for strings, RV 112 in C major
Concerto for strings, RV 143 in F minor
Concerto for strings, RV 162 in B flat major
Collegium Musicum 90/Simon Standage
Rec: October 2000, All Saints' Church, East Finchley, London.
CHANDOS CHAN 0668 [65.40]

The concertos on this recording are all what is called concerti a quattro; these are works for string orchestra that do not feature any solo instrument, violin or other. Similar to another genre, the sinfonia da camera, these brief works are similar in structure to opera overtures, being simple presentations of straightforward themes in short, concise movements, with little development.

Some of them even sound as though they would fit in an opera - the opening movement of the Concerto for strings, RV 163 'Conca' in B flat major has the familiar sound of the presentation of thematic material found in an overture, or in a sinfonia inserted at the beginning of an act.

This music is undemanding, both to the performers and the listener. Vivaldi probably wrote these works for forces which contained no virtuoso soloists, most likely for the instrumental concerts that followed services at the Ospedale della Pietà, the foundling home where Vivaldi worked. As most composers write to suit the musicians available, these concertos show that his orchestra was limited.

The movements are all brief, less than 3 minutes, and many are less than one minute long - in fact, none of these three movement concertos is longer than 7 minutes, for all three movements. These hastily-written works sound more like simple thematic explorations than truly accomplished works. The fast movements generally show a fair amount of energy, yet this energy dissipates in the lack of development. The slower movements, which are, in many cases, the shortest movements in the concertos, are often staid and regal sounding, as in the Andante from the Concerto for strings, RV 153 in G minor, with its very simple melody played by the violins over an even simpler part played by the rest of the strings.

This music is, nevertheless, Vivaldi, even if it is far from his greatest. It is agreeable to listen to, but relatively forgettable. The overall tone and atmosphere of this disc is interesting, but the simplicity of the music makes it perhaps most suitable as background music. In addition, there is a feeling that it all goes by very quickly - this disc contains 36 movements in 65 minutes. By the time you start getting into one of the movements, it is over.

While this is, indeed, Vivaldi, it is far from being his best or most interesting music. It sounds like a starter without a main course, with nothing to sink the teeth into. While the performance and sound are excellent, this disc suffers from an overall lack of musical qualities. While those wanting to own all of Vivaldi’s works will certainly want this recording, others may just as well abstain.

 

Kirk McElhearn

 


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