Following two recent volumes of flute concertos by
Vivaldi, Naxos have now released a delightful disc of his complete concertos
for recorder. Contained on this CD are Vivaldi’s three concertos for
soprano recorder and two concertos for treble recorder. An added bonus
is the smaller scale chamber concerto RV 95 ‘La Pastorella’, in which
certain interchangeable solo instruments can be used, although for this
recording the recorder has been selected.
Prior to playing this CD I had some misgivings about
my ability to concentrate for over an hour of recorder music at one
sitting. The prete rossi as usual proved me wrong. I have to
say that I have heard these works previously in 1981 when I purchased
a Eurodisc vinyl LP of flute and recorder concertos but nevertheless
it was good to reacquaint myself with these works.
Recorder virtuoso Michael Schneider makes the point
that the recorder, "thanks to it’s unusually high register and
penetrating sound it acquires a certain advantage against a full string
section and it never runs the risk to drown in tutti passages, on the
contrary, it imparts a silvery lustre to them."
I have to marvel at the way in which Vivaldi, with
almost ridiculously simple means, creates harmonic and rhymic sounds
structures and impressive effects. Just listen to the effect of the
largo in the C major concerto RV443 (track 3) where the soprano flute
plays a fine lyric melody over the sustained notes of the strings and
repeated bass rhythm. In the C minor concerto RV441 (tracks 13-15) the
virtuoso passages for the treble recorder come across more for the benefit
of the obscure timbre and the expression of inner dramatic emotions
rather than for external brilliance.
A great deal of admiration here is awarded for the
virtuosity, brilliance and tone of the soloist Laszlo Kecskemeti on
both soprano and treble recorders. The finger and breathing techniques
represent a continuous challenge for the player who has to overcome
technical difficulties of the highest degree.
Played on the treble recorder by the late great Laszlo
Czidra the radiant slow movement from the F major concerto RV442 (track
11) could surely become one of Vivaldi’s ‘greatest hits’, if used in
a film or television programme.
The D major, ‘La Pastorella’ RV95 chamber concerto
is a real surprise package and fascinatingly the solo recorder is accompanied
delightfully by a bassoon. A real must hear concerto.
These are ravishing performances of underrated and
extremely engaging music. There is so much to enjoy here if one can
overcome any prejudice gained from Junior school music classes. The
playing is most naturally caught and the sound quality is first rate.
The disc is a true delight and is undoubtedly one of my recordings of