Sony, in its endless habit of re-issuing the same hundred or so recordings, have given us a budget two pack of the Vivaldi flute concerti, ably played by the late Jean-Pierre Rampal and Claudio Scimoneís modern-instrument baroque chamber orchestra, I Solisti Veniti.
The thirty year old recordings hold up amazingly well, and I must say that to hear these concerti played with gusto on full-blooded instruments is a welcome breath of intonation, er, fresh air (yes, thatís what I meant to say, really!) Mr. Rampal dashes these charming pieces off with utmost ease, and the balance between orchestra and soloist is even, and, thankfully, does not sound as if it were tweaked in the studio.
As always with Columbia recordings of this period, the overall sound is a little bit boxy and dry, but itís a sound to which I have become so accustomed having grown up with old Columbia records, that it really doesnít detract from the enjoyment of the music.
This is a set to which one could listen in a variety of ways. These concerti work well as dinner music, for example. Put them on and let them go and dust the furniture or do the dishes. Yet, when taken slowly, one or two at a time, there is a wealth of inventive musical architecture and delicious harmony to be found. Thatís really the wonder of Vivaldi. Despite rumors to the contrary, he really was an original and colorful composer. Sure, he put out a huge volume, but something had to keep those girls at the Oespidal happy!
Program notes are brief, but fairly informative. At this price from a major label, you get what you pay for, which isnít much. Series such as Essential Classics are good for repertoire building, and they do give a new lease on life to some of the old chestnuts of the catalogue. Wouldnít it be nice, though if Columbia would delve a little deeper and give us some of the wonders of the Philadelphia Orchestra or Robert Casadesus? I stray.
For over two hours of pleasant, safe listening, grab this set the next time youíre at the record store. Youíll enjoy hearing from an old friend.