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Early Music

Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger


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Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
Flute Concerto in D major RV 90, Op. 10/3 "Il Gardellino" [11.32]
Flute Concerto in F major RV 98, Op. 10/1 "La tempesta di mare" [5.54]
Flute Concerto in G major RV 435, Op. 10/4 [6.30]
Flute Concerto in F major RV 442, Op. 10/5 [7.45]
Flute Concerto in G minor RV 104, Op. 10/2 "La Notte" [9.25]
Flute Concerto in G major RV 101, Op. 10/6 [9.00]
Concerto for Violin and Oboe in C major RV 779 [13.27]
Michael Schneider (recorder)
Karl Kaiser (flute)
Camerata Köln
rec Dec 1988 in the broadcasting studio of Deutschlandfunks
DEUTSCHE HARMONIA MUNDI 05472 77848 2 [64.27]

This is one of those discs that plays total havoc with any effort to categorise – especially if, like me, you use a computer-based collection management programme to try to keep track of who is playing whose what, with which and where. Most confusing of all to start with is that half the works on this disc don’t appear in any of the main Vivaldi catalogues as flute concertos, but as trio sonatas. Most of the others appear as concerti grossi or violin concertos. Add to this the fact that, although six of the seven share a common opus number, they would appear to have been composed over a widely separated number of years and also that Camerata Köln choose to use recorder and flute alternately to ring the changes in the concerti. You now have at least a flavour of my frustration.

It’s wonderful music, mind you. Exactly what I have come to expect of Vivaldi – bright, bouncy, inventive and entirely satisfying perfectly formed baroque works. these can be listened to on any level from background music while cooking to deep meditation when the world threatens to sweep one away. I do like Camerata Köln’s approach to performance – untroubled and freely expressive, but immensely disciplined from a rhythmic and dynamic standpoint. Their careful choice of instruments, which is noted en passant in the liner notes, is certainly a contributory factor to their fresh and vibrant sound, which the DHM recording engineers have managed to capture and reproduce faithfully.

Some of this music I am familiar with in its original form – or what I thought might have been the original form before I read these notes. (Can you sense the return of my confusion?). I suppose it comes from Vivaldi, like his Great Predecessor, having spent a productive life writing vast quantities of music without paying too much attention to what people were going to do with it in the dim and distant future. Part of the liberal attitude towards instrumentation of recordings certainly stems from the composer’s lack of detailed instructions, but part also stems from the habits of the day. Trio sonatas were often played by amateur and chamber groups with the instruments they happened to have to hand, rather than those for which the piece was originally scored. Add to this the fact that contemporary music publishers – ever with an eye to the main chance – would publish ‘arrangements’ willy-nilly if there was a market for them (and the flute was an increasingly popular amateur instrument in the early 18th century). This is a recipe designed to give my software indigestion.

Some of the music, though, is entirely new to me and most welcome in this format. I have often thought the Red Priest ill served by "Il Quattro Stagioni", in that the wider audience often believes these to be the only major works in his oeuvre. These concerti, however, are works of stature in their own right and would serve as an excellent introduction for a Vivaldi neophyte. Beautiful melodies, comfortable harmonies, stunning counterpoint and beautifully-phrased by Camerata Köln – a worthy addition to any baroque lover’s shelf. Now – if I can sort out why a disc entitled "Flute Concertos, Opus 10" finishes with a concerto for violin and oboe that has no opus number at all, I’ll be able to file this one away and get on with the next review!

Tim Mahon

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