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Early Music

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Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
‘I Concerti di Dresda’ (The Dresden Concertos)
Concertos for Multiple Instruments Vol. 1

Concerto for solo violin*, two oboes, strings & bass continuo, in G minor RV 577 [09:33]
Concerto for solo violin**, two flutes, two horns, strings & bass continuo, in F major RV 569 (circa. 1715) [12:19]
Concerto for solo oboe & violin*, two flutes, two oboes, strings & bass continuo, in G minor RV 576 [10:57]
Sinfonia for strings & bass continuo, in C major RV 192 [05:11]
Concerto for solo violin*, two oboes, two horns, strings & bass continuo, in F major RV 574 (circa. 1715) [11:11]
* Gottfried von der Goltz (solo violin)
** Anne Katharina Schreiber (solo violin
Freiburger Barockorchester/Gottfried von der Goltz
Recorded in February 2002 at Studio Teldex, Berlin, Germany DDD
OPUS 111 OP 30283 [49:42]
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This is the sixth release in the Opus 111 Vivaldi series (complete with the now obligatory picture of a young female model on the front cover) and the first to utilise a non-Italian based ensemble. But fear not, everything is under control. Under the direction of the baroque violinist Gottfried von der Goltz, the German based Freiburger Barockorchester are clearly extremely talented musicians who play exceptionally well as a unified ensemble.

The four concertos for multiple instruments contained on this release are essentially concerto grossi which Vivaldi composed for a variety of solo instruments to be accompanied by a richly varied and colourful continuo. Vivaldi’s markings precisely indicate the solo violin to be accompanied by the cello or other stringed instruments and the wind soloists by bassoons. For this recording, Gottfried von der Golz supplemented Vivaldi’s intentions by generally accompanying the solo violin with harp, lute and cello, and the wind soloists with harpsichord, double-bass and bassoons. This extra orchestration by von der Golz successfully achieves the balance of variety and colour that Vivaldi was striving for in these concerti grossi and to a great extent compensates for the lack of exceptional melodies in these scores. Also included is a short ‘sinfonia’ for strings and continuo, which cannot really be considered a violin concerto in spite of the considerable contribution from the violin soloist.

It is fascinating to be able to hear the various period instrument styles which are currently being used to great effect when performing Vivaldi’s music. I do not consider any particular style to be right or wrong and we will never know what performing style Vivaldi actually used; it is clearly a matter of personal taste. Von der Golz’s manner is to take these works at a steady rather than blistering pace. There is an innate seriousness in his readings and a professionalism in the way his ensemble fastidiously executes these concertos; but they are never dull or academic, like some contemporary ensembles, and there is no loss of musical colour.

By contrast, two of my favourite period ensembles, both Italian based, are currently recording Vivaldi using a differing style of performance. Fabio Biondi, the soloist and director of Europa Galante on the Virgin Veritas label, play Vivaldi with rapid-attack playing and tremendous energy, with rich colour and control. On Sony Classical, director Andrea Marcon with his Venice Baroque Orchestra, with Giuliano Carmignola on baroque violin, give controlled power and a warm, smooth and ultra-stylish approach to their passionate Vivaldi interpretations.

I would personally prefer a slightly warmer acoustic as I find the recording a bit lacking in warmth; it sounds rather dry. The notes are copious but often difficult to understand as I feel that much of the clarity has been lost in the translation into English. Furthermore, how much longer can record companies get away with releasing CDs that have playing times of less than the 50 minutes as Opus 111 have presented here?

Vivaldi’s genius for richness of orchestral palette, musical invention and poetic energy in these scores is marvellously captured throughout by the sterling direction of von der Golz and the supremely talented Freiburger Barockorchester. Vivaldi fans should not miss this opportunity to obtain these extremely rewarding works so excellently played by one of the world’s premier period instrument ensembles.

Michael Cookson

 


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