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
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
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.