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  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

 

Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
Violin Concertos

Concerto for violin, strings and basso continuo,
in F major, Op. 4, No.9, RV 284, ‘La Stravaganza’
Concerto for violin, strings and basso continuo,
in G major, Op. 4, No.12, RV 298, ‘La Stravaganza’
Concerto for violin, strings and basso continuo,
in G minor, Op. 9, No. 3, RV 334, ‘La Cetra’
Concerto for violin, strings and basso continuo,
in E major, Op. 9, No. 4, RV 263a, ‘La Cetra’
Concerto for violin, strings and basso continuo,
in D minor, Op. 9, No. 8, RV 238, ‘La Cetra’
Concerto for violin, strings and basso continuo,
in A major, Op. 9, No. 2, RV 345, ‘La Cetra’
Ensemble La Partita/Sulamit Haecki (violin)
Recorded April-May 1996, Kirche, Zurich-Altstetten, Schweiz. DDD
HÄNSSLER CLASSIC CD 94.006 [65:07]
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Hänssler Classic on their ‘Masterpiece Collection’ series have released a set of six of Vivaldi concertos for violin, string orchestra and basso continuo played by the Ensemble La Partita with Sulamit Haecki as the director and violin soloist. The first two concertos are from the early Op. 4 set ‘La Stravaganza’ and the other four concertos from the later Op. 9 set ‘La Cetra’.

All well played performances of Vivaldi violin concertos are welcome in my book. Vivaldi’s violin concertos are high quality works and deserve to be better known as opposed to the vast number of versions that we are all tripping up over in the record shops of the first four concertos from his Op. 8 set the ‘Four Seasons’.

From the published set of the dozen violin concertos Op. 4 collectively known as ‘La Stravaganza’ the violin concerto No. 9, RV 284 is really a traditional concerto grosso. It has a traditional scoring for a solo group of 2 violins where a player from the full body of strings joins the soloist for much of the work (allegro track 1, point 0:36). The other work from ‘La Stravaganza’ is the violin concerto No. 12, RV 298 which looks to the true concerto form of a single soloist. At the time of their publication many critics found the op. 4 concertos to be very different to the form and style that they had been used to. It is fair to say that these Vivaldi concertos shook the music world of his day with harmonic daring and astonishing passage work for the solo violin. The slow movement largo is particularly serene and on track 5, point 1:05 where in a lyrical passage for the violin the meditative qualities of the work are clearly displayed.

The remaining four violin concertos contained on this release are from the Op. 9 set published under the title ‘La Cetra’. Although one of the complete set calls for two solo violins the four works selected here are for solo violin. All the concertos are of an extremely uniform standard containing an abundance of qualities that give distinction to Vivaldi’s mature style. The listener will find clarity of form, expressive melodies, rhythmic energy and contrasts and a innate lyricism often rich in pathos. The allegro at Track 13, point 2:41 provides a good example of the vitality and freshness of these concertos.

I thoroughly enjoyed the performances of these concertos from the Ensemble Haecki who play securely and make a truly attractive sound. Director and soloist Sulamit Haecki was an unfamiliar name to me but her distinguished playing and appealing tone will stick in my memory and I shall look out for her on record again. The soloist and ensemble are clearly in tune with this rewarding repertoire and deliver the six concertos with expressive depth, a natural fluency, technical security and perfect balance. Overall their combined advocacy of performance in these baroque concertos comes close to conveying what I consider to be an ideal ‘Vivaldian sound’. Another plus factor is the recorded sound which is very clear and sharply detailed with a warm natural acoustic.

For those who require the complete sets from which these concertos are taken there are some fine versions available in the CD catalogue. My favoured version of the complete Op. 4 ‘La Stravaganza’ is the analogue reading on modern instruments from 1973/74 from the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields under the direction of Sir Neville Marriner with various soloists, on Decca Double 444 821-2. Although my particular favourite is the 1986 digital period performance from The Academy of Ancient Music, directed by Christopher Hogwood with Monica Huggett as soloist, on Decca’s L’Oiseau Lyre label which was unfortunately out of the catalogue last time I looked. With regard to the complete Op. 9 set ‘La Cetra’ my first choice is the 1986 digital performance on period instruments from the Raglan Baroque Players directed by Nicholas Kraemer with Monica Huggett as soloist, on Virgin Veritas 5 61594 2.

I must again state my protest at the lack of information in the booklet notes. Like several other record companies Hanssler allow the complete notes to be downloaded from their website. Firstly this assumes that all listeners are on-line, secondly this can be a pain to undertake and thirdly who wants to keep A4 size paper notes folded up inside the CDs jewel case ad infinitum. For me this practice is little to do with record companies keeping their overheads down and more to do with wanting the purchaser to visit their website for marketing purposes.

This is indeed a marvellous release from Hänssler Classic and with playing of this calibre I would really have loved to have heard the remaining concertos in Vivaldi’s complete sets. However listeners who require the complete sets of Vivaldi’s Op. 4 ‘La Stravaganza’ and Op.9 ‘ La Cetra’ will have to look elsewhere in the CD catalogue.

Michael Cookson


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FREE SOUND SAMPLES
(minimum 30 secs)

Violin Concerto op. 4, No. 9, RV 284:
Allegro

Largo

Allegro

Violin Concerto op. 4, No. 12, RV 298:
Spiritoso

Largo

Allegro

Violin Concerto op. 9, No. 3, RV 334:
Allegro non molto

Largo

Allegro non molto

Violin Concerto op. 9, No. 4, RV 263a:
Allegro non molto

Largo

Allegro non molto

Violin Concerto op. 9, No. 8, RV 238:
Allegro

Largo

Allegro

Violin Concerto op. 9, No. 2, RV 345:
Allegro

Largo

Allegro









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