Vivaldi composed a
large amount of music for all sorts
of instruments. This is hardly surprising,
since he was surrounded by a number
of virtuosos. The Ospedale della Pietà
was regularly visited by people from
home and abroad, who admired the skills
of the girls of the orphanage. One of
the virtuosos was Pellegrina (della
Pietà) who played the oboe. Her
name appears on the manuscript of the
Sonata in C (RV 779), together with
Prudenza, who was playing the violin,
Lucietta (organ) and Candida (chalumeau).
Using her name in the title of this
disc is a nice way to pay tribute to
a girl who must have inspired Vivaldi.
But it isn't only the
availability of a specific player which
can inspire a composer. The demands
of the market can also play an important
role. Composers like Telemann and Boismortier
were very well aware of what skilled
amateurs were asking for.
It seems Vivaldi wasn't
very different. In the article on the
oboe in the New Grove, Bruce Haines
states that in the last decades of the
17th century hardly any music for the
oboe was composed in Venice. But in
the first three decades of the 18th
century the amount and variety of music
for oboe in Europe was larger than at
any time in history. It was considered
one of the most expressive instruments,
and was used for almost any kind of
music. Bruce Haines quotes the German
composer Philipp Eisel, who in 1738
wrote about the oboe: "It is used in
the battlefield, in opera, in social
gatherings, as well as in churches."
Is it too far-fetched to imagine that
Vivaldi made use of the increasing popularity
of the instrument?
This is reflected in
particular in the respectable number
of solo concertos Vivaldi composed for
the oboe. In comparison the amount of
chamber music with oboe is limited.
That could have been the reason for
the choice of some compositions which
were originally conceived for another
instrument, as the track-list shows.
There are a number of chamber concertos
with oboe, but these are and have been
recorded pretty frequently, so it is
understandable that they weren’t selected.
It is rightly stated
in the booklet that the approach to
instrumentation in the baroque era was
rather pragmatic. And sometimes it isn’t
quite clear what instruments Vivaldi
composed for. That applies in particular
to the Sonatas RV 28 and 34, which are
usually considered pieces for violin.
But according to the German musicologist
Manfred Fechner the compass and character
of the solo part suggests that the oboe
was the instrument Vivaldi had in mind.
It is important to
mention the fact that the last item
on this disc is very likely recorded
for the first time, since only recently
was it recognized as an authentic work
As far as the performances
are concerned, they are generally good,
but sometimes they just don't realise
everything these pieces hold. In some
cases the tempi are a little too slow,
in particular in the first item on this
disc. The last movement is described
in the liner notes as a 'whirlwind allegro',
but that doesn't quite come through
due to the slowish tempo.
Gail Hennessy steals
the show, of course, but the other players
are doing a fine job as well. I have
some reservations in regard to the violin,
though is a little colourless. It is
not just a matter of recording technique
that the balance between the oboe and
the violin in the Triosonata op. 1,2
is sometimes less than ideal.
The Sonata in C (RV
779) is a unusual work because of the
concertante organ part. Nicholas Parle
plays it well, but the result would
have been more impressive if a real
Italian organ, with its very peculiar
stops, had been used.
On the whole, though,
this is an enjoyable recording, which
contains music not often played in concerts
nor frequently recorded, and therefore
can be recommended, in particular to
aficionados of the oboe.
Johan van Veen