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Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
Pellegrina’s Delight – Sonatas and Chamber Music for Oboe

Sonata for oboe and bc in c minor (RV 53) [12:03]
Sonata for oboe, organ, violin, chalumeau [bassoon] and bc in C (RV 779) [14:16]
Sonata for violin [oboe] and bc in g minor (RV 28) [11:54]
Sonata for 2 violins [oboe, violin] and bc in e minor, op. 1, 2 (RV 67) [07:29]
Concerto for transverse flute [oboe], violin, bassoon and bc in g minor (RV 106) [10:05]
Sonata for violin [oboe] and bc in B flat (RV 34) [07:27]
Sonata for oboe, violin, bassoon and bc in C (RV 801) [11:54]
Gail Hennessy (oboe), Rodolfo Richter (violin), Sally Holman (bassoon), Katherine Sharman (cello), Peter McCarthy (violone), Nicholas Parle (harpsichord, organ)
Rec. Nov 2002, St Andrew’s Church, Toddington, Gloucestershire, UK. DDD

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Sample: See what you will get

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 of Vivaldi.

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

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