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Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
Concerti per archi - Concerti per strumenti vari vol. 2

Concerto in A major RV159
Concerto in G minor RV153
Concerto in D major RV121
Concerto in D minor ‘Madrigalesco’ RV129
Concerto in G minor RV154
Concerto in C major RV115
Concerto in F minor RV143
Concerto in F major RV141
Concerto in C minor RV120
Concerto in G minor RV156
Concerto in A major RV158
Concerto in D major RV123
Concerto Italiano/Rinaldo Alessandrini (Direction and harpsichord)
Rec. Sala Academica del Pontificio Istituto di Musica Sacra, in Rome, Italy, Feb 2003.
NAÏVE OPUS 111 OP30377 [65.49]

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This is a most attractive set from the Naïve Opus 111 label’s continuing and most successful Vivaldi series with their usual well-presented designer cover. As a change from the usual nubile model(s) this time the artwork shows a young man with magpie against a vivid scarlet background. There are no bland and lacklustre performances here! Just joyful and positive musical experiences!

With considerable passion and affection these ‘new kids on the block’ have become exceptionally proficient and extremely comfortable with Vivaldi’s technical demands; freer now to demonstrate their considerable individual and collective styles in an abundance of outstanding recent interpretations.

Here are a dozen of the fifty-nine concertos that Vivaldi composed for string orchestra without a solo protagonist. This absence of the constraints of writing for a pronounced individual voice and all the extrovert display that necessitates allows Vivaldi to concentrate on purely orchestral matters. Vivaldi, a master of rhythmic and melodic resources, knew how to achieve the maximum effect from often concise orchestral forces.

Each of the twelve concertos (bar the four movement RV 129 ‘Madrigalesco’) adheres to Vivaldi’s typical three movement Allegro-Adagio-Allegro format. This approach admits of bountiful and original episodes of rhythm, harmony and melody all in his own personal language. It is Vivaldi’s central (Adagio, Andante and Largo) movements that can often make the deepest impression. I often marvel at his genius in consistently delivering expression, charm and depth. Perhaps lacking the stimulation of writing for a solo instrument, cumulatively these brief slow movements are not the finest or most inspiring Vivaldi has written. Individually RV121, 129, 154, 115 and 143 are meditative if largely uninspiring; mood rather than melody here. The slow movements from the concertos RV120, 156, 123 are particularly fine examples with considerable melody and poignancy. The central movements from the two concertos RV158 and 141 are very different and are swifter than the others.

I really loved the brilliant Allegros that contain two violins sometimes closely in unison (opening movement of RV159 and the third movement of RV121) and then on occasions in open conflict (opening movement RV114, 115, 153, third movement of RV154, 159). It is fascinating and effective when Vivaldi displays his mastery of the fugal form as he does on several occasions (third movement RV 114, 120, 153, second and fourth movement RV154 and opening movement RV143). Director and harpsichordist Rinaldo Alessandrini points out that the significant use of fugal writing sees Vivaldi taking the opportunity to considerably vary the expressive atmosphere of the scores. The opening movement Allegro molto from concerto RV158, with its attractive main theme, is magnificent and could easily be used as the music to a TV or radio programme.

The award-winning artists marvellously demonstrate Vivaldi’s genius for richness of orchestral palette, musical invention and poetic energy. Another sure-fire winner!

Michael Cookson

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