people nowadays seriously believe Vivaldi wrote the same concerto
five hundred times. But the view that there is little variety
in Vivaldi's oeuvre is still widely held. Louis T. Vatoison,
in the programme notes to this recording, has a strongly different
perception: "a Vivaldi concerto must (...) be seen as
an individual 'snapshot', whose instrumental layout or formal
structure implicitly reveal at what period, and sometimes
even for whom it was written". The music on this disc
gives ample evidence for this view.
his German contemporary Telemann Vivaldi composed for almost
any kind of instrument in vogue in his time. Many of these
instruments were taught at the Ospedale della Pietŕ, where
Vivaldi worked for many years. The exception is the bassoon,
and therefore it is likely the concertos with a solo bassoon
part were written for other occasions than to be performed
by the girls of the Ospedale.
one normally expects from a Vivaldi concerto, a clear distinction
between ritornelli and solo passages, can be found here in
the two concertos for two oboes and two clarinets, which open
and end the programme, as well as the two solo concertos,
for oboe and bassoon respectively. But the Concerto in d minor
(RV 566) is radically different. Here the solo parts and the
ritornelli are completely interwoven, which leads Vatoison
to suggest that it had been written for the court orchestra
of Dresden. Here Johann David Heinichen worked as Kapellmeister
from 1717 until his death in 1729, and his concertos and this
concerto by Vivaldi are much alike. I would like to refer
here to the excellent recording of some of Heinichen's concertos
by Musica antiqua Köln on Archiv.
way the instruments are treated is also very different. In
the opening allegro of the Concerto for two oboes in C (RV
534) the oboes are mainly colouring the strings. This explains
the title of this piece: 'concerto con due oboi' (with two
oboes) instead of 'per due oboi' (for two oboes). This didn't
hold the producers back from entitling this concerto in the
tracklist as 'per 2 oboi'. The oboes are mainly playing parallel
to each other. In the Concerto for violin and oboe (RV 548),
on the other hand, the solo parts are strongly independent.
also expects a lot of virtuosity in Vivaldi's concertos, and
in the pieces played here there is certainly plenty of that.
But there is also much expression and lyricism, in particular
in the two solo concertos. The bassoon concerto has been written
in galant style, which suggests that it is a work from a later
period in Vivaldi's career. He wrote almost forty concertos
for the bassoon, and he must have had a specific player in
mind, whose identity is still unknown. There is much lyricism
in this concerto, which may come as a surprise to those who
consider the bassoon as an instrument mainly to support the
bass or for comical effects. The oboe concerto contains much
chromaticism and, in particular in the first movement, sighing
motifs. The whole piece has a subdued and rather gloomy atmosphere,
which is strongly reflected in the colour of the oboe.
that Vivaldi, just like Telemann, was a master in exploiting
the specific features of instruments is demonstrated by the
two concertos RV 539 and 560, where he contrasts the cackling
of the oboes with the mellow, soft-edged clarinets.
performance of these concertos on this disc can hardly be
surpassed. The ensemble playing is brilliant, and all soloists
give outstanding performances. One hears all too rarely a
bassoon played in such a colourful way as here in the Concerto
RV 497. There is some exquisite ornamentation in the largo
of the oboe concerto, played by Alfredo Bernardini. The last
movement of the Concerto RV 534 is a good example of Zefiro's
playing: it's not just the speed with which it is played,
but also the strong sense of rhythm and the heavy accents
which make it very exciting. Here and elsewhere the players
are not afraid to take liberties where they see an opportunity,
without crossing the border of good taste.
short: this recording is an eye-opener for everyone who may
think he knows Vivaldi after having heard a handful of pieces.
It shows all the colours of Vivaldi's rainbow oeuvre. And
it is difficult to imagine a more colourful, bold and technically
brilliant performance than Zefiro offers here.