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Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
Recorder Concertos

Concerto in G minor, RV 103 1,4,6 [10:25]
Concerto in D major, RV 92 2,5,6 [10:15]
Concerto in G minor, RV 105 1,2,4,5,6 [8:45]
Concerto in D major, RV 94 1,2,4,5,6 [10:50]
Concerto in A minor, RV 108 2,3,5,6 [8:25]
Concerto in C major, RV 87 1,2,3,5,6 [8:20]
Concerto in G major, RV 101 1,2,4,5,6 [9:41]
László Kecskeméti (recorder), László Hadady (oboe)1, Attila Falvay2 and Katalin Párkányi3 (violins), György Olajos4 (bassoon), György Kertész5 (cello), Borbála Dobozy6 (harpsichord)
rec. Phoenix Studios, Budapest, 24-27 July 2003
NAXOS 8.557215 [66:41]
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To begin on a non-musical topic: could record companies issuing CDs of music by Vivaldi please consider a temporary moratorium on the use of paintings by Canaletto as cover pictures? As it happens, I admire Canaletto’s work enormously, but to use it as appropriate ‘decoration’ for music by Vivaldi (as here) has become a very hackneyed practice. How about some paintings by, say, Guardi or Ricci, Turner, Whistler or Monet?

But to get to the music itself. For all that this CD is, sensibly enough, called ‘Recorder Concertos’, it is important to stress that the recorder isn’t the only solo instrument to be heard here, though it is the most prominent and frequent.

These seven concertos for chamber ensemble are actually quite various and subtle in their instrumental colourings, as different permutations are employed by Vivaldi between – and within – individual concertos. So, for example, in RV 105 the first movement makes use of recorder, oboe, violin and bassoon with continuo provided by cello and harpsichord; the second movement is an aria for recorder, accompanied only by the bassoon; the third movement is for all six instruments, with the bassoon now given renewed solo duties.

All seven concertos are in the usual Vivaldian form of three movements, fast-slow-fast and none are without moments of characteristic invention. Particular pleasures include the sensuous duet for recorder and oboe in the largo of RV 103, accompanied by bassoon and harpsichord; the impudently imitative writing for recorder and violin in the final allegro of RV 92; the charmingly odd largo for recorder and bassoon in RV 105, mentioned above; the largo of RV 94, where recorder and bassoon are joined by the violin; and the splendidly vigorous, yet delicate, closing allegro of RV 87, in which oboe and recorder are prominent, to the accompaniment of some witty writing for the violins.

Throughout these (mostly) Hungarian players display a strong sense of appropriate style and their playing has the necessary rhythmic vitality. László Kecskeméti negotiates the quicker movements with confident agility and in the slower movements he has an impressive sense of melodic line. László Hadady – who I remember hearing as soloist in a recording of Berio’s Sequenza VII – brings to the music a certainty of intonation, an attractive tone and a finely developed sense of musical dialogue. Indeed, the ensemble playing is at all times admirable – not least in the contributions made by the bassoon of György Olajos.

Surely only those whose approach to Vivaldi is still conditioned by the kind of prejudice expressed in Stravinsky’s remark, to Robert Craft, that he "was a dull fellow" because he "could compose the same form over and so many times over", would fail to find much to enjoy on this CD. It is the very ‘sameness’ (in the most general terms) of the form that serves as the canvas on which Vivaldi’s remarkable fertility of invention is displayed.

These are not, I suppose, particularly ‘starry’ performances and they may not have quite the panache of some of the performances of Vivaldi that we have heard from Italian ensembles in recent years. But they are richly enjoyable, affectionate and affection-stirring performances and well worth the having and the hearing – especially, but not only, because they are available at Naxos price.

Glyn Pursglove



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