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Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
Concerto for Strings in A Major RV 159 [5:17]
Simon Standage (violin); Micaela Comberti (violin); Jap ter Linden (violincello)
The English Concert/Trevor Pinnock
Concerto for Violin in E Major RV 271 [9:19]
Simon Standage (violin)
The English Concert/Trevor Pinnock
Concerto for Bassoon in E Minor RV 484 [11:45]
Milan Turković (bassoon)
The English Concert/Trevor Pinnock
Concerto for Flute in G Major RV 436 [8:53]
Lisa Beznosiuk (flute)
The English Concert/Trevor Pinnock
Concerto for Viola d’amore and Lute in D Minor RV 540 [11:19]
Roy Goodman (viola d’amore); Nigel North (lute)
The English Concert/Trevor Pinnock
Concerto for Oboe and Bassoon in G Major RV 545 [10:14]
David Reichenberg (oboe); Milan Turković (bassoon)
The English Concert/Trevor Pinnock
ARCHIV 419 615-2 [56:57]

The six Vivaldi concerti on this ArkivMusic re-issue are a programme centred around RV 271, the E Major violin concerto, which is subtitled 'L'Amoroso'; Simon Standage is the soloist. As with all these Arkiv CDs, what you get is a record company-authorised CD-R at a decent price, a reproduction of the original cover and back of the booklet. The original liner-notes are not included, though.

In the other works Milan Turković is the bassoon soloist for RV 484 (E Minor), where - although deft and tripping - his warm sound is a little muddy. Lisa Beznosiuk in RV 436 (flute, G major) is clean, breathy and understated - to the music's clear advantage. Roy Goodman, Nigel North RV 540 (viola d'amore, lute in D minor) make a wonderful sound. Then David Reichenberg and Turković again in RV 545 (oboe, bassoon in G major); this contains some of the more substantial movements in all the pieces here. The disc begins with a wistful little concerto for strings, which makes a good overture to the delights to follow.

These are all fine soloists at the peak of their abilities and playing for the most part with gusto, sensitivity and diligence. The slow movement of RV484 is particularly well executed… languid, languorous and loving to be sure; followed by a crisp upbeat finale, this is maybe the most persuasive concerto of the group. It seems to have more of love about it than the E Major itself, which is taken somewhat fast.

Romance creeps up on you too in the atmospheric viola d'amore and lute D Minor with some rare chromaticism sounding like a gypsy fiddle serenading a gondolier with a lute (or vice versa). Even here, the tempi are a little perfunctory. It's first rate interplay between the two soloists and whilst the melody is as clear as can be, the 'moment' (of something magical in the mist, almost) is rushed and very nearly lost.

This is all highly lyrical music; there is enthusiasm - not bombast - as Vivaldi draws up of a series of themes developed to perfection by the relationship (a collaborative and supportive one, which these forces respect with great success) between soloists and strings etc. The performances don't smother the poetry; they don't point it up either and somehow the dignity and elegance are left to fend for themselves. A minor shame.

Make no mistake, though: this is not a bad collection. Indeed it was well-received on its first release twenty years ago. The English Consort with its unstoppable and unbeatable director (from the harpsichord) Trevor Pinnock know the repertoire inside out. Yet, as now - though times and personnel have, of course, changed - they always found new knots to unravel, fresh aspects to present to the audience and previously unnuanced positives in Vivaldi's genius to commend by simple, professional interpretation and performance.

The fact that they made everything so fresh, smooth and enticing at a time when Vivaldi recordings were dripping from every serious music outlet - on period instruments recording after recording (including on this one: Turković plays a four-keyed Deper from the second decade of the eighteenth century) is a recommendation by itself. There's under an hour on this reasonably-priced and minimally-presented CD. There are now better recordings of most of this repertoire. But this is timeless music and, if the above minor caveats don't dissuade, you should seriously consider the recordings.

Mark Sealey 




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