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The Rise of the North Italian Violin Concerto: 1690-1740
Volume Three - The Golden Age

Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741) Concerto for violin, 2 oboes, bassoon, 2 horns, strings and continuo RV569 [12:32]
Pietro Locatelli (1695-1764) Concerto da Chiesa in C, Op. 4/11[10:20]
Concerto for 4 Violins, strings and continuo Op 4/12 [12:24]
Giovanni Battista Sammartini (c.1700-1775) Concerto à più Stromenti in E-Flat, J. 73 [13:17]
Giuseppe Tartini (1692-1770) Concerto for violin, strings and continuo D117 [15:14]
Antonio Vivaldi Concerto for violin, 2 oboes, bassoon, 2 horns, timpani, strings and continuo RV562a [13:14]
La Serenissima/Adrian Chandler (violin)
rec. St Paul’s School, 13-16 February 2008. DDD.
CD and AVIE AV2154 [79:25]

Experience Classicsonline

This has been an excellent series so far and the third volume is no exception. Glyn Pursglove was moved, instructed and delighted by the first volume – see review – he made Volume 2 Recording of the Month – see review – and I see no reason to withhold the title from Volume 3: I’m sure that it will be one of my Choices of the Year. Volume 1 charted the rise of the concerto up to and including early Vivaldi; Volume 2 was an all-Vivaldi affair; this third volume places him in the context of three important younger contemporaries.

Vivaldi is well represented in the catalogue and, unfortunately, the earlier Avie recordings cut across some of my favourite recommendations. For once, however, I’m prepared to forgive the duplication when the quality is as good as this. In fact, there appears to be only one other version of RV562a and RV569 (Modo Antiquo on Tactus TC672206 with other multiple-instrument concertos), and I can find only one version of the alternative RV562, with a different slow movement, in the current catalogue, on DVD.

Both the Vivaldi concertos are fine works, quite different from each other, and I’m surprised that they are not better represented in the catalogue.

Locatelli is seriously under-represented: he doesn’t even feature in the current Penguin and Gramophone Guides. Only his Op.1 and Op.3 receive much attention, so these versions of Op.4/11 and Op.4/12 neatly complement a Challenge Classics CD of some of the other Op.4 works (CC72134, Ton Koopman). The excellent AAM/Manze Harmonia Mundi recording of his Op.5 concertos after Corelli, to which I referred in my review of the Corelli originals last year now no longer appears to exist even in its diminished single-CD format.

Dynamic are currently recording Sammartini’s Symphonies and Overtures – I recently reviewed some of them – but, again, his concertos don’t make much of a showing. Tartini, whose only work which most know is the ‘Devil’s trill’ sonata, is hardly in better state as far as his concertos are concerned, so all the music on the new CD is very welcome – and it’s all very attractive and varied.

There are so many fine baroque ensembles nowadays that it’s hard to choose between them. Fabio Biondi’s Europa Galante must rank high among them – I very much enjoyed their CD of music by Vivaldi, Sammartini et al, entitled Improvisata, Virgin 3 63430 2, last year – and Il Giardino Armonico another. I also very much liked the Accademia Bizantina/Ottavio Dantone in Vivaldi’s Op.8 (Arts 47564/5), though I was recently slightly less impressed by Dantone’s Bach concertos. Apart from the fact that several of Il Giardino’s excellent recordings of Vivaldi are now available at budget price, which gives them something of an advantage, La Serenissima now most definitely stand very high in this select company, in my estimation – and what a wonderful title that is for a group specialising in the music of La Serenissima – Venice – herself.

Everything about their performances here is perfectly judged, right down to the percussionist’s evident enjoyment of the unusual drum thwacks in RV562a. There is not a single wrong foot here, as far as I’m concerned: proportions and tempi sound just right – this is not the kind of dangerous but exciting playing that I recommended from the Accademia Bizantina; it’s even slightly tamer than Europa Galante, but I don’t always want to live dangerously. In calling it ‘tamer’ I certainly don’t mean to make it sound dull; the playing here is lively enough – much more enjoyable than seems to be the case at the soirée depicted on the otherwise very attractive cover, where the audience appear to be bored with the playing of the very civilised group of musicians seated around a table in the centre of the room.

Eager to obtain this recording, having failed in my bid to review it, I downloaded it from in very adequate sound – certainly good enough for me to report that the recording engineers have done their jobs as well as the musicians. Most of the tracks are at the maximum for mp3, 320k, though track 4 inexplicably weighs in at just below the magic 192k, according to Windows Explorer. I have noted this variable bit-rate before and am puzzled by it – perhaps eMusic would like to explain the discrepancy?

You don’t get the notes, of course, from eMusic or from iTunes or classicsonline, where the recording is also available. That’s less of a problem than with the music of the obscure Ippolito Ghezzi, which I recently reviewed, but I’d still like it to be possible for prospective purchasers to have access to the notes in the booklet – at the cost of an extra track, if necessary. Chandos, who provide booklets with their own and Coro recordings to downloaders from their, offer 320k versions of all three volumes of this series but unfortunately don’t include the booklets with their Avie downloads.

If you want the notes – usually a strong feature of Avie recordings – you will have to buy the CD.

Brian Wilson





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