Back in the years 1958-62 when these recordings were made we were
living in fertile times in the explosive history of Vivaldi on
record. Earlier Molinari, so richly excoriated, so blazingly eviscerated
by his compatriot Toscanini for his political “sins”, was producing
his editions and going so far as to record an all-orchestral,
non-soloistic version of the Four Seasons; he had been the pioneer.
Others followed - Kaufman of course and Olevsky and others. But
in many ways it was the profusion of Italian talent that dominated
the scene. It was this post-Molinari, pre-Scimone scene that is
in many ways one of the richest nostalgia and heady spirits with
Bernedetto Pavello and Ferrari among them. I think also of the
international flux that contained such as Barchet, Warchal, Schneiderhan
and Tomasow. But amongst them, as indicated, the native muse flourished
the most and even with I Soloisti di Zagreb in the wings the Virtuosi
di Roma under Renato Fasano shed a shining light.
The soloists in
the Virtuosi included Luigi Ferro and Guido Mozzato in the Four
Seasons and a phalanx of splendid players elsewhere - Edmondo
Malanotte, Franco Gulli, the illustrious Alberto Poltronieri,
and Angelo Stefanato amongst them. They all make tremendous
The Four Seasons
is an alert, buoyant and excellent reading, unusual in that
we have two soloists, Ferro in RV 269 and 293 and Mazzato in
315 and 297. The harpsichord rallentando in the Allegro of Spring
is, true, very much of its time in its expressive freedom but
it’s wisest to see these performances as part of a continuum
of Vivaldian exploration and not to engage in post-facto recriminations
over matters of style, all too prevalent a tactic in the reviewing
business. The playing as such is vibrant, romantic and warm
toned, though by no means indulgent. The cadential passage in
the concerto’s finale is stretched elastically and the tutti
is therefore abrupt but the legato remains smooth, remains lean.
There’s plenty of stasis in Mozzato and Fasano’s Summer
whilst the thematic and tempo relationships of Autumn
have been cannily and winningly thought through. Listen to the
listless harpsichord in its Largo. It’s Mozzato who unveils
the grave lyric nobility of Winter, undecorated. Orchestral
pizzicati are finely scaled unlike the Technicolor monsters
that have since emerged as pictorial playthings.
The Flute Concerto
is not quite so well balanced with the harpsichord unusually
backward. But La tempesta di mare – once again with Malanotte
– is characteristically Mediterranean in its warmth and vibrancy.
Virtuosity and assurance are unimpeded by indulgence. L’Estro
Armonico features many of the excellent players noted above.
This is playing of quiet intensity; the bass line definition
is good, separation of the solo lines equally so and only a
real curmudgeon would fail to be moved by Ferro and Malanotte’s
teamwork in the B minor [No.10] or Gulli’s sheer refinement
in the Larghetto e spiritoso of No.8. The Ninth is possibly
the best known of Op.3 and is in the safest, most generous of
The earliest of
these recordings are now racking up half a century so newcomers
will know better than to look for things that were not then
being explored stylistically. These are romantic but sensitively
intelligent traversals – not treacly, or overusing vibrato.
The set will appeal to those for whom the late fifties Romantic
mainstream still embraced Vivaldi – before music became parcelled
out to micro-managers, fetishists and professorial musicologists
and their vibrato-free Elysium.