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Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741)
Seven Chamber Concertos
Concerto in D major RV 95 La Pastorella [10:13]
Concerto in F major RV 99 [7:32]†
Concerto in G minor RV 105 [8:03]
Concerto in D major RV 94 [9:59]
Concerto in G minor RV 103 [9:40]
Sonata in A minor RV 86 [11:00]†
Concerto in D major RV 84 [7:11]†
Marion Verbruggen (recorder) Paul Goodwin (oboe) John Holloway (violin) Dennis Godburn (bassoon) John Toll (harpsichord) Sebastian Comberti (cello)
rec. no details given. (p) 1991.
HARMONIA MUNDI CLASSICAL EXPRESS HCX395 7046 [64:11]
Experience Classicsonline

This is the third review which has been inspired by looking for bargains in the Harmonia Mundi catalogue which represent even better value than the first and second batches of the very fine new HM Gold series (see review).† So far Iíve looked at an excellent recording of William Byrdís Music for a Hidden Chapel and two equally fine CDs containing the twelve Op. 6 Concerti Grossi of Arcangelo Corelli.† If anything, this Vivaldi recording is even more recommendable.† I could make this a very short review and simply urge you to purchase it.
 
Some of Vivaldiís most inventive music is to be found in his chamber concertos, a representative selection of which is included on the present recording.† They could well be the next port of call for someone who had got to know the Four Seasons.† A very few of these concertos have been much recorded, but enough of them are rarities to make this inexpensive recording very worthwhile indeed.† Add the excellence of the performances and the quality of the recording and this CD should be selling like the proverbial hot cakes.
 
The first movement of La Pastorella, RV95, makes for a sprightly and attractive opening to the programme, with flute and bassoon at opposite ends of the spectrum, as it were, and the other instruments filling in between.† The lively performances by all concerned augur well for the programme Ė a promise which is fully kept throughout.† The slow movement is as charming as the opening is lively and, once again, the performance is ideal.† Because of the chamber proportions of the music and playing and the excellent balance of the recording, the harpsichord can be clearly heard without dominating the proceedings.† The finale adds to the attractions of a work which deserves to be much better known.
 
Donít be fooled by the title into thinking the music describes some pastoral landscape filled with lifeless Meissen figurines Ė the music is charming in the same way that a Venetian carnival mask is charming.
 
RV99 is equally attractive; I almost wrote that it was slightly more conventional than RV95, but nothing in Vivaldi is conventional Ė the old chestnut about writing the same concerto hundreds of times must have begun with someone with cloth ears.† You certainly couldnít confuse these two concertos, except in that both are delightful.
 
RV94 has been recorded several times, notably on an excellent recording by Il Giardino Armonico entitled Famous Chamber Concertos, coupled with RV98, 104, 93, 63, 442, 108 and 107.† The tempi adopted here are just a fraction slower than on that Teldec/Warner recording but there is very little to choose between the two interpretations Ė both are excellent.† The other concertos on Teldec have titles, but that doesnít make them in any way preferable to those recorded here.† This recording is currently available only in a bargain-price 11-CD box set with Bach, Biber and more Vivaldi (2564 63264 2), but ought to reappear soon among the mid-price reissues marking Teldecís 50th anniversary.† Meanwhile itís available, along with several other excellent recordings by this group, for a mere £3 as a download from the warner.freshdigital.co.uk website.† Be warned, however, that Warnerís downloads are still Ďlockedí files and can be synced to an mp3 player or burned to CDR only via Windows Media Player, with its unfortunate and unavoidable habit of inserting 2-second gaps between tracks.† Fortunately this is not a problem with Vivaldi, but very annoying when the music is continuous between movements.
 
Il Giardino Armonico have also recorded RV95 on a recent mid-price Teldec/Warner reissue (2564 697661 Concerti da Camera II, with RV100, 87, 88 and 103).† As with RV99, itís very difficult to choose between two such fine performances.
 
If I try to describe the rest of the music on the Harmonia Mundi recording, I shall find myself repeating the same words of approval Ė which is not to say that the music is at all unvaried; the finale of RV84 might just remind you of one of the Op.10 flute concertos.† With excellent performances throughout, as sensitive to the music as those Teldec recordings by Il Giardino, which they now join as my benchmarks for this music, and with excellent recording and balance, I strongly recommend purchase.† There isnít one dud movement on this recording.
 
Like the other Classical Express recordings, this is available from iTunes and eMusic.† The iTunes version is in the superior Ďplusí format, at a very adequate 256kbps and, at £4.74 itís better value than the eMusic version Ė 22 tracks would take up almost half of a monthly allocation on the 50 tracks for £11.99 contract.† Alternatively, the CD costs around £6 in the UK, so neither way of obtaining this excellent recording is going to break the bank.
 
Any grouses?† Well, Harmonia Mundi could have fitted another concerto on this recording, though, at 64:11, itís not exactly mean.† Buy the CD or download and you end up with an unimaginative cover, available as a high-resolution image from eMusic.† Neither iTunes nor eMusic consider it important enough to inform us what instrument each performer plays, but that is stated on the cover and full details are available from the Harmonia Mundi website.
 
These minor grumbles apart, I recommend that you obtain this recording in one form or another, even if youíve only encountered the Four Seasons until now.† One of these bargain-price Classical Express recordings has already been made upwardly mobile to medium price, though you can probably still find it at the lower price if you hurry, (HMX395 7010, Handelís Water Music, Philharmonia Baroque/Nicholas McGegan).† You can still get it for £4.74 from iTunes in Ďplusí format.† You might want to snap up the Vivaldi now in case itís also transferred to the new mid-price HM Gold series.† Of course, you get a more attractive cover for the higher price but, despite my grumbles about these Classical Express covers, I wonder if itís worth paying the difference.
 
Brian Wilson
 
 


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