Although these works were written for lute or
mandolin, Eliot Fisk has arranged them for the modern guitar.
In an interview with him, printed in the booklet, he explains
exactly what he has done and how he has created these works,
always with a mind to the period of the compositions.
For many people, too many perhaps, the name of
Vivaldi means The Four Seasons and the Gloria, but
his output was huge including over 500 Concertos and 46 operas!
This is a very pleasant disk which presents some
delightful music in suitably small-scale performances. Fisk
makes the point that the lutes and mandolins of Vivaldi’s time
probably had metal strings and this sound would add a certain
percussiveness and piquancy to the faster movements – indeed,
it would make a very welcome variety of tone colour if we had
this sound in these works. As it is, with the modern guitar
and its softer, usually nylon, strings which are plucked by
either the fingernails or the fingertips, what Fisk has done
is to round off the edges of the music, making it easier on
the ear, but also robbing the quick music of, what could be,
some very exciting sounds. Thus the opening movement of the
Mandolin Concerto in C, RV425, which is delightful musically,
does sound rather like a popular music group serenading under
the window of the beloved. I wonder if this is wrong? It does
seem to be a somewhat hybrid sound which I doubt is what could
have been made of the music with a stronger sounding, metal
strung, instrument. The slow movement, a soliloquy for the guitar,
accompanied only by chords from the string orchestra, is a superb
example of sustained playing, keeping an eye on the line, and
taking time to allow the music to speak. The finale again seems
to need more momentum which the harder sounding mandlin could
bring to it.
The Lute Concerto in D, RV93 has some
fine string playing, the orchestra is much more prominent here
than before, and there is a good sound spread between soloist
and band. The finale is a real joy to hear. Without a doubt
the highlight of this disk is the Double Mandolin Concerto
in G, RV532, which works very well for two guitars. There
is a real Venetian splendour to the slow movement and the outer,
fast, movements are great fun.
After listening to this disk three times I have
come to the conclusion that in general it is the slow movements
which fare best, for here there is some wonderfully quiet and
concentrated playing which seems almost timeless, while the
fast movements are full of the usual baroque chatter and banter
between soloist and ensemble, but don’t really have an edge
It’s an enjoyable issue, with quite good sound,
if somewhat boxy at times, and sprightly performances. I am
still not convinced that this is how these works should sound,
but as an introduction to this music it will please many.