Hymn of Jesus:
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Concerto No. 5 for strings and continuo in C, RV 114 [6:09]
Concerto for bassoon, strings and continuo in F, RV 488 [8:24]
Concerto for violin, strings and continuo in C, RV 185, Op. 4 No.
Concerto for flute, strings, bassoon and continuo in G, RV 438 [10:39]
Concerto No. 1 for strings and continuo in G minor, RV 157 [6:10]
Concerto fragment for bassoon, strings and continuo in C, RV 468
Concerto fragment for flute, strings and continuo in E minor, RV
Concerto for flute, violin, bassoon and continuo in F, RV 100 [7:40]
Concerto No. 3 for strings and continuo in C minor, RV 119 [5:43]
Concerto for violin, strings and continuo in D, RV 211 [15:34]
Adrian Chandler (violin); Katy Bircher (flute); Peter Whelan (bassoon)
La Serenissima/Adrian Chandler
rec. Hospital of St Cross, Winchester, 21-24 January 2009. DDD
AVIE AV 2178 [75:36]
The title of this disc, ‘Vivaldi: The French Connection’, promises an interesting take on the red priest’s concerto output. This time the focus is on works with a direct relationship with France. But what we get is a rather mixed bag of works of varying quality and some very tenuous French connections.
The sleeve-notes are at pains to emphasise the ‘Frenchness’ of the concerti, even labelling three them for strings and continuo as ‘Paris’ without explaining why; these works are usually referred to only as ‘concerti ripieni’. In fact there is no evidence that they were specifically commissioned by French sources, and the claim of a distinct ‘French style’ of writing is not really borne out in the music.
That aside, there are some splendidly played gems in this collection. Adrian Chandler, who also directs the La Serenissima band, excels in the solo violin concerti. The gusto with which he attacks the tricky Allegro (track 8) and bouncy dance rhythms (track 10) in the C major concerto is impressive. The disc rounds off with a breathless account of the D major concerto (tracks 26-28). Here there is clear evidence of the French overture style, with its slow stately opening balanced by ‘Italian’ virtuosity, soaring passages for violin, and a hugely demanding cadenza put together by Chandler himself.
The concerti featuring flute are also worthy of close attention. Soloist Katy Bircher tackles the fluttering finger-work with ease, and there are noticeable traces of the French-style in the final Allegro (track 13), with its Rameau-esque flourishes and trills in the strings.
Less satisfying are some of the concerti fragments. The single Allegro movement from a flute concerto in E minor (track 19) is full of promise, but all too brief. The two-movement fragment from a C major bassoon concerto, meanwhile, is without much interest.
The bassoon concerti also fare less well than their flute counterparts. In the G major concerto for flute and bassoon (tracks 11-13) the bassoon does little more than hold the continuo line. The solo F major concerto (tracks 4-6) also lacks melodic inspiration and is instantly forgettable.
The sound recording on the disc is warm and clear, and it is especially pleasing to be able to pick out the hardworking guitar and theorbo supporting the bass lines throughout. Although there are some real highlights, one can’t help feeling disappointed and a little cheated by that elusive French connection.
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