Newly-discovered works by major composers are always exciting.
Of those in the top-rank Vivaldi has had - and seems likely to
continue to have - more than his fair share. It was all but inevitable
that the comprehensiveness, thoroughness and dedication which
characterise the Vivaldi Edition - of which this release is part
- should include the seven additions to the Vivaldi canon which
are to be found on this Naïve CD. They are not mere curiosities
and should be welcomed as mature and inviting pieces in their
own right; this makes the present CD as attractive as any in the
series, which began in 2000.
Although not necessarily connected musically
or thematically - there are two arias, a motet, two concerti
and two sonatas - these pieces have in common that they appear
to be commissions outside the mainstream of Vivaldi's output.
They have come to be regarded as authentic Vivaldi as the
result, chiefly, of two things.
First, continuing research among sources
which have, it could be said, fuzzy edges … the corpus of
the manuscripts held in Turin is still being worked on. Secondly,
there is the happy conviction that 'new' works by Vivaldi
have emerged in the past and are likely to do so again, which
makes almost every possible such candidate worthy of close
consideration. The useful booklet that comes with this CD
in French, English and Italian goes into greater detail on
the provenance of each piece.
It's perhaps the motet
for contralto and strings, Vos invito (RV 811), that impresses
most. Discovered in the St Francis Basilica in Assisi, its attribution
(by Sardelli) is on grounds of style
alone … it's otherwise anonymous. Obviously an early work, its
aria-recitative-aria-alleluia format makes an impact for its melodic
and tonal wholeness; this is also neither overstated on the one
hand, nor bland on the other. Not far from Assisi, in Montecassino,
was discovered another vocal piece, Se fide quanto belle;
it's assigned to RV 749, which is a portmanteau number for all
(operatic) arias otherwise unattached. It has number 32. Yet a
third, Se lento ancora il fulmine, is from Vivaldi's lost
opera, Agrippo (RV 697).
Mezzo Romina Basso has provided her own
variations and ornamentation in the reprises of her da
capo arias, rather than relying on the conductor to provide
them. In the booklet she describes how she arrives at the
optimal blend for her of invention and respect for the original.
Although unashamedly of a bravura quality, nowhere are these
ornamentations intrusive or spuriously spectacular.
The G minor concerto, RV 578a, seems likely
to have had different first and second movements from those
recorded here for it shares them with those of RV 578 in L'estro
armonico. The chamber concerto, RV 810, was previously
assumed 'anonymous' until - again on purely stylistic grounds
- Sardelli made the attribution to Vivaldi. From the pace,
tempi and instrumentation in this recording that attribution
would be hard to contest.
The same archive in Kiev whose contents
were hidden and ignored for over 50 years as housed the Vivaldi
Motezuma fragment was home to the RV 806 sonata
for recorder. Closer to home in Bergamo midway between Turin
and Venice languished the final sonata on this CD, that for
violin, RV 798. Equally delightful, it too bears many characteristic
stylistic markers of Vivaldi - a light and unassuming, yet
fully conceived, humour; a generous tunefulness; and the requirement
that the players be … better than dextrous!
The standard of playing on this CD is uniformly
high. The performers approach the music with the unselfconscious
aim of emphasising its freshness and likely newness to our
ears. At the same time they fail to invest it with any kind
of novelty or unwanted curiosity. This is in a more mature
analogue to the performance style that prevailed when Vivaldi
was first gaining the acceptance which he did two or three
generations ago. There's little that's stunningly innovative
or groundbreaking. But each of the soloists here is working
not to convince us that to have these 'New Discoveries' is
somehow good for us; rather to provide us with transparent
yet substantial additions to the Vivaldi corpus. Definitely
a little collection to enjoy.