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Antonio VIVALDI(1678 - 1741) The French Connection 2
Concerto for strings and bc in e minor (RV 133) [6:16]
Concerto for oboe, violin, strings and bc in F (RV 543) [7:37]
Concerto for transverse flute, strings and bc in a minor (RV 440)
Concerto for bassoon, strings and bc in C (RV 473) [15:36]
Concerto for transverse flute, strings and bc in d minor 'Il Gran
Mogol' (RV 431a) [7:59]
Concerto for strings and bc in G (RV 150) [4:21]
Concerto for transverse flute, 2 violins, bassoon and bc in g minor
'La Notte' (RV 104) [9:33]
Concerto for strings and bc in d minor (RV 127) [4:16]
Concerto for violin, strings and bc in B flat (RV 365) [13:08]
Katy Bircher (transverse flute), Gail Hennessy (oboe), Peter Whelan
(bassoon), Adrian Chandler (violin); La Serenissima/Adrian Chandler
rec. 8-11 February 2011, Hospital of St Cross, Winchester, UK. DDD
AVIE AV 2218 [79:03]
Vivaldi is one of the most frequently-recorded composers these
days. If you want to record his music and want to avoid the
beaten path, what do you do? The answer from Adrian Chandler
and La Serenissima is to look at Vivaldi's music from a thematic
angle. The booklet for this CD lists the discs they have made
over the years. One of the themes was "Vivaldi in Arcadia",
and another "Music for the Chapel of the Pietà". This
disc is the second devoted to "The French Connection".
This title has to be taken with a grain of salt as there is
no formal connection between Vivaldi and France. He was never
in the service of a French court and never wrote music at the
request of any French aristocrat. Chandler rather wants to shed
light on French elements in Vivaldi's music.
Everyone knows how strongly French composers of the early 18th
century were under the influence of the Italian style. Music
by Italian composers, and in particular by Vivaldi, was frequently
performed in France, for instance in the Concert Spirituel.
The influence of the French style in Italy is far less known.
In his liner-notes Chandler refers to several traces of French
influence in Italy, and especially in the oeuvre of Vivaldi.
If there is a 'French connection' it could be a collection of
concertos for strings and basso continuo which are referred
to as the 'Paris' concertos. Chandler suggests that these could
have been intended as a presentation set for a French nobleman.
In the booklet the French elements of every piece on the programme
are listed. In particular aspects of the French overture style
are traceable. The second movement of the Concerto in F (RV
543) is entitled 'allegro alla francese'. The finale of
this concerto is a minuet, and the Concerto in C (RV 473)
even ends with a 'menuet en rondeau'. That is all very interesting,
and Chandler could be right that these are deliberate references
to the French style. At the same time it is quite possible that
these elements had become so generally accepted that they were
not experienced as specifically 'French'. How many music-lovers
or even composers of today think of Poland when they hear or
play a polonaise? In the early 17th century Italian keyboard
composers also wrote pieces 'alla francese'. But scholars can't
identify exactly what is so French about them. Sometimes the
connection seems rather far-fetched. According to the list the
'French connection' of the Concerto in d minor (RV 431a)
is that the manuscript was written on French paper. Well ...
That concerto, with the nickname Il Gran Mogol, is one
of the main attractions of this disc. It was only recently discovered
in Edinburgh, of all places. Not that it was entirely new. Scholars
knew that it had been written, and a reworking is listed as
RV 431. This version also allowed the reconstruction of the
missing second violin part of the first version, which is catalogued
as RV 431a and is recorded here. It was part of a series of
concertos devoted to various nationalities. This one referred
to the Mughal Empire (India). Other concertos have disappeared.
Those with a more than average knowledge of Vivaldi's oeuvre
will immediately think of another concerto, this time for violin,
with the title 'Il Grosso Mogul'. But that is an entirely different
piece and has nothing in common with this flute concerto.
This piece has been recorded for the first time, and that is
also the case with the Concerto in B flat (RV 365). It
exists in two versions, the first of which is played here. The
liner-notes don't say whether this concerto has been recorded
before in its second version. The main difference regards the
last movement of which there are two; here the oldest is played.
Notable in the programme is also the Concerto in F (RV 543):
the French elements in the titles of the various movements have
already been mentioned. It needs to be added that the two solo
instruments largely play unisono, which could be a reference
to the French habit of oboes playing colla parte with
the violins. It is also remarkable that there is no slow movement:
there are three allegros and a closing minuet.
The most virtuosic piece is definitely the Concerto in C
(RV 473) with many wide leaps and some very low notes. Vivaldi
must have had a particularly skilled soloist in mind. It is
remarkable anyway how many bassoon concertos he wrote and they
are all quite demanding. Peter Whelan delivers a brilliant performance.
The closing 'menuet en rondeau' is especially impressive. It
is one of the disc’s highlights. The performances are generally
quite good, though I find them at times too restrained. The
fast movements come off fairly well, but the slow ones are often
too static, especially as long notes are mostly devoid of dynamic
shading. Katy Bircher gives a fine performance of one of Vivaldi's
most popular pieces, the Concerto La Notte (RV 104).
She is equally convincing in the two flute concertos.
On balance, the concept of this disc, the choice of music and
the performances make this an interesting contribution to the
growing Vivaldi discography.
Johan van Veen
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