Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)

The Best of La Cetra II
Concerto No. 2 in C major RV 189 [14:28]
Concerto No. 3 in C minor RV 202 [12:04]
Concerto No. 4 in F major RV 286 [13:26]
Concerto No. 5 in B minor RV 391 “con violin scordato” [12:02]
Concerto No. 10 in E major RV 271 “L’amoroso” [10:29]
Concerto No. 11 in E minor RV 277 “Il Favorito” [13:08]
L’arte Dell’arco/Giovanni Gugliemo (violin and conductor)
rec. June 1995, Oratory of S. Nicola, Vincenza.
DYNAMIC DM8011 [76:35]

Giovanni Gugliemo has already appeared in numerous recommendable releases from the Dynamic label, including with concertos by Tartini. Instead of going for budget re-release box sets, the Dynamic label seems to be more inclined to create ‘best of’ discs under the sub-category Delizie Musicali, with various edible sweetmeats pictured on the cover. The recordings on this release were formerly to be found on a two disc set CDS147.

Of the two collections of La Cetra concertos by Vivaldi - dedicated to Emperor Charles VI - those on this disc are from the autograph or unpublished second collection, the original manuscripts of which are kept in Vienna. Like the more frequently recorded Op.9 first collection this consists of 12 concertos in total. The present disc aims at presenting the finest of these.

I have no argument with the selection, but my completist soul would have preferred to have its hands on the whole set. Not to worry, this is a nicely recorded selection, sounding clean and fresh if perhaps a little on the sharp side in the upper registers, though this is part and parcel of a close balance which catches the instruments where they project the strongest. The lower registers have a resonant bass and theorbo for additional support in the continuo. The added texture of a harpsichord for enriched rhythm and harmony provides all of the authentic feel one could ask for. Giovanni Guglielmo is a very capable soloist, though the widest stretches or densest technical patches can result in one or two minor inaccuracies. There is the occasional point in slower movements where colour and/or intonation might be questioned. With its compact ensemble and chamber-music feel these are not so much performances to be placed in the ‘exquisite’ or ‘to be relished’ category, but they do have an honest quality and a realistic period sensibility.

With precious few recordings of these autograph concertos on offer it is good to have a reissue of Giovanni Guglielmo’s performances, albeit in abridged form. The booklet notes deal with each concerto individually and are usefully comprehensive for such a re-release. If not perhaps in the very front rank of Vivaldi recordings, those who enjoy a robust and rustic listening experience with works from the composer’s ‘late maturity’ will be happy to have this CD around.

Dominy Clements

Robust and rustic.