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Sound Samples and Downloads
Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
Vivaldi’s Children: Flute Concertos, Op.10
Op.10/1 in F, RV433 (Tempesta di mare; Storm at Sea) [6:13]
Op.10/2 in g minor, RV439 (La notte; Night) [8:56]
Op.10/3 in D, RV428 (Il gardellino; The Goldfinch) [9:02]
Op.10/4 in G, RV435 [6:58]
Op.10/5 in F, RV434 [8:09]
Op.10/6 in G, RV437 (Il cavallo; The Horse) [7:32]
Wissam Boustany (flute)
Peter Manning, Stephen Morris (violins); Philip Dukes (viola); Tim
Hugh (cello); Mary Scully (double bass); Steven Devine (harpsichord)
rec. St George’s, Brandon Hill, Bristol, UK, 19-21 February 1998.
Formerly available on BOU1103.
NIMBUS ALLIANCE NI6167 [47:21]
A shorter version of this review has appeared in my February
2012/2 Download Roundup – here.
First let me clear one issue concerning the charitable status
of the recording. I wondered in my download review how account
could be kept of the promise to donate £1 to SOS Children’s
Village for every CD sold. I wasn’t impugning Wissam Boustany’s
motives, merely wondering how account could be kept of the number
of downloads as opposed to CDs sold. I’ve received an assurance
from him that the donations made are likely to exceed the number
of recordings sold, presumably in any format. To make sure,
however, you can always buy the physical CD direct from MusicWeb
International – post-paid anywhere in the world for a keen price.
The six Op. 10 Flute Concertos rank high in the list of Vivaldi’s
most popular music after the Op. 8 set, Il cimento dell’armonia
e dell’inventione, especially the first four concertos,
the Four Seasons and the Op. 3 set known as L’estro
armonico. The Naxos Music Library alone lists 27 versions
of the first concerto, Op.10/1, La tempesta di mare.
There are several good recordings in the current catalogue in
all price ranges, with accompanying ensembles of varying sizes,
on modern instruments and period instruments, even recordings
of the concertos in earlier forms before inclusion in the Op.10
set, but, to my mind, no absolute winner.
The new recording from Nimbus comes with two special features.
The first is the use of a small accompanying ensemble of modern
instruments. I’ll allow Wissam Boustany to state the second
in his own words:
“To love Vivaldi’s music is to love nature, life and all things
perpetual, aesthetic and ecstatic. So many years after Vivaldi
lived out his life (1678-1741), we still enjoy his colourful,
energetic music all over the world. This is proof that certain
inner revelations can indeed be shared across generations and
boundaries. Truth will not bow in the face of Time, nor will
it cease to demand our attention as the human race progresses
determinedly towards nowhere in particular …
“The fact that such a serene observer of Life should have been
a priest in the Ospedale della Pieta, a school and orphanage
for young girls in Venice, comes as a reassuring reminder that
Vivaldi did not hide away from life on a human scale. His work
as a priest within the context of this orphanage was probably
a very important factor in making his music so popular and relevant
in his own time. This is why I have chosen to donate £1 out
of the sale of each CD towards the care of abandoned or needy
children around the world … This is part of Towards Humanity,
my international initiative using the inspirational qualities
of music as a catalyst for promoting and raising funds for humanitarian
work around the world.
“I can think of no better tribute to Vivaldi’s enduring inspiration
to us all, than to be continuing his work helping children towards
the fulfilment of their destinies, as he did in his own lifetime.
May music live on, converting Inspired Thought into Inspired
Reality, for our fragile planet.”
Altruism alone should not be your only guide in deciding whether
to purchase this CD; there are other reasons why you should
consider doing so.
What I particularly like about this set is that it bridges the
different approaches by employing modern instruments, including
the double bass, but in chamber proportions. Better still, there’s
sheer joy in the faster sections of the music, while the nightmare
quality of la Notte is fully brought out,
too. I was worried at first that the inclusion of the double
bass would mean that it dominated the music, but such is not
My own favourite version of Vivaldi Flute Concertos is not strictly
comparable, since it offers some of the concertos in their original
forms and on period instruments: Janet See (flute) with members
of the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, approximately twice the
number of the players on the Boustany recording, directed by
Nicholas McGegan (Harmonia Mundi, no longer available on CD:
download as a 2-CD set with Vivaldi Recorder Concertos from
amazon.co.uk - here).
I therefore originally made my detailed comparison with two
Naxos recordings: the complete Op.10 from the Esterházy Sinfonia
directed from the flute by Béla Drahos (8.553101) and Famous
Flute Concerti (Jirí Válek, flute, with the Capella Istropolitana/Jaroslav
Since I wrote the download roundup I’ve also been listening
with enjoyment to a recording from Eckart Haupt (flute) and
the Dresden Bach Soloists under Peter Schreier on Berlin Classics
0013522BC. That recording contains the RV104 version of la
Notte and Op.10/1 and Op.10/3 and can be downloaded from
in good mp3 for just £4.99.
If you subscribe to the valuable Naxos Music Library, you can
make the comparison yourself: as well as the new Nimbus recording,
the two from Naxos and the Berlin Classics, you’ll also find
comparable versions from Jennifer Stinton with the Concertgebouw
Chamber Orchestra and Christophers (Alto ALC1059, at budget
price – see review),
Emmanuel Pahud with the Australian Chamber Orchestra and Richard
Tognetti (EMI 3472122), together with period-instrument versions
which I won’t consider here except to note the existence of
two stylish recordings featuring Barthold Kuijken on Accent
ACC24241 (Op.10 plus RV783 and RV533 with La Petite Bande) and
flute concertos not from Op.10 on Opus 111/Naïve OP30298 (with
Academia Montis Regalis), both of which you can check out from
the Naxos Music Library.
Taking La Notte and Il Gardellino as examples
of two different moods – emphatically not the same concerto
twice – I began with Pahud’s evocation of the nightmares and
none-too-peaceful rest of the former. Heard immediately afterwards,
Boustany’s flute sings more clearly against the smaller-scale
accompaniment. He gives a little more weight to the opening
largo, which I thought very effective, and takes the
following presto – the fantasmi (phantasms)
of Vivaldi’s title – at about the same speed as Pahud. I thought
that he missed some degree of the sleeper’s agitation here and
even more so in the allegro finale, where the Australian
version really captures the mood of tossing and turning, but
he represents the heavy mood of the largo representing
il sonno (sleep) perhaps better than Pahud.
Turning to Drahos, the opening largo is perhaps a little
drawn out and the following fantasmi not quite scary
enough, though more so than from Boustany. In il sonno
he takes the largo faster and the final allegro
slower than Pahud. As with Boustany, I thought the heavy mood
of the former very well captured but the restlessness of the
finale less well portrayed than by Pahud.
Stinton, too, takes the opening largo more slowly than
Pahud – there seems to be a consensus time for this movement
of a little over two minutes as opposed to Pahud’s 1:42. Her
fantasmi are just as agitated as his – both score over
Boustany here, I think.
My attention was drawn to the Berlin Classics recording by hearing
Op.10/3, Il Gardellino, on BBC Radio 3. This is one
of those pieces of music which always cheers me up and it’s
been a favourite ever since I heard it played by I Musici in
time long past, an entrancing recording from memory, though
I haven’t revisited it recently and it may well sound a little
leaden by comparison with newer accounts. In fact timings vary
very considerably for Il gardellino and that the tempi
on that recording are the slowest of all that I checked. I wasn’t
surprised that Boustany is one of the fastest, but the differences
don’t seem that great as one listens:
Eckart/Schreier: 4:19+3:01+2:52 = 10:12
See/McGegan: 4:02+2:40+2:51 = 9:53
Drahos: 3:47+2:56+2:53 = 9:36
Pahud/Tognetti: 3:48+2:33+2:48 = 9:09
Boustany: 3:28+2:49+2:45 = 9:02
Holtslag/Wentz (Challenge Classics): 4:02+1:38+2:39 = 8:19
If Eckart brings out the lyricism of the music slightly more
fully, especially in the first two movements, where Boustany
makes us a little more aware of the sheer delight of the bird,
the differences are minimal and I’d be perfectly happy to live
with any of these versions. Listening extremely critically,
Eckart perhaps makes too many pregnant pauses where Boustany
gets on with the business in hand. She strikes just the right
balance, but her recording doesn’t include the other Op.10 concertos
and you’re not likely to notice the difference by listening
to six versions of this concerto one after the other as I did
Among modern instrument versions Pahud lingers for the view
occasionally in the first movement but on the whole joins Boustany
in getting the balance right. As with La Notte, these
both seem to me consistently satisfying modern-instrument versions.
Holtslag takes what I think much too fast a tempo for Largo,
which the other versions, including Boustany get just right.
On the other hand, I thought that Holtslag and Wentz dallied
a little too long to view the scenery in the first movement;
albeit that the scenery is beautiful, Eckart does much the same
without lingering too long.
The Nimbus Alliance recording is good – my fear that the double
bass might dominate the proceedings proved ungrounded; that’s
probably due in no small part to the engineering balance. I
like the way in which the continuo is occasionally heard – it
shouldn’t be obtrusive, but all too often nowadays the balance
obliterates it. The booklet, however, is a doubtful benefit.
Boustany follows his worthy but wordy appreciation of Vivaldi
with a bland ‘so much has already been written about the historical
aspects of Vivaldi’s music’ – how helpful is that for beginners?
– and some ‘notes’ on the music which I found unhelpful.
Of the first concerto he writes:
Fluid Food of life
Eternity Laughing out of Each Drop!
Grateful Living Creatures on Earth
Worship your Soothing Wetness.
What’s that about and what happened to the storm at sea which
Vivaldi names in the title of this concerto? The other two works
with titles, La notte and Il gardellino receive
descriptions a little less removed from the nightmarish mood
of the first and the cheerful birdsong of the second, but still
far less helpful than the explicit titles attached to the movements
of the former.
There is one huge snag, concerning the very short playing time
of just over 47 minutes. Pahud adds RV440 and RV429 and runs
to 65 minutes; even the budget price recordings on Regis, Naxos
and Alto contain more music – could the performers not have
added a couple of other flute concertos? Since I mentioned this,
Mr Boustany has emailed me to explain his reasons for not including
“Your point about the short playing time of the cd is also very
important, of course. When I made the recording I thought of
including a couple of other pieces, but this group of six concertos
was so tidy and self-sufficient ... it felt like adding more
would somehow diminish the impact of these exquisite musical
jewels. I didn’t want to stuff the cd, just because there was
time left, so I decided in favour of keeping the cd lean and
focused. Maybe I was wrong to do that, but when you buy a beautiful
book that is a complete statement within itself, you don’t measure
it by the pages in relation to the cost - I believe the true
value should lie in the completeness of message within. More
is not always better, in my view (oh no... I am beginning to
sound like George Osborne and his tiresome austerity measures
now!). Seriously though, I do concede that some people
might feel short-changed by the length of the playing time (hopefully
the charity dimension might help make up for this?)”
Point taken. In any case, whatever you may think of the issue
of playing time, I doubt that you would have reason to regret
purchasing the CD. You would be obtaining a set of performances
that I’m very happy to live with and you’d be assisting a good
cause. The bottom line with any review CD is whether or not
I keep it in an over-crowded collection. On this occasion the
answer is yes.
As I was completing this review I noticed that Nimbus Alliance
have added a recording of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, Op.8/1-4,
plus two concertos for the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, RV581
and 582, performed by David Juritz and the London Mozart Players.
It’s a glorious free-wheeling and dramatic performance, dating
from 1999 and issued on NI6149; I’m pretty sure to add
it to my benchmark recordings for these works. It can be sampled,
complete with booklet, from the Naxos Music Library.