Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
Trio Sonatas, op.1 (1705 or 1703) [39:24]
Concertos La Stravaganza, op.4
Six Violin Sonatas, op.5 [34:13]
Six Concertos, op.6 [51:53]
Concertos, op.8 nos.1-4 The Four Seasons
Six Violin Concertos, op.12 (1729) [60:48]
Six Sonatas for cello and continuo, 'op.14'
Full track-listing and performance details at end of review.
NEWTON CLASSICS 8802109 [9 CDs: 449:49]
The complete works published in Vivaldi's lifetime, more than fifty concertos and sonatas by the Venetian master on nine CDs, all in one handy boxed set - a bargain?
Not really, is the short answer. Certainly, Vivaldi's music is always imaginative, often dazzlingly so. He was also at times a comedian, as some of the passages in this set testify. For those who know him primarily from the famous Four Seasons, the harmonic darkness of some of the minor-key Trio Sonatas should prove an eye-opener. In short, this is a decent introduction to his instrumental music.
Furthermore, there are many fine performances to be enjoyed here, particularly from Franco Fantini, whose lion's share of the credit reflects the fact that he is chief soloist on most of these discs.
Yet it is fair to say that there is nothing here performance-wise that has not been surpassed in more recent times, with regard to both historically informed practice and virtuosity and expressiveness. Vibrato, for example, is widely employed, albeit generally with restraint. Also, the violins, whoever the soloist (or Soloist), have a sweetness to their sound that some may find saccharine.
The biggest question mark, however, concerns the quality of sound. Though it may be argued that the original analogue lends the recordings a certain warmth that their early digital counterparts tended to lack, the audio problems soon begin to mount. In the Trio Sonatas the violins tend to crowd out the cello and are closely miked, resulting in minor distortion at higher volumes or registers. The op.5 Sonatas and the op.6 Concertos sound as if they were recorded with cut-price equipment, having a patchy, gritty quality, a drop-off of detail at low volumes, too much reverberation, and violins again too prominent. The op.4 Concertos have a slightly lush/tinny quality - certainly not "excellent", as described by a leading reviews magazine of the time! Some listeners may find this easy enough to overlook, but the technical faux pas in op.4 no.11, where an apparent diminuendo is controlled by a man with his hand on the master volume button, is plain daft.
In all cases, some tracks are clipped very closely, with microseconds chopped off the beginnings of movements in some cases, and elsewhere notes can be heard to die an unnatural death by fader. There are also a few editing joins dotted about the place, though unobtrusive in nature. It is very unlikely that Newton are responsible for any of these faults, but faults they remain and they detract from the music itself. Rivoalto, who made the original recordings, clearly had their ups and downs with technology, as the best date from 1966-68 - the opp.1, 12 and 14 discs. The 1964 tracks sound poorest, but those recorded post-1968 are of unpredictable quality, and some of the label's regrettable editing practices never really improved.
Unfortunately, at least a few of these musicians are no longer around to enjoy this reissue of their impressive efforts. Ephrikian, for example, has been dead for thirty years, Tortelier more than twenty. On the other hand, this is not a boxed set for connoisseurs - nor really for anyone else, for that matter.
On the upside, the slip-cased discs come in a stylish box and Newton provide a decent booklet with brand-new notes in English, German and French (not Italian!) by Vivaldi scholar Michael Talbot. These are well written and informative, taking the reader through the published works item by item.
Collected reviews and contact at reviews.gramma.co.uk
Not a boxed set for connoisseurs - nor really for anyone else, for that matter.
CD 1: Trio Sonatas op.1 nos.1-6 (1705 or 1703) [39:24]
Sonata no.1 in G minor, RV.73 [6:20]
Sonata no.2 in E minor, RV.67 [5:53]
Sonata no.3 in C, RV.61 [7:43]
Sonata no.4 in E, RV.66 [6:47]
Sonata no.5 in F, RV.69 [5:49]
Sonata no.6 in D, RV.62 [6:52]
CD 2: Trio Sonatas op.1 nos.7-12 (1705 or 1703) [47:03]
Sonata no.7 in E flat, RV.65 [7:01]
Sonata no.8 in D minor, RV.64 [8:06]
Sonata no.9 in A, RV.75 [5:34]
Sonata no.10 in B flat, RV.78 [6:04]
Sonata no.11 in B minor, RV.79 [6:50]
Sonata no.12 in D minor, RV.63 [13:27]
CD 3: Concertos for violin and strings, La Stravaganza, op.4 nos.1-6 [62:08]
Concerto no.1 in B flat, RV.383a [9:51]
Concerto no.2 in E minor, RV.279 [11:29]
Concerto no.3 in G, RV.301 [9:02]
Concerto no.4 in A minor, RV.357 [10:01]
Concerto no.5 in A, RV.347 [10:05]
Concerto no.6 in G minor, RV.316a [11:40]
CD 4: Concertos for violin and strings, La Stravaganza, op.4 nos.7-12 [54:21]
Concerto no.7 in C, RV.185 [8:24]
Concerto no.8 in D minor, RV.249 [9:03]
Concerto no.9 in F, RV.284 [8:14]
Concerto no.10 in C minor, RV.196 [9:10]
Concerto no.11 in D, RV.204 [7:53]
Concerto no.12 in G, RV.298 [11:37]
CD 5: Six Violin Sonatas op.5 [34:13]
Sonata in F, RV.18 [5:40]
Sonata in A, RV.30 [4:32]
Sonata in B flat, RV.33 [6:20]
Sonata in B minor, RV.35 [5:56]
Sonata in B flat, RV.76 [6:45]
Sonata in G minor, RV.72 [5:00]
CD 6: Six Concertos op.6 [51:53]
Concerto no.1 in G minor, RV.324 [10:45]
Concerto no.2 in E flat, RV.259 [9:28]
Concerto no.3 in G minor, RV.318 [8:35]
Concerto no.4 in D, RV.216 [5:59]
Concerto no.5 in E minor, RV.280 [8:23]
Concerto no.6 in D minor, RV.239 [9:47]
CD 7: Concertos op.8 nos.1-4 The Four Seasons [47:17]
Concerto no.1 in E Spring, RV.269 [10:36]
Concerto no.1 in G minor Summer, RV.315 [11:25]
Concerto no.1 in F Autumn, RV.293 [11:47]
Concerto no.1 in F minor Winter, RV.297 [8:38]
CD 8: Six Violin Concertos op.12 (1729) [60:48]
Concerto no.1 in G minor, RV.317 [12:29]
Concerto no.3 in D, RV.317 [6:36]
Concerto no.5 in B flat, RV.317 [11:05]
Concerto no.2 in D minor, RV.317 [9:21]
Concerto no.4 in C, RV.317 [10:13]
Concerto no.6 in B flat, RV.317 [12:11]
CD 9: Six Sonatas for cello and continuo 'op.14' [52:42]
Sonata no.1 in B flat, RV.47 [9:35]
Sonata no.1 in F, RV.41 [8:07]
Sonata no.1 in A minor, RV.43 [7:13]
Sonata no.1 in B flat, RV.45 [10:10]
Sonata no.1 in E minor, RV.40 [9:27]
Sonata no.1 in B flat, RV.46 [8:10]
Franco Fantini (violin) (op.4 nos.1-3/7-9, opp.5, 6, 8, 12); Mario Ferraris (violin) (opp.1, 5, 6); Ermanno Molinaro (violin) (op.1); Tino Bacchetta (violin) (op.4 nos.4-6/10-12); Angelo Ephrikian (violin) (op.5); Antonio Pocaterra (cello) (opp.1, 5, 6); Genunzio Ghetti (cello) (op.5); Paul Tortelier (cello) (op.14); Maria Isabella de Carli (harpsichord, organ) (opp.5, 6); Mariella Sorelli (harpsichord, organ) (op.1); Vera Luccini (harpsichord) (op.5); Robert Veyron-Lacroix (harpsichord) (op.14); I Solisti di Milano/Angelo Ephrikian (opp.4, 6, 8, 12)
rec. Villa Litta, Milan, Italy, 9-15 July 1964 (CD 3,4); 8-14 July 1966 (CD 1,2); 10-20 June 1967 (CD 8); 13-21 May 1968 (CD 9); 5-13 January 1969 (CD 5); 21-29 March 1969 (CD 6); 20-30 March 1972 (CD 7). ADD