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Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
Concerti per fagotto III
Concerto for bassoon, strings and bc in F (RV 485) [12:29]
Concerto for bassoon, strings and bc in B flat (RV 502) [12:10]
Concerto for bassoon, strings and bc in C (RV 474) [10:16]
Concerto for bassoon, strings and bc in c minor (RV 480) [11:05]
Concerto for bassoon, strings and bc in G (RV 494) [11:44]
Concerto for bassoon, strings and bc in C (RV 475) [12:36]
Sergio Azzolini (bassoon)
L'Aura Soave Cremona/Diego Cantalupi
rec. April 2012, Church of the Madonna della Formigola, Corticelle Pieve, Brescia, Italy. DDD
NAÏVE OP30539 [70:25]

Antonio Vivaldi is one of the most popular composers of the baroque era these days. His music is frequently performed and recorded. There is also a great deal of research being done into his life and works, but there are still a number of questions which cannot be answered as yet. One of them is why Vivaldi wrote so many concertos for the bassoon and for whom he composed them. His oeuvre includes 39 bassoon concertos which makes this the second largest contribution among the concerto genre. Vivaldi composed more solo concertos only for his own instrument, the violin.
He was for most of his life connected to the Ospedale della Pietà in Venice, but there is no documentary evidence that there were any bassoon players there. It is possible that oboists were also able to play the bassoon, but in his liner-notes Sergio Azzolini states that this is no more than a hypothesis. Vivaldi had a patron in Bohemia, Count Wenzel von Morzin, and he had a virtuosic bassoonist in his chapel, Anton Möser. It is likely that at least some of Vivaldi's concertos were written for him or at least played by him. Otherwise the identity of the addressee of these concertos remains a mystery. It must have been a highly skilled player as most of the solo parts are quite virtuosic.
This disc includes various examples of concertos or individual movements with demanding solo parts. That goes, for instance, for the first movement of the Concerto in F which opens this disc, where the bassoon part includes various wide leaps. Azzolini sees a parallel with violin concertos written for religious feast days. Therefore he adds a 'fantasia' to the last movement, inspired by the cadenza of a violin concerto. I don't find that very convincing, though. This concerto is also known in a version for oboe.
The Concerto in B flat is quite different; the two fast movements have that typical forward drive in the strings which we hear often in Vivaldi's concertos. The last movement is built on a characteristic Vivaldian figure. The largo has no basso continuo part. Some concertos include strong contrasts; that is especially the case with the Concerto in c minor, the only bassoon concerto in this key. The opening allegro is rather quiet in character, and the solo part is not very virtuosic. The closing allegro is the exact opposite: it is a highly dramatic movement with the bassoon moving constantly up and down through its range. The Concerto in C (RV 474) has the traits of a concerto da camera as the upper strings are treated more or less equally with the bassoon. The largo has a dreamy character. Because of its intimate nature the ensemble plays here with one instrument to a part. The other concertos are performed with six violins, two violas, two cellos and double bass.
Whereas the Concerto in B flat is vintage Vivaldi - every Vivaldi lover would immediately recognize it as being from his pen - the Concerto in G is almost un-Vivaldian. The features which one recognizes as Vivaldian are here absent. Azzolini characterizes it as "pre-Classical". The largo is quite remarkable. The disc closes with the Concerto in C (RV 475) in which Azzolini sees some features of Vivaldi's violin concertos. Maybe its origin was indeed an unknown violin concerto that was later transcribed. Azzolini takes it as an opportunity to add some improvisatory passages which he believes are appropriate in a concerto of this kind. It works better and is more convincing than the addition of a 'fantasia' in the first concerto on this disc.
Azzolini is one of the most brilliant players of the baroque bassoon these days. It is telling that the previous two volumes with bassoon concertos were also performed by him, whereas in the series of discs with violin concertos the solo parts are allocated to various violinists. However, it is not just his virtuosity which is impressive. In the slow movements he shows his capabilities in the realm of expression. The ensemble L'Aura Soave Cremona operates on the same wavelength. In previous volumes I found their playing sometimes a bit abrasive, even aggressive. That isn't the case here. The contrasts in Vivaldi's concertos are emphasized through the choice of tempi: in the slow movements the tempi are usually very slow, and are performed with great intensity.
There are plenty of reasons to welcome this disc. It’s another impressive addition to the growing Vivaldi Edition of Naïve.
Johan van Veen