This is a well-balanced recital: two world premieres are featured in
a line-up of two violin concertos, two flute concertos, two cello concertos
and two concertos for violin and organ. The idea is to showcase the
many talented performers in period instrument group Gli Incogniti, and
I’ll count it a success.
Gli Incogniti is a small band with a wonderful sound, notable especially
for its interesting continuo: organ, theorbo, harpsichord or guitar
might appear in any given concerto. The group has a penchant for the
musicologically interesting; they have here inserted a movement from
one concerto into another, and, as mentioned, there are two premieres.
Despite a long discography this ensemble has only appeared on MusicWeb
International twice before: see this review
; the other, much older critique is less positive. Their
Vivaldi Four Seasons
is very good, although it does not challenge
my favourite, Europa Galante with Fabio Biondi. Here, on less travelled
territory, they continue to prove themselves adept Vivaldi performers.
The first track is a good introduction to the ensemble, with its
chamber-sized sound: the first concerto needs only seven players.
There’s also a piquant continuo and the outstanding solo work of
violinist Amandine Beyer and organist Anna Fontana. The largo slow movement
is a duo for them unaccompanied; the organ part has been lost and was
reconstructed for the present disc. There are other interesting duo slow
movements to be heard here: in the concerto RV194, the solo violin plays for
some time accompanied only by another violin. The bracing finale of the
cello concerto in A minor, RV420, hints at ‘Winter’ from the
. The last concerto on the disc has a brief fugue.
Aside from the two premieres, this recording contains concertos that
otherwise appear only in complete surveys. A violin concerto in D minor,
RV235, strikes me as a masterwork but has, according to ArkivMusic, only
been recorded once before
. The cello concerto RV403 enjoys more
publicity, with previous period-instrument accounts by Anner Bylsma,
Sigiswald Kuijken and Christophe Coin. All are recommendable, with Kuijken
& Co. a good bit more expansively paced. They’re also all tuned
differently - enough so that this reading sounds like it’s in a
different key from Coin’s.
The album is a delight. Gli Incogniti is a period ensemble well
worth our time, and they offer Vivaldi that leaps out of the speakers and
communicates with urgency and vibrancy. The solo work from all involved is
outstanding, and the acoustic-from an old church in
which I am filled with a desire to see some day - offers a
rich, boldly reverberant sound which never once threatens to drown out the
players. With Fabio Biondi’s recordings being reissued by Virgin in
cheap box sets, with Rachel Podger recording new sets of concertos, and best
of all with Naïve’s popular edition, this truly is a good time to
be a Vivaldi fan. Enjoy.