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Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
Vivaldi’s Children: Six Concertos Op. 10: No. 1 “La Tempesta” [6:13]; No. 2 “La Notte” [8:56]; No. 3 “Il Gardellino” [9:02]; No. 4 [6:58]; No. 5 [8:09]; No. 6 [7:32]
William Boustany (flute)
Peter Manning, Stephen Morris (violins); Philip Dukes (viola); Tim Hugh (cello); Mary Scully (double bass); Steven Devine (cembalo)
rec. 19-21 February 1998, St George’s Brandon Hill, Bristol
NIMBUS NI6167 [47:21]
 
On the surface there is little to distinguish this disc of Vivaldi’s Op. 10 flute concertos. The cover art is rather eclectic and there is little (if any) explanation in the booklet note as to why the disc has been given the title it has. However, the playing is lovely throughout and it’s certainly worth a second look.
 
You can tell from the list of players that this is an “occasional” ensemble, in the sense that they have no name - all the players are credited individually - and so must have been assembled specially for the purpose of recording this disc. This testifies to a special commitment to this music and this disc. It’s also likely that the players must all have known one another, and that helps to give the music a sense of communal enterprise that never once sounds amateur. They play on modern instruments, so the sound is rather akin to some of the Vivaldi playing we were used to before the “period” movement began, but not so big-boned as there are only seven performers. Wissam Boustany’s flute playing, which leads the ensemble, is very appealing, both lyrical and virtuosic, especially in the quickfire finale of No. 6. The string band upholds him beautifully.
 
As for the music itself, the disc gets off to a delightful start with a light-as-a-feather account of La Tempesta which features an especially impressive first movement. La Notte, on the other hand, is appropriately languid, with its faster interludes tapered by the overall nocturnal mood. The trilling of the goldfinch is beautifully evoked in the slow movement of No. 3. No. 4 is dominated by a light-hearted drone which lends a touch of weight to the first two movements. This is then thrown to the winds with a light-hearted, dance-like finale which trips and lilts its way across the music. However, the most interesting concerto on the disc, for me, was No. 5. The first movement has a lighter tone in general, with the delicacy of a painting by Fragonard. This is followed by a Largo of disarming seriousness, the flute singing a poignant lament against the gently thrumming bed of strings. The finale then eschews this former seriousness with a tripping Allegro that seems to kick off all the drama of the preceding movement. It’s extraordinary, if only for its schizophrenic personality.
 
Good music and good playing, then, and some of the proceeds from the disc also go to charity. My principal complaint is that, at less than 50 minutes of music, the disc isn’t very generously filled.
[Mr Boustany has said: “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?)”]
 
Simon Thompson

see also review by Brian Wilson