You would think we needed another set of The
like we need a hole in the head. Everyone has recorded
these concertos and they have been put to commercial as well as artistic
use for many years. However, look at the details. This set was issued
originally by the prestigious Das Alte Werk
label who started
as Telefunken's answer to Deutsche Grammophon's Archiv
. The music
is played by Il Giardino Armonico who are among the leading Italian
baroque orchestras - up there with the very best today. The players
rise to the occasion as if these four concertos are a new discovery
and produce performances as dramatic and thoughtful as one could wish.
Every opportunity presented by Vivaldi's detailed descriptive programmes
is taken. They imitate birds, dogs, insects, ice, wind and thunder with
relish and enthusiasm. The continuo is spread between theorbo, organ
and bassoon as well as the expected harpsichord and cello. Enrico Onofri,
the leader of this orchestra and a soloist of great repute in the world
of baroque performance, demonstrates the amazing breadth of Vivaldi's
imagination as he swoons and trills his way through the twelve movements
of these concertos. Nothing is left unconsidered from first note to
last. He adds vibrato for flavouring only and along with director Giovanni
Antonini goes for the most extreme dynamics possible with these old
instruments. Georg Muffat's 1701 instruction that the music should be
"so powerful that the listeners remain amazed at so much noise" is observed
to the letter! The whole set is just masterfully done and should be
near the top of your list.
I have not forgotten the additional concertos, Nos. 8 and 9 from Op.
8, which are less dramatic by nature but performed with equal attention
to detail by Onofri (No.8) and the oboist of Il Giardino Armonico Paolo
Grazzi (No.9). Grazzi too has a superb pedigree in baroque performance
playing also with Jordi Savall's Concert des Nations. He provides a
sort of interlude on this CD playing the alternate version of the D
minor concerto for oboe instead of violin: very beautiful it is too.
Vivaldi's output has great range and huge originality. Perhaps today
he has at last achieved status near to the 'gods' of the baroque J.S.
Bach and Handel. After all, Bach held him in high enough repute to transcribe
several concertos for entirely different combinations of instruments
and also for solo organ. Stravinsky's jokey aside about Vivaldi writing
one concerto four hundred times - the figure varies but that is the
gist - is funny but quite wrong as these six works demonstrate.
The recording is satisfactorily clear and clean but lacks depth. It
is as if the instruments have all been pinned to a board and spread
evenly left to right. There is almost no sense of an acoustic space.
One suspects the presence of too many close microphones back in 1993.
The notes are absolutely brilliant, with detailed and extensive covering
of Vivaldi's symbolism and programmes, background to the publications
and interpretation. A special ‘thank you’ to Cesare Fertonani
and orchestra director Giovanni Antonini for these.
Masterwork Index: The Four