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Antonio VIVALDI (1678 - 1741)
A Tale of Two Seasons - Concertos and Arias
L'incoronazione di Dario (RV 719):
sinfonia [5:35]
Ferri, ceppi, sangue, morte, aria [2:20]
Arsilda (RV 700):
Io sento in questo seno, aria [5:12]
L'incoronazione di Dario (RV 719):
Sentirò fra ramo, aria [5:17]
Concerto for violin, strings and bc in D (RV 208) 'Il Grosso Mogul' [16:12]
Concerto for violin, strings and bc in B flat (RV 367) [13:55]
Motezuma (RV 723):
Quel rossor, ch'in volto miri, aria [7:20]
In mezzo alla procella, aria [4:57]
Concerto for violin, strings and bc in C (RV 191) [14:18]
Sally Bruce-Payne (mezzo)
La Serenissima/Adrian Chandler (violin)
rec. 18-21 March 2013, Hospital of St Cross, Winchester
Texts and translations included
AVIE AV2287 [76:18]

For a long time Vivaldi was almost exclusively associated with the concerto; more particularly the concerto for violin solo. In the last ten years or so his theatrical output has been discovered. Many of his operas are now available on disc and they are regularly performed in opera houses across the world. This discovery has also led to a somewhat different perspective on his instrumental works. It is now recognized how much these two aspects of his compositional oeuvre are intertwined and this is nicely demonstrated on this disc.
The title refers to the seasons 1717 and 1733; this disc underlines the development in Vivaldi's oeuvre between those years. It is often impossible to put a date to his compositions, but in some cases we know when they were written. Obviously we mostly know when his operas were first performed. L'incoronazione di Dario was premiered in Venice in 1717. In that year the German violinist Johann Georg Pisendel was in Venice and he may have been involved in public performances. This could explain why the overture has been preserved in a copy made by Pisendel. The tempo indication 'andante' for the second movement followed here is based on that copy. The aria 'Sentirò fra ramo' is a typical example of Vivaldi's brilliance in depicting images which were so much loved in the baroque era: "I will hear among the branches ever more calmly and peacefully the happy breezes whisper. And with the beloved Zephyrs the little birds in love joyfully vie". This aria reminds me of such famous concertos as Il Gardellino or La notte. It is exquisitely sung here by Sally Bruce-Payne. Although she is labelled a mezzo-soprano her low register is well developed which helps to realize the other aria from this opera, 'Ferri, ceppi'. In between she gives an expressive account of 'Io sento in questo seno' from Arsilda, first performed a couple of months before L'incoronazione di Dario, in October 1716, and repeated in 1717. The sadness and suffering this aria refers to comes off well here.
The violin concerto with the nickname Il Grosso Mogul is one of Vivaldi's best-known. It is assumed that it was meant to be played - probably by Vivaldi himself - during the performance of the opera Il Gran Mogol by Giovanni Porta. This could explain its highly theatrical character, the second movement having the form of a recitative. The solo part is full of the pyrotechnics which are associated with Vivaldi's most brilliant concertos. For this performance Adrian Chandler mainly uses a German copy which he believes is closest to the concerto's original form. He gives a fine performance which is technically assured; its theatrical character is well conveyed.
With the Concerto in B flat we go to 1733. This is believed to have been written for the theatre. Chandler refers to the fact that the slow movement includes the indication that the harpsichords should be silent. The use of the plural suggests the theatre as that was probably the only place where more than one harpsichord was used. The character of this concerto seems to confirm that it was written for theatrical performance: especially the first movement which includes some contrasts of a dramatic nature.
At this stage in his career Vivaldi felt the growing popularity of the Neapolitan style. In some ways he adapted his style of composing to this new trend. It is interesting to hear the Concerto in C (RV 191) which is certainly virtuosic, but in a different way than the other concertos on this disc. Chandler mentions here the name of Tartini, and that seems appropriate. The solo part has some of the lyrical and poetical features of the latter's concertos.
In his operas Vivaldi made a bow to the Neapolitan style by writing longer arias. The role of the singer is increased and that of the orchestra reduced. 'Quel rossor' from Motezuma takes more than seven minutes, and even that isn't very long. Some Neapolitan composers wrote arias which take more than ten minutes. Obviously this requires great technical skill and much concentration from the singers. Ms Bruce-Payne meets those requirements with ease. 'In mezzo alla procella' includes some of the images which I have already referred to. Vivaldi again demonstrates his capabilities to translate such images into music.
Every year new discs with music by Vivaldi are released. This one could have been just one of the many, but Adrian Chandler has managed to find an approach which makes his recording stand out. The comparison between two years in Vivaldi's career and the direct connection between his operas and his concertos is illuminating. Add to that the quality of the performances of Sally Bruce-Payne and La Serenissima and there is every reason for Vivaldi aficionados to add this disc to their collection.
Johan van Veen