This disc caught me off guard. It’s Vivaldi concertos, all right, but they’re short little pieces with no big solos. There are 11 of them on this CD, 33 total tracks, so the concertos average something like five minutes a pop, and the tracks average a little over 90 seconds each. They’re like opera overtures from roughly the same time period: tiny fast-slow-fast scenes that don’t test your attention span but always keep you engaged and delighted.
There are solos for violins at times, but then again it might just be that the orchestral forces used are so small that everyone’s a soloist. Some of the pieces seem to be scored for just six or seven players. The second concerto, in E minor, begins with a fugal entry for the first violin, second violin, viola, and finally the continuo players. The slow movement to this one is also unusually catchy, and seems to quote an opera aria whose name escapes me.
Despite a good mix of major and minor keys, after a few of these concertos you’ll know what to expect from all the rest. This is only occasionally first-rate Vivaldi, but as with every issue of the Naïve series, it’s treated to first-rate performances by crack period instrument players. On one hand, some concertos start with an audible “time-to-start-playing” signal of some kind; on the other hand, this problem is mitigated by the excellent continuo, which includes cello, harpsichord, and lute for timbral complexity.
In other words, this is totally enjoyable but not mandatory Vivaldi, like a CD of sweet little bite-size snacks.
Previous review: Michael