Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741) The Complete Viola d’Amore Concertos
Concerto in D major, RV 392 [9:08]
Concerto in D minor, RV 393 [8:34]
Concerto in F major, RV 97 [11.15]
Concerto in D minor, RV 394 [9:07]
Concerto in D minor, RV 395 [9:08]
Concerto in A major, RV 396 [10:01]
Concerto in A minor, RV 397 [9:21]
Concerto in D minor, RV 540 [12:04]
Ars Antigua/Rachel Barton Pine (viola d'amore)
rec. 15-16 November 2011, 1, 2, 8 July, 27 August 2014, Nichols Hall at the Music Institute of Chicago CEDILLE CDR90000159 [79.11]
How refreshing to find not just another recording of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, but, instead, a disc of all of his Concertos for Viola d’Amore. Of these eight concertos half are in D minor and each opens with an Allegro, followed by a slow movement Largo or Andante, and concludes with a third movement Allegro. They are works full of beauty, invention and refinement that are well worth a listen. One’s initial impression is of music of tremendous elegance and poise, and of top-quality performances from Rachel Barton Pine and Ars Antigua. It is immediately apparent that these are skilled and passionate performers, who handle the music very deftly indeed, with plenty of sparkle in the fast movements and a good sense of dignity and grace in the slower movements. I occasionally yearned for a greater sense and feeling of dance in some of the faster movements, such as the third movement of the D minor Concerto RV 393.
Barton Pine and Ars Antigua seem to have made the interpretative decision to treat equivalent musical gestures the same, giving these the same shape each time they return. Personally, I find this a little same-y and would have preferred an interpretation which gave some differentiation to repeated phrases or musical ideas. Nevertheless, one can only admire the actual performances of the Concertos and the conviction that the performers bring to these.
I was particularly struck by the Concerto in F major, which is the only one to include wind and brass instruments; the others being for strings only. The inclusion of these instruments brings a more interesting sonority and lends further fascination to the music.
The production standards of the disc are high, with an elegant cover, and excellent booklet notes from musician and musicologist Paul V. Miller – although I found Barton Pine’s foreword to the booklet both self-indulgent and out of keeping with the thread of refinement that runs through this production. Phrases such as “it’s always a pleasure to ‘jam’ with you guys” is somewhat jarring with the sophistication and beauty of Vivaldi’s music.