Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
La Cetra’ - 12 Violin Concertos, Op. 9 (pub. 1727) [106.01]
L'Arte dell'Arco/Federico Guglielmo (concertmaster/baroque violin)
Gianpiero Zanocco, violin (RV 530)
rec. 14-18 July 2014 Chiesa di S. Maria, Vanzo, Padua, Italy
BRILLIANT CLASSICS 95046 [53.24 + 52.37]

In 2005 I was delighted to review the set of Vivaldi’s six violin concertos ‘for Anna Maria’ played by period instrument ensemble L'Arte dell'Arco directed by Federico Guglielmo on CPO and was struck by the focus and proficiency of the playing. Now on this 2016 release, a double set, L'Arte dell'Arco are once again directed from the baroque violin by Guglielmo who has returned to Vivaldi with the collection of violin concertos known as ‘La Cetra’.

Meaning cittern or lyre ‘La Cetra’, Op. 9 is a set of twelve violin concertos, thought to have been written between 1723/25, which Vivaldi had published in 1727. They are dedicated to Emperor Charles VI who the composer had met in Trieste. All of the concertos are scored for solo violin, strings and basso continuo with the exception of the ninth concerto in B flat major, which features two solo violins, while the sixth and twelfth concertos require the use of scordatura which involves tuning the strings in non-standard fashion. In the accompanying booklet director Guglielmo comments on the range of the music and the virtuosity needed by the soloist in performance.

Additionally, the length and complexity of the solo violin part is in excess of that common at the time. Here the admirable L'Arte dell'Arco consist of the soloist and the modest number of seven strings, together with a wonderfully and varied sounding basso continuo of harpsichord/chamber organ, harp and theorbo/baroque guitar. Qualities of buoyancy (and frequently exhilaration) from Guglielmo are a feature of the Allegros played with undimmed enthusiasm. There is a restrained passion in the central Largos with Guglielmo displaying elegance and a strong sense of integrity.

Recorded at Chiesa di S. Maria, Vanzo, Padua the engineering team for Brilliant Classics provide crisp, clear and balanced sound that I find eminently satisfying. Helpful and insightful notes by Federico Guglielmo add to the desirability of the release. Almost inevitably with Vivaldi albums a picture by Canaletto graces the booklet cover. I’m not sure why Guglielmo chooses not to position the concertos from numbers 1-12 which ideally I would prefer, however, Rachel Podger on Channel Classic opts for a similar approach. I notice that these very performances of ‘La Cetra’ are also contained on Guglielmo’s 20 CD set of Vivaldi Complete Concertos & Sonatas Opp. 1-12 on Brilliant Classics.

This new release of ‘La Cetra’ from Federico Guglielmo and L'Arte dell'Arco stands comparison with the finest accounts of which the competition comes from other period instrument ensembles. Best of all from 2012 there is the glowing playing from Rachel Podger directing the Holland Baroque Society from the baroque violin on Channel Classics. Excellent too are the neatly sprung rhythms from baroque violinist Monica Huggett as soloist with the Raglan Baroque Players directed by Nicholas Kraemer recorded in 1987 with decent enough sound on Virgin Veritas.

Michael Cookson
CD 1 [53.24]
Concerto No. 1 in C major, RV 181a [8.39]
Concerto No. 5 in A minor, RV 358 [7.30]
Concerto No. 4 in E major, RV 263a [9.57]
Concerto No. 12 in B minor, RV 391
'Con violino scordato' [11.12]
Concerto No. 3 in G minor, RV 334 [9.12]
Concerto No. 7 in B-flat major, RV 359 [4.00]
CD 2 [52.37]
Concerto No. 9 in C major for 2 violins, RV 530
'Con due Violini obligati' [8.32]
Concerto No. 10 in G major, RV 300 [4.42]
Concerto No. 8 in D minor, RV 238 [8.59]
Concerto No. 2 in A major, RV 345 [8.16]
Concerto No. 11 in C minor, RV 198a [8.36]
Concerto No. 6 in A major, RV 348
'Con violino scordato' [10.47]

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