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Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
Cello Sonata in B flat, RV46 [10:55]
Cello Sonata in a minor, RV43 [14:11]
Cello Sonata in g minor, RV42 [14:19]
Cello Sonata in F, RV41 [11:21]
Cello Sonata in E flat, RV39 [10:59]
Cello Sonata in e minor, RV40 [9:49]
Prelude, RV38 [3:26]
Marco Ceccato (cello)
Accademia Ottoboni
rec. San Francesco Church, Cori, Italy, 6-12 May 2013. Previously available on Zig-Zag Territoires ZZT338.
ALPHA COLLECTION 325 [69:53]

This is the second recent reissue of Vivaldi Cello Sonatas in the inexpensive Alpha Collection series – formerly billed as Essential Baroque Masterpieces. Just a year ago they released Bruno Cocset and Les Basses Réunies on Alpha 313. There are more than a few overlaps with the new release – RV39, 40, 42 and 43 feature on both – but at the price, around £7.50 each, you may not find that not too much of a deterrent.

David Barker was happier with Cocset and his team in the cello sonatas than with Amandine Beyer and Gli Incogniti in the Four Seasons and other concertos on Alpha 312, finding the application of historicity by the former less extreme – review. I also enjoyed hearing the Cocset reissue, even in comparison with the Ceccato set, then still at full price, finding the performances more dramatic than the latter – Download News 2015/9. Incidentally, I also thought more highly in that edition of DL News than David Barker of the Four Seasons, though not to the extent of outshining Fabio Biondi and Europa Galante on period instruments or Alan Loveday, the ASMF and Neville Marriner on modern instruments.

Don’t expect these cello sonatas to sound as immediately appealing as Vivaldi’s violin concertos and violin sonatas but they will repay repeated listening. If your experience so far has run only to the Four Seasons, however, you may not yet be ready to move to these more thoughtful works. In that case you may well be better served by a lively new recording of his concertos for two violins, RV127, 505, 507, 510, 513, 527 and 529, performed by Giuliano Carmignola, Amandine Beyer and Gli Incogniti on Harmonia Mundi HMC902249, to which I have been listening in an excellent 24/88.2 download, with pdf booklet, from eclassical.com.

Johan van Veen raised some important questions in his review of the Ceccato recording on its original release concerning the size of the accompaniment. I share his concern that with harpsichord, theorbo, guitar, a second cello and double bass – not all employed at once – the Accademia Ottoboni are in danger of turning these sonatas almost into concertos but, like him also, and despite my preference for a simple bass accompaniment, as in the Naxos recordings of the Corelli Sonatas, Op.5/7-12 – review – I cannot complain when the result is so convincing. Ceccato makes a good case for the extended bass in the booklet but perhaps the best reason of all is that he has known the members of the Accademia Ottoboni for many years and works with them extremely closely.

Nor can I complain when this well-recorded CD has been reissued a little over a year after it appeared at full price, though there are some inevitable signs of economy, as with the whole series, not least the use of a flimsy cardboard cover with slots for the CD and booklet which are almost impossible to get into. In claiming a playing time 69:53 of Alpha are short-selling what actually amounts to 75:14.

You may also find the original Zig Zag booklet more helpful: subscribers to Naxos Music Library can find it there. Most of the covers of these Alpha Collection reissues defeat me: in this case a man running through shallow water seems to have little to do with Vivaldi’s Cello Sonatas. Don’t be put off: there are some fine recordings on offer in the second batch of 14 releases – Dances from the French Court c.1600 on Alpha 314 and from Florence c.1616 on Alpha 321, together with Dowland Songs on Alpha 326 (misleadingly labelled Lachrimæ), music from the court of King Christian of Denmark, including some more Dowland, on 323, and a recording of the under-represented music of Bellerofonte Castaldi on 320 are among the highlights for me – all sampled and enjoyed from press previews from Outhere, the group of labels which includes Alpha, and in better quality from eclassical.com. See also Dave Billinge’s positive review of the concertos of Charles Avison reissued on Alpha 315.

Neither of these Alpha releases covers the whole set of Vivaldi’s Cello Sonatas. A complete recording by Jaap ter Linden and Lars Ulrik Mortensen was included in the original 40-CD Brilliant Classics edition of Vivaldi, one of the most stylish things in the box, and retained in the new enlarged and improved 66-CD version (94840 – review). It also remains available inexpensively as a 2-CD set. Subscribers to classicsonline.com can stream it there, albeit without booklet, but I can’t recommend downloading it when the CDs can be found for around the same price (93567). There’s also a fine and inexpensive 2-for-1 Hyperion Dyad set from David Watkin and members of the King’s Consort (CDD22065 – review). If, however, one CD will suffice, either of the Alpha reissues should do the trick.

Brian Wilson


 




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