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Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
Concerto per flautino in G major, RV 443 [10:15]
Concerto in C minor, RV 441 [10:45]
“Cum dederit” (arranged from Nisi Dominus, RV 608) [4:28]
Concerto in G minor, RV 439 “La notte” [8:29]
Andante from Concerto in G major for two mandolins, RV 532 [3:42]
Concerto in F major, “La tempesta di mare” RV 433 [6:08]
“Vedrò con mio diletto” – Anatasio’s aria from the opera Il Giustino, RV 717 [5:31]
Jean-Jacques ROUSSEAU (1712-1778)
Transcription of Vivaldi’s Spring, RV 269 (from The Four Seasons) [3:58]
Lucie Horsch (recorder)
Amsterdam Vivaldi Players
rec. 7-12 July 2016, Gerardus Majellakerk, Amsterdam
DECCA 483 0896 [53:25]

This record of Vivaldi’s music with recorder soloist is built around four concertos, which will certainly be familiar to aficionados of the instrument. Even if they were not originally written for other instruments – and there is some discussion over this – they have been recorded many times by recorder players. Counterbalancing the more standard fare of the concertos are four transcriptions of extracts from other Vivaldi works, variously choral, operatic, and instrumental concertos. This mixture gives a nice shape to the programme.

The concerto in G major RV 443 is marked as ‘per flautino’, which has been variously interpreted to mean sopranino or soprano (descant in the UK) recorder, or perhaps flute; this last was more likely before the recorder was emancipated from its reputation as a ‘learner’s instrument’. Lucie Horsch opts for the soprano, feeling that it offers more possibilities. Certainly, for me, it is much easier on the ear than the sopranino. (My rule of thumb would be, always choose the soprano unless a) the composer insists on the sopranino or b) a special effect is required, birdsong perhaps, such as in the ‘Spring’ transcription on this CD.) The advantage of the lower-pitched instrument is evident in the seductive siciliano of the Largo of RV 443. Lucie Horsch employs ornamentation sparingly, as in other movements, but always aptly. I sometimes feel, with some baroque players, that their ornamentation detracts from the beauty of the solo line. In the fast movements of this concerto, the rapid arpeggios and scale passages are played, not only accurately and in strict time, but with interestingly varied articulation. The same is true of the Concerto in C minor RV 441 with its challenging demisemiquaver broken chords which Horsch brings off with absolute clarity and spot-on timing. This is a robust and highly satisfying performance.

RV 441 and the other two concertos are played on the alto (treble) recorder. The darker sound of the ebony instrument used for “La notte” certainly makes for an atmospheric effect. With a suitably lively rendering of RV 433, Lucie Horsch has put together a strong backbone of concerto performances on this her debut disc.

But there is more, and very interesting it is too. First is another siciliano, a transcription for tenor recorder of the “Cum Dederit” from Vivaldi’s setting of Psalm 126. The words of the original – “Cum dederit dilectis suis somnum” (“For he has granted rest to those he loves”) – give us another association within this programme, the largo movement of the “La Notte” concerto, subtitled il sonno (sleep). A nice connection, but whether or not it is intended, it gives Lucie Horsch the opportunity of showing that she has a real feeling for beautiful singing lines. The dignified gravitas of her playing in the “Cum Dederit” is especially affecting.

Dare I say it, the two ‘singing’ instruments – alto recorder and cello (this played by Lucie’s father Gregor, principal cellist of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra) – are a huge improvement on the plucked strings of the mandolins in Vivaldi’s original RV 532. The lovely melody of this Andante surely merits the cantabile it receives here. And again, Lucie Horsch provides a poised ‘vocal’ line in the aria Vedrò con mio diletto from Vivaldi’s opera Il Giustino. The original is for mezzo-soprano voice (Romina Basso’s version is particularly lovely), or alternatively countertenor (try Philippe Jaroussky), but the higher voice of the soprano recorder also does ample justice to another of Vivaldi’s flowing melodies.

Finally, the sopranino recorder comes into its own in a solo arrangement of the first movement allegro of the ‘Spring’ concerto from the Four Seasons. Without pretending to be an orthodox transcription, this version by the composing philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau gives us a delightful ornithological extract.

Throughout, Lucie Horsch’s performances are outstanding, but I must say that the orchestra of two violins, viola, cello, double-bass, chitarrone and harpsichord makes a huge contribution to the overall impact. Though small, this robust ensemble of bowed and plucked strings ideally complements the solo instrument, with the weighty - and darker - sound of the continuo section contrasting with the ‘whiteness’ of the recorder.

Dutch recorder players have been at the forefront of the historically informed performance movement since it really got under way in the second half of the twentieth century, for example, musicians like Kees Otten, Frans Brüggen, Walter van Hauwe (Horsch’s teacher), and the Amsterdam Loeki Stardust Quartet, among many others. This disc demonstrates that Lucie Horsch is a welcome addition to that roll-call. And when you consider that she is but seventeen and already playing with assured maturity, the future of Dutch recorder playing seems guaranteed for many years.

Roger Blackburn



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