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Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
Violin Concertos Op.11 (6 Concerti a Violino Principale, Violino Primo e Secondo, Alto, Viola, Organo e Violoncello) (Amsterdam, 1729) [64:26]
Violin Concertos Op.12 (6 Concerti a Violino Principale, Violino Primo e Secondo, Alto, Viola, Organo e Violoncello) (Amsterdam, 1729) [54:09]
Pier Luigi Fabretti (oboe)
L’Arte dell’Arco/Federico Guglielmo (violin)
rec. 17-19 March, 31 March-2 April 2014, Abbazia di Carceri d’Este, Padua, Italy. DDD
BRILLIANT CLASSICS 95048 [64:26 + 54:09]

Reviewed as lossless download with pdf booklet from Qobuz.

L’Arte dell’Arco and Federico Guglielmo have already won my admiration with their recording of Vivaldi’s Op.8 concertos – Recording of the Month – and Stuart Sillitoe has praised their complete set of the concertos and sonatas published as Op.1 to Op.12 – review. That set is also included in the latest version of Brilliant Classics bumper Vivaldi box – review. Now two further releases have been released from those sets: Op.9 (La Cetra) on 95046BR and Op.11 and Op.12.

These two collections, each of six concertos for violin, with optional oboe, published in 1729, are among the least well known, perhaps because they don’t have collective nicknames, though Op.11/2 is known as Il Favorito, a work which features on several miscellaneous collections. Recordings of the complete Op.11 and Op.12, however, are much less in evidence: the only rival set in the current catalogue comes from Christopher Hogwood with the Academy of Ancient Music on Decca in 20-disc and 28-disc collections. There is also a 9-CD Newton collection which contains Op.12 in performances by I Solisti di Milano which left Byzantion distinctly underwhelmed – review.

Many years ago Philips recorded I Musici in the complete published concertos and sonatas. I think there may still be one or two CDs from that series in my collection but they will be cleared out the next time that I get round to it. For modern-instrument performances of Op.3, Op.4, The Seasons, Op.9 and Op.10 they were superseded long ago by the Academy of St Martin in the Fields and Neville Marriner (Decca) and by numerous period-instrument versions of the same opus numbers. Now they are completely wiped out by Guglielmo and his team.

Much as I admired them on the familiar territory of Op.8, there are some very fine alternatives of both The Seasons and the whole set. In Op.11 and Op.12 their playing is, if anything, even more inspiring in less familiar music. I know there are genuine music-lovers who feel that all Vivaldi’s concertos sound the same. For them this could be the necessary corrective – except where Vivaldi slipped in an occasional movement or concerto that he had included in earlier publications. For the rest of us it’s two hours of wonderful music superbly interpreted and very well recorded. The familiar Il Favorito receives a performance to equal any that I have heard. Even though Guglielmo acknowledges in the notes that Op.12 seems to have been hastily assembled, it’s all well worth hearing.

For reference the other separate releases are: Op.1 sonatas: 94784BR (2 CDs), Op.2 sonatas: 94617BR (2 CDs), Op.3 concertos (L’Estro Armonico): 94629BR (2 CDs), Op.4 concertos (La Stravaganza): 95043BR (2 CDs), Op.5 sonatas: 94785BR (2 CDs), Op.6 concertos: 94245BR, Op.7 concertos: 95044BR (2 CDs), Op.8 concertos (including Four Seasons): 95045BR (2 CDs), Op.9 concertos (La Cetra): 95046BR (2 CDs), Op.10 flute concertos: 95047BR.

Like Op.11 and Op.12, the Op.6 and Op.7 concertos are neglected – Op.7 features only on the 28-CD Decca set, Op.6 in various permutations, again from Hogwood, ranging from a single CD to the 50-disc Baroque Era collection. Here, too, L’Arte dell’Arco make one wonder why the neglect.

Subscribers to Qobuz can stream them all there but you should be warned that at 6.47 for the 2-CD sets it’s very tempting to purchase them as downloads. Even though they charge the same price for single-CD sets, Op.6 and Op.10, that’s still a saving. Those happy with 320 kb/s mp3 will find most of these for 5.49 from 7digital.com. On disc expect to pay around 8.50 for the 2-CD sets and around 7 for the single discs.

None of the 7digital downloads come with the booklet, nor do all the Qobuz offerings. With Op.11 and Op.12, however, we do receive the booklet and it’s very worthwhile, including informed speculation about the extent to which the composer himself may have chosen the music for these publications.

This is another highly recommendable separate release, but if you have not yet started to collect these albums you may find it more worthwhile to choose the complete box set.

Brian Wilson


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