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Vivaldi x2
Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
Concerto for 2 horns, strings and continuo in F, RV539 [8:20]
Concerto for 2 oboes, strings and continuo in d minor, RV535 [9:30]
Concerto for violin, cello, strings and continuo in A, RV546 [9:50]
Concerto for oboe, bassoon, strings and continuo in G, RV545 [10:42]
Concerto for 2 horns, strings and continuo in F, RV538 [9:19]
Concerto for violin, cello, strings and continuo in B-flat, RV547 [9:07]
Concerto for 2 oboes, strings and continuo in a minor, RV536 [6:39]
Concerto per S.A.S.I.S.P.G.M.D.G.S.M.B. for violin, cello, 2 oboes, 2 horns, strings and continuo in F, RV574 [11:50]
Anneke Scott, Jocelyn Lightfoot (solo horns); Rachel Chaplin, Mark Baigent (solo oboes); Vladimir Waltham (solo cello); Peter Whelan (solo bassoon)
La Serenissima/Adrian Chandler (solo violin) (on period instruments)
rec. 12–15 February 2018, Cedars Hall, Wells, Somerset, UK. DDD.
AVIE AV2392 [75:32]

Heracleitus famously averred that you couldn’t step into the same river twice – it was no longer the ‘same’ river – but it is possible, it seems from the cover of this new Vivaldi offering from La Serenissima, to have the same vintage Fiat 500 twice in one photograph.

The idea of presenting Vivaldi’s concertos for two or more instruments is far from new; La Serenissima themselves have given us two such, RV569 and RV562a, on Volume 3 of their Rise of the North Italian Violin Concerto (Avie AV2154, with music by Locatelli, Sammartini and Tartini – review review DL Roundup). The double concertos RV565, RV95 and RV551 feature on an earlier release (AV0031, also reviewed in the same DL Roundup).

No recording that I know, however, offers more than one example from those included on the new Avie release. The concerto for two horns, RV539, features on several recordings of Vivaldi horn concertos, and the concerto for multiple instruments, RV574, was included in a collection of Concerti con molti istromenti by the King’s Consort and Robert King (Hyperion Helios CDH55439 [68:31] – CD or download with pdf booklet for 8 from

RV574 is one of a number of concertos which Vivaldi composed for the Dresden court. Most of these are for two or more soloists and there are various collections which include this work, such as that from the Freiburg Orchestra and Gottfied von der Goltz on Nave OP30283 (download only), a very fine album from the Akademie fr alte Musik, Berlin (Harmonia Mundi d’Abord HMA1901975, budget price)1 and a recording on Alpha 190 by Les Ambassadeurs (Recording of the Month – review DL News).

King and his team open their recording with RV574; La Serenissima and the Akademie close with it. The cryptic attribution has been much puzzled over, but it seems at least likely that the opening S.A.S.I.S.P. stands for sua altezza serenissima il signor principe … his serene highness the prince … on the analogy of the dedication of RV576, another multi-instrument concerto, per sua altezza reale di Dresda, to his royal highness of Dresden.

On Chandos CHAN0528, another album of Vivaldi’s double concertos, Collegium 90 directed by Stephen Standage, perform RV535 for two oboes, a work unusually in four movements rather than three, in the older concerto da chiesa style. The CD is currently on sale – here – for just 2.50, presumably prior to deletion, but the download from will remain available – see Spring 2018/2. Listen to the Chandos recording and you’d think it unlikely to be surpassed, but La Serenissima at least equal, if not excel, that recording. Standage’s tempi are a little faster than Chandler’s, but there’s very little in it and both performances are most enjoyable. As with the other recordings mentioned, my recommendation of the new certainly doesn’t preclude the older.

All the recordings that I have mentioned are very good and all are well worth considering for inclusion in a collection of baroque music. If you like the price of CHAN0528, I specially recommend that you snap it up while it’s still available so inexpensively, even if that means leaving the new Avie for the time being. Its apparently imminent deletion may signal a reissue at a lower price, but that’s hardly likely to be as low as 2.50.

If you know any of the earlier recordings by La Serenissima, you won’t need me to tell you how good they are. If you have not yet made their acquaintance, I recommend that you do so asap. Whichever volume you choose first is almost immaterial – they are all so good. I certainly recommend not being put off by the cumbersome title The Rise of the North Italian Violin Concerto to explore those three CDs, which place Vivaldi in the context of his predecessors and contemporaries. Those who subscribe to the invaluable Naxos Music Library will be able to sample them all there: the new album, with pdf booklet, is here.

It’s a measure of my confidence in Chandler and his team in this music that I bought this album as a download without even sampling it first and was certainly not disappointed. That places it in the same category as another Vivaldi concerto recording which I reviewed recently, again purchased as a download sight unseen or, rather, unheard: String Concertos III and Viola d’amore Concertos from another long-trusted source, Accademia Bizantina and Ottavio Dantone on Nave OP30570 – review. This is a golden age for recordings of Vivaldi; how different from the time when we thought we were ahead of the curve with the Ace of Clubs LP of the Four Seasons.

With very good recording – in 16-bit download format so, presumably, also on CD – and brief but informative notes, Vivaldi lovers should buy with confidence. Serenissima, indeed.

1 Not all dealers seem to stock this, but most offer the older release (HMC90.1975) as a download. Reviewed as lossless download from (NO booklet).

Brian Wilson

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