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Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
Concerti per violino VI ‘La boemia’
Violin Concerto in F major, RV282 [12:35]
Violin Concerto in E minor, RV278 [14:41]
Violin Concerto in B flat major, RV380 [12:21]
Violin Concerto in C major, RV186 [8:46]
Violin Concerto in F major, RV288 [9:39]
Violin Concerto in G minor, RV330 [10:34]
Europa Galante, Fabio Biondi (violin, direction)
rec. 2017, Sala della CaritÓ, Padua, Italy
NA¤VE OP30572 [68:45]

Fabio Biondi and Europa Galante are no strangers to the music of the Red Priest of Venice, having recorded concertos as well as the operas Ercole su’l Termodonte and L’Oracolo in Messenia, so it is perhaps surprising that this is their first contribution to Na´ve’s ongoing Vivaldi Edition - but better late than never.

This sixth volume of the project features six concertos and is dubbed ‘Bohemia’ on the basis that they are understood to have stemmed from the composer’s visit there in 1730-1. As ever, the standard three-movement format of each concerto belies Vivaldi’s diversity of invention, to which Biondi shows himself imaginatively responsive by subtly but tellingly bringing out the detail within each movement. In his own playing on the violin, one can cite the slight adjustments in the articulation of a solo passage during the first movement of RV282 to sustain tension and interest in it, the trick of bouncing the bow across the strings for certain runs of RV278’s finale, and his ornamented repeat of each section of RV186’s Siciliana slow movement as if it were an operatic aria. Europa Galante follow suit with their magical gradations in dynamics to match the shifting harmonic colours within the opening movement of RV278, the pompous character of the Andante molto of RV380, underlining its stately tempo unusual for a first movement, and the generally graceful manner in the fast movements throughout, none of which mitigates the typically robust, Vivaldian energy radiating from these performances.

Indeed, despite the ominous throbbing of the bass notes in the second and third movements of the E minor Concerto RV278, the music remains dark-hued and rightly wan in the case of the Largo, but the equivalent movement of RV288 could arguably be more effusive and the violin could sing out more, rather than sounding so plain. Varying the continuo instruments used among the movements offers a welcome contrast in timbres - as, for instance, with the organ’s softer tone in the Andante of RV380, to aid the flowing lilt of this gentle lullaby.

Further variety is offered by Biondi in the cadenzas he improvises as a link between movements within a concerto which are cast in different keys. Although not explicitly cued by Vivaldi in the scores, Biondi justifies the practice on the basis that the composer was reported as having extemporised such cadenzas in his performances. We do not know exactly where he would do this, so there is perhaps a greater argument that if this is to be adopted on record, it would make more sense to create variety between movements in the same key, rather than to obscure with softening modulations the stark juxtapositions in key that Vivaldi presumably meant to stand out when he put different ones alongside each other. The flourish which Biondi adds within the first movement of RV288, however, makes sense as theatrically announcing the final repeat of the recurring principal musical material. Whatever one thinks of the interpretive decisions taken in these performances, there is no question that they are executed with authority and panache, making this another winning issue in the Vivaldi Edition. Such advocacy continues to make the case for this composer – were it needed – as one of the most inventive of the Baroque period.

Curtis Rogers

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