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Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
Il Grosso Mogul
Violin Concerto in D major, RV208 ‘Il Grosso Mogul’ [17:37]
Johann Georg PISENDEL (1688-1755)
Violin Concerto in A minor [4:17]
Concerto ‘per Violino in Tromba Marina’ in G major, RV311 [6:15]
Violin Concerto in D major, RV226 [8:17]
‘Graz’ Sonata No. 1 in C major for violin, RV4 [10:53]
‘Graz’ Sonata No, 2 in B minor for violin, RV37 [11:22]
‘Graz’ Sonata No. 5 in E minor for violin, RV17 [10:29]
Lina Tur Bonet (violin & director); Musica Alchemica
rec. 2013/18, Istituto Italiano di Cultura, Madrid (sonatas); Auditorio de Murcia, Spain (concertos)
PAN CLASSICS PC10391 [69:24]

Here is a treat for serious Vivaldi collectors. This album of concertos and sonatas follows up a similar, earlier release by the same forces on Pan Classics, and is of far greater interest than simply offering another rendition of one of the composer’s relatively well-known Violin Concertos, ‘Il Grosso Mogul’. That composition is presented in its original version with long cadenzas for the first and third movements, before Vivaldi made some revisions. For the latter movement, Lina Tur Bonet has selected the longest cadenza by Vivaldi to have survived, to make all the more dazzling effect, balancing the long cadenza of the first movement. Alongside Musica Alchemica, whom she directs, this is a capricious and flighty performance that starts out with a raw energy which continues for the most part throughout the work, and the melodic imitations between the first and second violins are despatched with dramatic flair. Tur Bonet’s entries on the solo violin are more distinctively robust and edgy, whilst in the fantasia-like slow movement she plays with a waywardness that reflects the meandering line of its written-out melismas.

Incidentally, the booklet notes give the correct catalogue number (RV208) for this Concerto, as opposed to the listing in the notes and on the CD cover itself which identify it as RV208a: that, in fact, is the version Vivaldi prepared for publication as No. 11 of his Op.7 set of Concertos, minus the cues for the long cadenzas, and stripped of its rhapsodic slow movement in favour of something simpler. RV208 is also the version from which Bach famously made his transcription for the organ (BWV594) complete with idiomatic cadenzas.

This, and the other Concertos here, are claimed to be world première recordings, but Adrian Chandler recorded the Concerto ‘per Violino in Tromba Marina’ RV 311 with La Serenissima back in 2015. The booklet notes do not specify how Tur Bonet re-created the instrument – it is quite possibly an invention by Vivaldi, who seems to have used an altered violin with a different bridge – but the effect here is unmistakable. With the greater volume the instrument is capable of producing, she sounds more forwardly placed in this recording than her colleagues, doubtless emphasised by her vigorous attack on the violin’s strings. The rattling or rasping sound mimicking the tromba marina prototype is audible in the extensive double-stopping Vivaldi calls for, replicating the harmonic overtones of the natural series of each note of which the original monochord instrument is capable. Particularly in the lyrical slow movement, the violin’s solo line is reminiscent of a viola when playing high in its register with the resultant tension in the strings, which here creates a sort of sobbing effect.

The ensemble and solo playing for the Violin Concerto RV226 is more straightforwardly lively, though the slow movement is magical in Vivaldi’s scoring for upper strings alone playing pizzicato, and the solo line played sweetly by Tur Bonet, but with little vibrato and so sounding tantalisingly disembodied after the previous Concerto. The Concerto movement by Pisendel is intriguing because the manuscript – available for viewing, at the time of writing, on International Music Scores Library Project – shows the improvements written into it, apparently by Vivaldi, when his pupil showed him the score. That mainly involved altering the viola part by raising some passages an octave higher to create a more transparent texture. Certainly the performance here is buoyant, with Tur Bonet’s songful account of the solo part.

No less interesting are the three ‘Graz’ Sonatas, which supplement and complete the other pair featured on the aforementioned earlier release. They take their name from the fact that the manuscript is held in an archive in that Austrian city, but as there are missing parts these Sonatas have largely been shunned by performers. That is a pity as they contain some charming and expressive music, and Vivaldi expert Olivier Fourés has offered a valuable service in reconstructing the material that is lacking in certain movements. Tur Bonet brings a raw and irrepressible energy to the fast movements, not least the Gigue-like finale of RV4 with its incessant triplet rhythms. The slow movements of the B minor Sonata sound appropriately austere, the upward-tending phrases of the first seemingly asking questions, and the meandering phrases of the third evoking mystery here.

Sceptics who think that Vivaldi’s inspiration was limited and repetitive may find their view qualified with this release, whilst for the converted this is necessary listening.

Curtis Rogers


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