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Vivaldi x2 : Double Concertos for Horns, Oboes, Violin and Cello, Oboe and Bassoon
Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
Concerto for 2 Horns, Strings & Continuo in F, RV 539 [8.20]
Concerto for 2 Oboes, Strings & Continuo in D Minor, RV 535 [9.29]
Concerto for Violin, Cello, Strings & Continuo in A, RV 546 [9.50]
Concerto for Oboe, Bassoon, Strings & Continuo in G, RV 545 [10.42]
Concerto for 2 Horns, Strings & Continuo in F, RV 538 [9.18]
Concerto for Violin, Cello, Strings & Continuo in B Flat, RV 547 [9.06]
Concerto for 2 Oboes, Strings & Continuo in A Minor, RV 536 [6.38]
Concerto Per S.A.S.I.S.P.G.M.D.G.S.M.B. for Violin, Cello, 2 Oboes, 2 Horns, Strings & Continuo in F, RV 574 [11.53]
La Serenissima / Adrian Chandler
rec. Cedars Hall, Wells, Somerset, UK, 12-15 February 2018
AVIE AV2392 [75.32]

The rediscovery of Vivaldi 's staggering number of concerti continues apace. I have no idea if all these are new to disc, probably not, but I would be fairly confident Adrian Chandler has managed at least some first performances since the composer's own lifetime. Whatever, these strikingly virile performances certainly are new. La Serenissima goes from strength to strength in all respects except one, which is that they have stopped making anything in SACD multichannel. That is a pity but certainly not grounds for failing to add this marvellous issue to one's collection. Those who persist in believing that Vivaldi is simply repetitive are urged to hear track one with Anneke Scott and Jocelyn Lightfoot hurling fiendish horns runs at each other across the ripieno players in the middle. It does not stop there. Not one of these eight concerti is anything other than a joy to hear and all the featured soloists are outstanding. So also are the continuo group. La Serenissima are propelled by their enthusiastic continuo 'engine' that drives most obviously the fast outer movements. The group includes the enthusiastic theorbo and baroque guitar playing of Linda Sayce. Linda once told me that the problem with being a theorbo player is that you need high ceilings or a convenient stairwell to practice at home. She has obviously been practicing somewhere because she, cellist Carina Drury and harpsichordist Joseph McHardy really keep La Serenissima's engine going brilliantly.

This meticulously annotated CD is so thorough in its documentation, beyond the actual liner notes, it reminds me of LPs in the Archiv Produktion series made by Deutsche Grammophon back in the 1960s. Even they have not reached this standard since with their CD reissues. Whoever is responsible, be it Avie Records or La Serenissima's director Adrian Chandler, well done! In these notes we learn that Vivaldi was unusual in showing an interest in the double concerto, a form popular north of the Alps but not to the south where such as Tartini, Albinoni and Valentini laboured away producing huge numbers only of solo instrumental concerti. Vivaldi of course did that as well but this CD just scratches the surface of his catalogue of concerti for two soloists. Alan Kendall lists over forty double concerti in his 1978 study of the composer and one can be fairly confident more have emerged from the archives in the forty years since then. Strictly speaking the final concerto is for all seven soloists so it doesn't count. This same concerto has the best title possible consisting of thirteen initials, the meaning of which is uncertain but one suggestion is given in Adrian Chandler's erudite accompanying essay.

So am I completely over the top with praise for this beautifully recorded Avie CD? Not quite: nul points for the unfortunate cover photograph: clever but sort of irrelevant. When the other five or six volumes come out can I suggest no more cars but a return to the attractive 17th century paintings used on earlier issues? And SACD multichannel would be nice as it would help us enjoy the spaciousness of the lovely Cedars Hall at Wells Cathedral School or whatever other recording space is used in future.

Dave Billinge

Previous reviews: Brian Wilson ~ Michael Cookson

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