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Antonio VIVALDI (1678 - 1741): Wind Concertos

[I] "Le Quattro Stagioni, La tempesta di mare, Il gardellino, La notte"
François Lazarevitch, recordera, transverse fluteb
Les Musiciens de Saint-Julien
Dir: François Lazarevitch

rec: July 13 - 15, 2016, Paris, Église luthérienne Bon-Secours
Alpha - 281 (© 2017) (62'32")
Liner-notes: E/D/F
Cover, track-list & booklet

Concerto in C (after Concerto in E, op. 8,1 'La primavera', RV 269) (arr Nicolas Chédeville, 1705-1782)b; Concerto in D, op. 10,3 'Il gardellino' (RV 428)b; Concerto in F, op. 8,3 'L'autunno' (RV 293)b; Concerto in F, op. 10,1 'La tempesta di mare' (RV 433)a; Concerto in f minor, op. 8,4 'L'inverno' (RV 297)b; Concerto in g minor, op. 8,2 'L'Estate' (RV 315)b; Concerto in g minor, op. 10,2 'La notte' (RV 439)a

David Greenberg, Reynier Guerero, violin; Sophie Iwamura, viola; Nils de Dinechin, cello; Christian Staude, double bass; André Henrich, archlute, guitar; Pierre Gallon, harpsichord

[II] "Concerti per fagotto vol. 2"
Amy Power, oboea; Miho Fukui, oboeb, bassoonc
Ensemble F
rec: Oct 3 - 5, 2017, Sagimahara (JP), Sagamiko Exchange Center
Ars Produktion - ARS 38 255 (© 2018) (66'34")
Liner-notes: E/D/JP
Cover & track-list

Concerto for bassoon, strings and bc in c minor (RV 480)c; Concerto for bassoon, strings and bc in a minor (RV 497)c; Concerto for bassoon, strings and bc in a minor (RV 499)c; Concerto for bassoon, strings and bc in B flat (RV 502)c; Concerto for oboe, strings and bc in C (RV 450)a; Concerto for oboe, bassoon, strings and bc in G (RV 545)ac; Concerto for two oboes, strings and bc in C (RV 534)ab

Chima Kawahara, Luna Oda, violin; Momoko Miyazaki, viola; Mizuhiro Tasaki, cello; Shuko Sugama, violone; Hiroshi Kaneko, archlute, guitar; Han-na Lee, harpsichord


Vivaldi did not compose that many concertos for the recorder or the transverse flute. They are very well represented on disc, so what can a flautist, who likes to play Vivaldi, add to what is already available? He could arrange concertos Vivaldi composed for other instruments, such as the violin. That is not a modern practice, as François Lazarevitch states in an interview in the booklet. The programme he has recorded, includes one example: the French composer Nicolas Chédeville arranged one of Vivaldi's concertos from the cycle Le quattro stagioni for the musette, a then popular wind instrument. This inspired Lazarevitch to arrange the other three concertos from this set for the transverse flute.

To what extent such arrangements can convince, largely depends on the character of the solo part. Obviously some technical interventions are needed, for instance when the solo part includes passages with multiple stopping. But especially in these concertos Vivaldi includes effects which are probably not that easy to translate to a different instrument, for instance the transverse flute, whose dynamic capabilities are limited in comparison to those of the violin. The playing technique of the violin also allows a wider colour palette. In some movements the tutti strings deliver a more substantial contribution to the realisation of the effects than the flute. With all due respect to Lazarevitch's efforts, I can't consider these versions as equal to the original violin versions (he himself probably won't disagree). It would be different if one would not know the originals and what Vivaldi wanted to express, but almost any listener will approach these performances with the original versions in mind. Those who know these concertos well will not be surprised that the slow movement from the last concerto comes off best by far in this performance.

The rest of the programme is more conventional: concertos for transverse flute or recorder are played here in the versions as intended by the composer, except that the set of six concertos op. 10 was published with a solo part for the transverse flute and two of them are played here on the recorder. But at the time these were often interchangeable, and although Vivaldi paid tribute to the increasing popularity of the flute, especially among amateurs, the recorder was still very much in vogue at the time of publication (1729). From that perspective there is no objection to a performance of these flute concertos on the recorder.

The performances are very good and Lazarevitch can compete with the best here. His ornamentation in the cantabile from the Concerto in D, op. 10,3, for instance, is delightful. The strings also play very well. From that angle there is no reason to ignore this disc. However, considering the number of recordings of Vivaldi's flute and recorder concertos in the catalogue, it will depend on someone's attitude to the arrangements of the 'Four Seasons' concertos, whether one decides to add this disc to one's collection.

One wonders why flautists and recorder players, if they want to play other music by Vivaldi than the conventional stuff, don't turn to his large corpus of oboe and bassoon concertos. Although I am not acquainted with the technical features of the various wind instruments, it seems unlikely that the adaptation of such concertos for either recorder or transverse flute would cause more trouble than the arrangement of violin music. It is interesting that Telemann, in his collection Der getreue Music-Meister, included a Sonata in f minor, which can be played either on the recorder or on the basssoon.

Especially the bassoon concertos are a relatively lesser-known part of Vivaldi's oeuvre. That is all the more surprising, because the number of solo concertos for this instrument from the baroque period - or any period, for that matter - is rather limited. No other composer has written so many bassoon concertos as Vivaldi, and in quantity they are second to his violin concertos. Sergio Azzolini has recorded four discs with bassoon concertos; the last volume was released in 2015. One wonders whether, and if so, when further volumes will appear. Anyway, every contribution to the exploration of this part of Vivaldi's oeuvre is most welcome.

The disc reviewed here is the second volume in what seems to be a series of recordings devoted to the bassoon concertos. Unfortunately the first volume has never reached me. I also had never heard of this ensemble, which comprises players of Japanese origin, who have studied at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis. The ensemble seems to be mainly active in Switzerland, which could explain that I have never heard it. This disc is a most pleasant acquaintance. Vivaldi's music asks for a highly skilled bassoonist, and Miho Fukui has all the qualities needed to bring these concertos across in a convincing manner, not only technically, but also with regard to interpretation. She also plays the oboe, and partners Amy Power, also a fine player of the oboe, in the Concerto in C.

If you are interested in Vivaldi's bassoon concertos, you should add this disc to your collection. The fact that the concertos RV 497 and RV 545 have not yet been recorded by Azzolini should be a further incentive to investigate this disc.

Johan van Veen (© 2018)

Relevant links:

Les Musiciens de Saint-Julien

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