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Antonio VIVALDI (1678 - 1741): "Concerti e sinfonie per archi"

Venice Baroque Orchestra
Dir: Andrea Marcon

rec: October 2003, Manzano, Abbazia di Rosazzo
Archiv - 00289 474 5092 (© 2006) (67'36")

Concerto in C (RV 114) Concerto in c minor (RV 119) Concerto in D (RV 121) Concerto in d minor (RV 127) Concerto in g minor (RV 152) Concerto in g minor (RV 156) Concerto in g minor (RV 157) Concerto in B flat 'Conca' (RV 163) Concerto in B flat (RV 167) Sinfonia in C (RV 111a) Sinfonia in G (RV 146) Sinfonia in b minor (RV 168)

Luca Mares, Vania Pedronetto, Giorgio Baldan, Massimiliano Simonetto, Massimiliano Tieppo, Giuseppe Cabrio, Gianpiero Zanocco, Margherita Zane, Terry Ratcliff, violin; Alessandra Di Vincenzo, Alessandro Lanaro, Maurizio Borzone, viola; Francesco Galligioni, Daniele Cernuto, cello; Alessandro Sbrogiò, violone; Ivano Zanenghi, Evangelina Mascardi, lute; Andrea Marcon, Massimiliano Raschietti, harpsichord, organ

Vivaldi belongs to the most frequently recorded composers of the baroque era, but some parts of is oeuvre are getting less attention than others. Ensembles mostly concentrate on his concertos for one or more solo instruments, which give instrumentalists an opportunity to display their skills. But Vivaldi also composed a number of pieces without solo parts, sinfonias and concertos for strings and bc, sometimes called ‘ripieno concertos’. Some of them are played in public concerts, but probably more as encores than as integral parts of the concert programme. On disc they are used as fillers or as interval between solo concertos. I can’t remember any recording which is entirely devoted to these compositions, which is not surprising as they are mostly very short, as the tracklist of this disc shows. But it also makes clear that – despite the similarity in form – Vivaldi is able to create a large variety in content. These pieces are an impressive testimony of Vivaldi’s inventiveness.

These concertos are not unique. First of all, there is no fundamental difference between these concertos and sinfonias on the one hand and the overtures to operas of that time. The opening piece on this disc, the Sinfonia in C (RV 111a) also served – with some modifications – as overture to Vivaldi’s opera Giustino. On the other hand these concertos are part of a tradition of writing concerti a quattro, pieces for strings in four parts, which existed before Vivaldi and continued to exist after. Venice’s main composer after Vivaldi’s death, Baldassare Galuppi, also composed seven of such concertos around 1740.

Most of these concertos and sinfonias were composed for and played by the orchestra of the ladies of the Ospedale della Pietà, where Vivaldi was acting as maestro de' concerti. Whereas the concertos with solo parts were vehicles to show the ladies’ considerable virtuosity these compositions were more suitable to demonstrate the qualities of the Ospedale’s orchestra as a whole.

Not that these works are simple and straightforward. According to Lindsay Kemp they contain "dashing scales, pounding basses, flickering arpeggios, exquisitely drawn-out chord sequences, sweetly touching melodies …". It should be added that here we find more than once movements of a contrapuntal nature – something Vivaldi is not particularly famous for.

In general I am very impressed by these interpretations. The Venice Baroque Orchestra is a first-class ensemble, which knows its way around these pieces. There are no exaggerations in dynamics nor in tempi, which on the whole are satisfying. Only the andantes seem to me a little too slow, more like adagios. That may enhance the level of expression, but apparently that was not what Vivaldi had in mind.

A recording like this which fully concentrates on Vivaldi’s concertos and sinfonias for strings is quite unique. As this disc contains only 12 of these compositions and Vivaldi wrote more than 40 of this kind there is still enough material for more recordings of this kind. Hopefully the Venice Baroque Orchestra shall get the opportunity to further explore this part of Vivaldi’s oeuvre. Additional recordings are most welcome.

Johan van Veen (© 2007)

Relevant links:

Venice Baroque Orchestra

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