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Antonio VIVALDI (1677 - 1741): Sonate a tre

Accademia del Ricercare

rec: July 2004 & 2010, Turin, S. Sebastiano
Brilliant Classics - 94173 ( 2011) (64'29")

Sonata for recorder and bc in b minor (after Sonata in b minor, RV 35); Sonata for recorder and bc in B flat (after Sonata in B flat, RV 46); Sonata for two recorders and bc in C (after Sonata in C, op. 1,3, RV 61); Sonata for two recorders and bc in c minor (after Sonata in g minor, RV 74); Sonata for two recorders and bc in e minor (after Sonata in e minor, op. 1,2, RV 67); Sonata for two recorders and bc in e minor (after Sonata in g minor, RV 72); Sonata for two recorders and bc in E flat (after Sonata in B flat, op. 1,10, RV 78); Sonata for two recorders and bc in g minor (after Sonata in d minor, op. 1,12 'La Follia', RV 63)

Lorenzo Cavasanti, Manuel Staropoli, recorder; Linda Murgia, cello; Ugo Nastrucci, theorbo, guitar; Claudia Ferrero, harpsichord

Antonio Vivaldi left a large corpus of instrumental music with parts for almost any instrument in vogue in his time. As he was a violinist himself the concertos and sonatas for violin are dominant. He hasn't been that kind to recorder players since the number of pieces for their instrument is rather limited. This reflects the declining popularity of the recorder in the early decades of the 18th century. It is telling that a number of chamber concertos which originally had a part for recorder were later published for transverse flute.

What recorder players can do is arrange music which was originally written for other instruments. In doing so they link up with a practice which was already established in Vivaldi's time. Often collections of sonatas were printed with alternative scorings: they could be played, for instance, on the violin or the transverse flute. Even if the composer or the publisher didn't indicate alternative scorings performers took the freedom to adapt the music to their own instrument. That could include transposition; most players were skilled enough to do so. This practice has been followed here as well. All music on this disc was originally composed for one or two violins or - in the case of the Sonata in B flat (RV 46) - for cello.

As this kind of arrangements are historically justified, the only thing that matters is whether they sound well. And they do. The two soloists on this disc play a whole array of recorders, which allows them to find the most appropriate instruments in order to do justice to the music and to remain as closely as possible to the original compositions. The recorders are sopranino recorders in c", alto recorders in f', voice flutes in d' and a third flute in a'. These are all copies of historical instruments by Thomas Stanesby, Peter Bressan, Jacob Denner and Thomas Boekhout, dating from the first decades of the 18th century. Lorenzo Cavasanti and Manuel Staropoli play them brilliantly, not only in the fast and virtuosic movements - of which there are plenty - but also in the more introspective and expressive movements. Among them are the opening adagio of the Sonata in C (RV 61) which contains strong dissonances, and the second largo from the Sonata in B flat (RV 46) including some descending chromatic figures. One of the most virtuosic and sparkling pieces is the Sonata in c minor (RV 74).

The basso continuo is played with fire and passion, with great rhythmic precision and much imagination. I am not that enthusiasic about the frequent changes in the scoring of the basso continuo. I don't see why the harpsichord has to keep silent in a slow and intimate movement. In the last movement of the Sonata in b minor (RV 35) the cello plays pizzicato, and in combination with the theorbo I miss a firm foundation. The bass instruments are sometimes used as percussion in the last item, the variations on 'La Follia' and the effect is a bit exaggerated. This piece is exuberant enough as it is, and doesn't need to be pumped up in this way.

This hasn't diminished my enjoyment of this disc which should appeal to both Vivaldi lovers and recorder aficionados alike. The recorder playing is as good as one could wish, and Vivaldi's music is compelling and entertaining as always. The booklet contains short but informative programme notes. The track-list should have mentioned the original keys.

Johan van Veen ( 2011)

Relevant links:

Accademia del Ricercare

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