musica Dei donum

CD reviews

Antonio VIVALDI (1678 - 1741): "Oboe Sonatas"

Paolo Pollastri, oboe
Ensemble J.M. Anciuti

rec: 2005, Montevarchi (Arezzo)
Brilliant Classics - 94417 (© 2012) (57'44")
Liner-notes: E
Cover & track-list

Nicolas CHÉDEVILLE (1705-1782): Sonata for solo instrument and bc in g minor ("RV 58"); Antonio VIVALDI: Sonata for oboe and bc in c minor (RV 53); Sonata for oboe (?) and bc in g minor (RV 28); Sonata for oboe (?) and bc in B flat (RV 34); Sonata for transverse flute and bc in C (RV 48); Sonata for transverse flute and bc in g minor (RV 51)

Gaetano Nasillo, cello; Alberto Guerra, bassoon; Giovanna Losco, harpsichord

Chamber music from the baroque period often causes considerable problems in regard to its scoring. As there was an insatiable demand for new music for various instruments it is only logical that sonatas often appear in different scorings, such as for violin, transverse flute or oboe. Composers were mostly not very strict in their scorings; they often adapted their own sonatas for another instrument than they had originally in mind.

Vivaldi composed a large number of concertos for oboe solo or for oboe with another instrument. In comparison the corpus of his chamber music with an oboe part is very small. Just one solo sonata and two sonatas for two oboes have been preserved. It is quite possible that he has written more, but these sonatas are all which have come down to us. The fact that this disc includes five authentic Vivaldi sonatas is the result of scholars and performers loooking critically at other sonatas from his pen which either could have been originally intended for the oboe or can be adapted for this instrument.

Several sonatas have been preserved in the archive of the court chapel in Dresden. In Vivaldi's time it was considered the most brilliant ensemble in Europe, which had many virtuosos in its ranks. Among them was the oboist Johann Christian Richter, and he may have played the Sonata in c minor (RV 53) which is a showpiece for the oboe, with many chromatic notes which are not easy to play on the instruments of that time. The Sonata in g minor (RV 28) and the Sonata in B flat (RV 34) are from the same archive and are mostly considered as sonatas for violin. However, the violin is not specifically mentioned at the scores, and scholars believe that these sonatas could have been intended for the oboe. That is supported by the fact that they don't include any passages with double stopping, and their compass doesn't exceed that of the oboe.

The Sonata in C (RV 48) is part of a collection of manuscripts which is kept in Cambridge and is scored for the transverse flute. The range of the solo part is rather uncomfortable for the flute, though. In his liner notes Paolo Pollastri writes that "the flautist and musicologist M. Castellani has pointed out that the limited range of the work and the use of a bottom C sharp suggest that it would have been better suited to the oboe. Flutes of the period did not have a C sharp key, whereas this was the lowest note on the oboe used at the Ospedale della Pietà". The larghetto is especially remarkable for its unexpected twists and turns.

The Sonata in g minor (RV 51) has also raised questions. There is some doubt about Vivaldi's authorship, although the second and third movements are reworkings of movements from his Sonata in g minor, op. 2,1 (RV 27) for violin and bc. Like the sonata RV 48 the solo part is confined to the flute's lower register, and its character seems again to point in the direction of the oboe.

The last piece on this disc, the Sonata in g minor ("RV 58"), was once attributed to Vivaldi because it was part of a collection of six sonatas which were published under his name with the title Il pastor fido. This is now generally considered a forgery by the French composer Nicolas Chédeville. The scoring gives various alternatives, including the oboe. The sixth sonata from the collection played here is the most Vivaldian as it makes use of various themes from Vivaldi's oeuvre.

It is understandable that an oboist wants to explore Vivaldi's oeuvre in his search for music. Pollastri has made a nice selection and has done a good job in adapting the music if that was necessary. The result is a compelling disc of fine music. Pollastri is a brilliant performer who produces a beautiful tone and demonstrates a great agility in the more technically demanding parts. He adds tasteful ornaments where that is appropriate. He is given good support by the basso continuo group in which the harpsichord is alternately assisted by cello and bassoon.

Johan van Veen (© 2013)

CD Reviews