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Antonio VIVALDI (1678 - 1741): "Concerti & Cantata with Bassoon"

Clint van der Linde, altoa; Georgia Brown, transverse fluteb; Frans Robert Berkhout, bassoonc
La Suoave Melodia
Dir: Pieter Dirksen

rec: Sept 4 - 6, 2007, Renswoude (Neth), NH Kerk
Et'cetera - KTC 1324 (© 2008) (66'18")

Concerto for bassoon, strings and bc in d minor (RV 481)c; Concerto for bassoon, strings and bc in e minor (RV 484)c; Concerto for bassoon, strings and bc in a minor (RV 497)c; Concerto for transverse flute, basoon, 2 violins and bc in g minor 'La Notte' (RV 104)bc; Concerto for transverse flute, violin, bassoon and bc in D (RV 92)bc; Qual per ignoto calle, cantata for alto and bc (RV 677)a

Rachael Beesley, Frouke Mooij, violin; Wanda Visser, viola; Cassandra Luckhardt, cello; Maria Vahervuo, violone; Regina Albanez, theorbo, guitar; Pieter Dirksen, harpsichord, organ

There can be no doubt that Antonio Vivaldi was one of the most versatile composers of the first half of the 18th century. There is almost no instrument which he didn't provide with music. Although the largest part of his oeuvre consists of music for his own instrument, the violin, there are also many compositions for other instruments, like the cello, the oboe and the bassoon. In his Concerti con molti stromenti he used even instruments like the chalumeau, the trombone and the mandolin. In his compositions for other instruments than his own he was certainly inspired by the girls of the Ospedale della Pietà in Venice, where he worked a considerable period of his life.

It is doubtful, though, whether the concertos for bassoon of which 36 have been preserved, were written for them. There is no record of a bassoon teacher working in the Ospedale nor is there any record of bassoons being purchased. In addition, compositions which are known to be written for performances in the Ospedale don't contain any parts for the bassoon. Moreover, in Italy the bassoon was hardly used as solo instrument. That was different north of the Alps, and therefore it is assumed Vivaldi has written his concertos for someone outside Italy. One candidate could be the Bohemian count Wenzel von Morzin. The Concerto in g minor (RV 496) - not on this disc - was written for him. Vivaldi had also dedicated his opus 8 - which includes the 'Four Seasons' - to the count. He probably had a skilled bassoonist in his chapel as Vivaldi's solo parts are quite demanding.

The nice thing about this disc is that the bassoon can be heard here in three different roles. There are three solo concertos, in which the instrument is playing with two violins, viola and bc. In addition two concerti da camera are performed in which the bassoon plays on equal terms with the transverse flute and the violin, supported by basso continuo. And then there is a chamber cantata, not with an obbligato instrument but just for solo voice and bc. But as Pieter Dirksen thinks the bass part is better suited to the bassoon than to the cello - usually used to support the bass line -, we hear this instrument here alongside the harpsichord.

One doesn't need an Italian ensemble by all means in order to have Vivaldi's music performed in a contagious and theatrical manner. La Suave Melodia proves that here convincingly. Frans Robert Berkhout (1950) is one of the veterans of the baroque bassoon, and has performed in a number of world-class baroque ensembles, like La Petite Bande. He easily masters all technical challenges in Vivaldi's bassoon concertos. More importantly, he gives an animated and impressive demonstration of the variety and the theatrical character of these concertos. In the slow movements he reveals the lyrical qualities of his instrument.

In the concerti da camera the three soloists act at the same level. Georgia Brown plays the parts of the transverse flute quite beautifully, and explores the expressive nature of the Concerto in g minor 'La Notte' (RV 104) particularly well. This concerto is given a very compelling performance by the whole ensemble. In the Concerto in a minor (RV 92) Rachael Beesley gives an impressive account of the often virtuosic violin part.

Lastly the cantata: it consists of two arias of contrasting character, both preceded by a recitative. Clint van der Linde's voice sounds a bit brittle at first, but he is fully able to bring the affetti of this cantata to the fore. I like the way he sings the recitatives, with the right amount of rhythmic freedom, and emphasizing the key words in the text. The arias are also sung really well. Van der Linde adds a good deal of ornamentation but fortunately doesn't fall for what seems to be the fashion of the day: recomposing as it were the whole first section of the aria in the dacapo. I could imagine a little more theatrical performance of the last aria, but this is only a minor detail.

The variety of this disc, the prominent role of the bassoon - certainly not that well represented on disc as a solo instrument - and the outstanding, technically impressive and musically captivating performances give every reason to enthusiastically recommend this disc.

Johan van Veen (© 2009)

Relevant links:

La Suave Melodia

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