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Antonio VIVALDI (1678 - 1741): "Concerti e cantate da camera III"

Laura Polverelli, mezzosopranoa
Dir: Giorgio Tabacco

rec: July/August 2000b, Nov 2003a, Mondovi (It), Istituto di Musica Antica Academia Montis Regalis
Naïve - OP 30381 (© 2005) (60'26")

Amor, hai vinto, cantata for alto, 2 violins, viola and bc (RV 683)a; Concerto for recorder, oboe, 2 violins and bc in C (RV 87)b; Concerto for recorder, oboe, violin, bassoon and bc in F 'Tempesta di mare' (RV 98)b; Concerto for recorder, oboe and bassoon in g minor (RV 103)b; Lungi dal vago volto, cantata for alto, violin and bc (RV 680)a; Vengo a voi, luci adorate, cantata for alto, 2 violin, viola and bc (RV 682)a

Paolo Faldi, recorder; Ubaldo Rosso, transverse flute; Andrea Mion, oboe; Aligi Voltan, bassoon; Francesco D'Orazio, Alessandro Tampieri, violin; Luigi Mangiocavallo, viola; Emilia Gliozzi, Alessandro Palmeri, cello; Maurizio Piantelli, Francesco Romano, theorbo; Giorgio Tabacco, harpsichord

Vivaldi's concertos are among the most popular pieces in the repertoire of baroque ensembles and have been recorded many times. Every time one listens to them one is struck not only by the virtuosic character of many of them, but even more by the sheer variety in Vivaldi's oeuvre, as well as the way he exploits the feature of every single instrument. In this respect he is probably only comparable to his German contemporary Telemann, who - like Vivaldi - wrote for almost every instrument in vogue in his time. Vivaldi was one of the first to write for the newly invented clarinet, and he also gave the bassoon a role which elevated it from its main function as to give support to the keyboard in the basso continuo. That the bassoon has more to offer than dark noises and can be used to more than just adding a comical element to an ensemble is amply demonstrated here. Its lyrical qualities are in particular exploited in the Concerto in g minor (RV 103). It also plays a prominent role in the Concerto in C (RV 87). But Vivaldi also recognizes its suitability for special effects, which he wanted to realise in some of his concertos, many of which have titles. The Concerto in F (RV 98) is depicting a storm at sea, one of three pieces Vivaldi entitled 'Tempesta di mare'.

What strikes in the performances of the concertos is that the effects all of Vivaldi's pieces contain are not explored in an exaggerated way as some Italian ensembles tend to do. The effects are realised but in a more intimate way, and not always fortissimo or even forte. The more lyrical aspects of the Concerto in g minor (RV 103), for instance, are well explored, in particular in regard to the part of the bassoon. In general L'Astrée uses dynamics in a very sophisticated way, like in the opening movement of the Concerto in F (RV 98), whose imitative effects are more moderate here than is often the case.

The vocal part of Vivaldi's output has long been neglected, and even when some of his sacred works were rediscovered, his secular compositions were still largely overlooked. But Vivaldi has written a respectable number of chamber cantatas, mostly written for soprano with basso continuo. But he also wrote some for alto, with a small instrumental ensemble or with basso continuo only. Of the four cantatas for alto and instruments three have been recorded here. The best-known of them is Amor, hai vinto, a text Vivaldi also used for a cantata for soprano and bc. It seems these cantatas were not written for one particular singer, as the dates of composition are far apart. They probably reflect the level of singing at the Ospedale delle Pietà, for which also many concertos were written. There is plenty of text illustration here, both in the vocal line (in particular in the recitatives) and in the instrumental parts. As far as the vocal parts are concerned, Vivaldi was mainly interested in giving the singer an opportunity to shine and to demonstrate her skills. As these cantatas were probably written for singers at the Ospedale, the choice of a female alto on this disc to sing them is more appropriate than a male alto.

Laura Polverelli has a pleasant voice, which sounds more like an alto than a mezzosoprano to me. She uses a little more vibrato than I think is appropriate, but on the whole it didn't bother me too much. It is mainly on the longer notes where I find it disturbing, in particular in the opening aria of Vengo a voi (RV 682). In these cantatas Vivaldi also uses instrumental effects to express the emotion of the text, and L'Astrée explores them well. Laura Polverelli sings the vocal parts with great expression as well, but in some recitatives I would have liked her to do a little more with the text. What I am less than enthusiastic about is the ornamentation in the da capo of arias. For example, in the first aria of Amor, hai vinto (RV 683) the ornamentation is so free that the whole soprano line has changed and one wouldn't think to have heard the melody line before. I think this definitely goes too far.

There are many recordings of these chamber concertos available, but this is a worthy addition to the catalogue. The chamber cantatas are less frequently recorded, with the exception of Amor hai vinto. These interpretations are probably not the best possible, but are certainly well worth listening to, and at least demonstrate the quality of these works.

Johan van Veen (© 2007)

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