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Antonio VIVALDI (1678 - 1741): "Concerti per violino vol. 1"

Enrico Onofri, violin
Academia Montis Regalis
Dir: Alessandro De Marchi

rec: June 2005, Mondovi (It), Oratorio di Santa Croce
Naïve - OP 30417 (© 2006) (55'33")

Concerto in c minor 'Il Sospetto' (RV 199); Concerto in D 'Grosso Mogul' (RV 208)a; Concerto in D 'L'Inquietudine' (RV 234); Concerto in E 'Il Riposo' (RV 270); Concerto in g minor (RV 332); Concerto in B flat 'La Caccia' (RV 362)b

Andrea Mion, Guido Campana, oboea; Alessandro Tampieri, violin, archluteb; Rossella Borsoni, Ljiljana Mijatovic, Daniela Godio, Raul Orellana, Gabriele Politi, Paola Nervi, violin; Luigi Moccia, viola; Marco Ceccato, Alessandro Palmeri, cello; François de Rudder, bassoon; Roberto Bevilacqua, double bass; Francesco Romano, theorbo; Marta Graziolino, harp; Alessandro De Marchi, Anna Fontana, harpsichord

Antonio Vivaldi was one of the most virtuosic violinists of his time. His own compositions for the violin give a pretty good idea of what he was capable of. It is no surprise most of his violin concertos were never published: how many violinists of his time (and our's!) would have been able to play them? This disc offers some brilliant specimen of his art of composing for the violin. But the programme is more than just a showcase of virtuosity. Both Enrico Onofri and Olivier Fourès, in their respective programme notes, explain how Vivaldi uses violin techniques to express certain ideas.

In particular Onofri demonstrates how a detailed knowledge of the concepts of rhetorics and 'affetti' helps to explain why Vivaldi has written his concertos in a specific way. The titles of five of the six concertos on this disc give an indication about the ideas which lay behind them. The Concerto 'La Caccia', for instance (which gives the disc its title), strongly resembles the third concerto - 'Autumn' - from the famous 'Four Seasons'. And although this concerto can't be considered 'programme music', as - unlike the 'Four Seasons' - it doesn't contain a sonnet explaining what the music is about, Onofri gives a fairly convincing idea of what the concerto could express. He describes in detail what he thinks Vivaldi is trying to tell here: the story of a hunt, with the sound of horns, huntsmen galloping, a fleeing animal, huntsmen taking refreshment (adagio) and then the continuation of the chase of the animal in the last allegro, which ends with the death of the prey.

Onofri also indicates how Vivaldi uses both playing techniques and contrasting subjects to illustrate "two different mental attitudes" in the Concerto 'Il Sospetto' (the suspicion). "The first violins suggest the uncertainty of someone who is plagued by suspicion, while the seconds, with an insistent, needing rhythm, evoke the worm that gnaws at the mind and constantly nourishes doubt".

The concertos 'L'inquietudine' (turmoil) and 'Il Riposo' (rest) are each other's opposites, as the titles indicate. The repetition of rhythmic elements in the former, expressing despair and torment, strongly contrasts with the latter where all instruments are muted and no harpsichord is involved in order to express sleep and dreams.

The longest and perhaps best-known piece of the programme is the first, the Concerto 'Grosso Mogul'. The title of this concerto is probably apocryphal. "The present interpretation is based on the hypothesis that the name refers to the great empire of India governed by the Muslim dynasty of Mughal princes", Onofri writes. He sees Turkish and gypsy elements in this concerto, the latter of which were associated with oriental civilisations in general. He also refers to the fact that the gypsies are originally from India. It is interesting to know that this "spectacular, technically challenging concerto" (Olivier Fourès), containing the first known examples of violin cadenzas in the history of music, was first played in church. This gives an idea of how much theatre and worship were interwoven in the Italy of the early 18th century.

This disc is a good example of how the personal observations of the performer help to understand not only the music but also the interpretative choices he has made. And the playing by Onofri gives a direct and concrete illustration of what he writes about. It seems there is no end to Onofri's playing technique: he just plays brilliantly, and one never gets the impression that the amount of virtuosity of these concertos causes him any problems. But he also knows his way with tenderness and intimacy, as his interpretation of the Concerto 'Il Riposo' shows. The orchestra is performing throughout at the same level, and that makes this disc a winner in every respect.

Johan van Veen (© 2007)

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