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11.9.09

More Vivaldi Concertos

available at Amazon
Vivaldi, Concertos et al., D. Hope, Chamber Orchestra of Europe, K. Bezuidenhout

(released on February 3, 2009)
Deutsche Grammophon 477 7463

Online scores:
Vivaldi Concertos
Violinist Daniel Hope's solo contract with Deutsche Grammophon did come as something of a surprise for those of us convinced that his style of playing was more suited to chamber music than a solo career. Although the Vivaldi concerti, as showed by the fine work of period specialists, is perhaps closer to the former than the latter, Hope's sound on this new Vivaldi CD still took me by surprise. In it he continues a fruitful collaboration with members of the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, here reduced to a consort of 14 strings (8-3-2-1) with an imported continuo group that adds considerably to the beauty of the performance -- Kristian Bezuidenhout on harpsichord and organ, Elizabeth Kenny on theorbo (also lute and Baroque guitar), Siobhan Armstrong on Baroque harp, and Erin Headley on lirone. In other ways, too, the interpretation is part historically informed performance (HIP) and part modern, with Hope and the other string players on modern instruments, the tuning at A440 (actually close to where specialists think pitch was set in Vivaldi's Venice) and in the Vallotti temperament.

While some elder violinists continue to belittle the stylistic revolution heralded by the HIP movement, many of the younger generation, more open-minded, have embraced these new approaches to the vast repertory of music before Mozart. Hope, speaking to Michael Church for the liner notes of this disc, had his eyes opened to the possibilities while making his first Baroque recording, of Bach concerti, with the COE: "It changed my whole perception of what one could do with this music. I hadn't realized how far I could go in terms of improvisation and ornamentation -- or how rich the sound could still be when playing with such a small ensemble." So much better for listeners to hear Hope playing Vivaldi with incisive articulation, rhythmic verve, and a broad range of dynamic contrasts, especially with the varied palette of colors from the continuo instruments. Anne Sofie von Otter offers a lagniappe in the aria Sovvente il sole from Andromeda liberata, which left me underwhelmed as did her Bach recording earlier this year. If not an essential recording to own, this is certainly very pleasurable listening, especially the delectable "La Follia" trio sonata (op. 1, no. 12, RV 63) with Lorenza Borrani, one of the COE's violin leaders.

57'44"


available at Amazon
Vivaldi, Concertos for Two Violins, G. Carmignola, V. Mullova, Venice Baroque Orchestra, A. Marcon

(released on November 11, 2008)
Archiv 477 7466
When it comes to the Vivaldi concerti, it is hard to beat Giuliano Carmignola's ongoing partnership with the Venice Baroque Orchestra. (The VBO is also responsible for making the first recording of the aforementioned Andromeda liberata, a recently rediscovered serenata that was completely or partially by Vivaldi, and it remains a marvel to hear.) Add Viktoria Mullova, who made a really fine Vivaldi disc with Il Giardino Armonico a few years ago, to the mix and you have a deal. For music of this period Mullova has taken to playing her 1750 Guadagnini violin with a replica of a Baroque bow, which fits in beautifully with Carmignola's 1732 "Baillot" Stradivarius and the historical instruments of the VBO strings (8-2-2-1). The continuo realization is provided by the group's director, Andrea Marcon, at the harpischord, with inventive assistance from Ivano Zanenghi on lute. Perhaps also not essential, this recording is an excellent choice for both the Vivaldi specialist and the general or newbie listener who, for example, likes The Four Seasons and wants to hear more.

The programming idea is much more satisfying, too, focusing on a selection of six from the twenty-odd concerti Vivaldi wrote for two solo violins and strings (RV 505-530, plus 764 and 765, with a few in the catalogue incomplete or thought to be spurious). These alluring pieces, left unpublished by the composer, are rarely heard live or in recording, while the much more familiar concertos for this combination published in the op. 3 set and the Bach double violin concerto are overexposed. A nearly ideal pairing for what Vivaldi had in mind, Mullova (listed as first) and Carmignola each have more than enough solo flair to carry off the virtuosic demands of the evenly matched parts, with an ear for ensemble unity at the same time, with one another and with the chamber-sized orchestra. A striking freedom in tempo from section to section, exaggerated at times to the point of queasiness, is rendered with laudable consistency by soloists and ensemble alike. In an odd coincidence that seems like a conflict of interest, Lindsay Kemp, who wrote the CD's liner notes, also contributed a review of the disc to Gramophone.

61'02"

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