Vivaldi: Pellegrina’s Delight: Sonatas and Chamber Music for Oboe

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COMPOSERS: Vivaldi
LABELS: Signum
WORKS: Pellegrina’s Delight: Sonatas and Chamber Music for Oboe
PERFORMER: Gail Hennessy (oboe), Nicholas Parle (organ, harpsichord), Sally Holman (bassoon), Rodolfo Richter (violin), Katherine Sharman (violone), Peter McCarthy (double bass)
CATALOGUE NO: SIGCD 037
Pellegrina, an oboist, was a foundling at the Venetian orphanage where Vivaldi spent most of his composing career. Before she left to marry, she surely ‘delighted’ in performing the earliest piece here, an astonishing quartet sonata for oboe, violin and organ elevated to soloist from its normal continuo role. In the slow movement, the organ bathes its partners in uniquely un-Vivaldian sweeping figurations. There are further surprises: a small-scale concerto with organ rattling out repeated notes in the final movement; a recently discovered quartet sonata, with haunting momentary minor allusions in a major-key movement.

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Four of the seven works were not originally for oboe, though the transfers from violin/flute work convincingly and would not have aroused comment in their day. Gail Hennessy’s creamy, focused tone is without a trace of that elusive intonation which troubled early revivers of the instrument. Sally Holman is a versatile player, equally adept as prominent bassoon soloist and subdued continuo support. The additional violone transforms two works from chamber music to weightier concert pieces.

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The playing is elegant, finely honed if just short on excitement in the three solo sonatas, but generating daring abandon in the larger-scale fast movements. The recording creates a warm, clean ambience for this handful of delights. George Pratt