Vivaldi: Suonate da camera a tre, Op. 1

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WORKS: Suonate da camera a tre, Op. 1
PERFORMER: London Baroque
Vivaldi’s first printed opus consists of 12 sonatas for two violins and continuo, the standard trio sonata texture of the period. The unmistakable Vivaldian gestures of later compositions and publications are only intermittently present in pieces dating from 1705 or, perhaps, a little earlier; but this is, nonetheless, music of individuality and charm which seems to gather strength as the sequence of works progresses. London Baroque plays with all its accustomed vitality and stylistic propriety and if I enjoyed the last handful of the Op. 1 set more than the earlier sonatas then it has much more to do with the music than the performances. Not so long ago this recording would have had few if any rivals in the period instrument field. That is no more the case, with a fine set from Monica Huggett’s Sonnerie, and another half set from Christopher Hogwood and L’Arte dell’Arco, featuring the last six Sonatas. These are especially appealing, and include Vivaldi’s lively set of variations on La folia, a theme of Spanish origin. London Baroque offers the airiest and briskest of the three performances of the piece but for sheer technical brilliance Monica Huggett comes out on top. All versions ornament the music imaginatively and with the pleasing illusion of spontaneity. In addition to the Opus 1 trios London Baroque and Sonnerie include a generous selection of chamber pieces from other sources, of which a Trio in G minor (RV 72) is common to both. Readers will not be disappointed by either set, but if upwards of 15 sonatas seems too much of a good thing, then L’Arte dell’Arco’s judicious and well played selection may be the answer. Nicholas Anderson