Vivaldi: Concerti da Camera Vol 1; Concerti da Camera Vol 2; Concerti da Camera Vol 3; Concerti da Camera Vol 4

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COMPOSERS: Vivaldi
LABELS: Teldec Das Alte Werk
WORKS: Concerti da Camera Vol 1; Concerti da Camera Vol 2; Concerti da Camera Vol 3; Concerti da Camera Vol 4
PERFORMER: Il Giardino Armonico
CATALOGUE NO: 9031-73267-2/ 73268-2/73269-2/74727-2 DDD
Though he called them concertos, Vivaldi’s RV87-108 are basically chamber pieces, comprising obbligato parts for between three to six instruments (mostly winds) plus basso continuo. Of the 22 such concertos attributed to Vivaldi, three are now considered spurious: the remaining 19 have been collected onto CD by a new Italian period-instrument group, Il Giardino Armonico.

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The vigour, the zest of these performances is infectious. Il Giardino Armonico marry sharp ensembles to breezy tempos and at times a markedly exuberant sense of dynamics. Some may find the results abrasive, but I enjoyed the extra frisson of drama the group extracts from the music.

Vivaldi’s gifts for melodic invention and rhythmic vitality infuse these concertos, although their particular attraction is the palette of timbres he creates as he blends the tone colours of his small ensembles to brilliant effect. There is some beautiful writing for recorder, oboe and bassoon in RV103, for example. Try the Largo of RV100, which has solo recorder luxuriating over a delightful bassoon/theorbo accompaniment.

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Only Vol. 1 is programmatic, offering a ‘Venetian version’ of the later Op. 10 flute concertos by collecting together the concertante pieces on which they were based. The recorder is used almost exclusively, even on parts originally written for flute, and I feel it’s a shade too dominant in the sound-mix, whereas the violin sounds a little too far back. Cavils aside, however, this is colourful, exciting music played with skill, feeling and splendid brio. Graham Lock