COMPOSERS: Antonio Vivaldi
ALBUM TITLE: Vivaldi
WORKS: Bassoon concertos
PERFORMER: Gustavo Núñez (bassoon); Academy of St Martin in the Fields
CATALOGUE NO: Pentatone PTC 5186 539 (hybrid CD/SACD)
Vivaldi did the bassoonists of the Ospedale della Piéta proud. His 39 concertos for the Venetian orphans are second only to the hundreds he wrote for his own instrument, the violin. They include some staggering virtuosity in the solo parts; the Allegro molto opening RV497 demands coordinated tongue and fingers at a ferocious pace, Vivaldi’s teenagers a match for any contemporary Young Musician of the Year. Similarly the triplet semiquavers and wide leaps ending RV467 are as taxing as anything from the Baroque wind repertoire. Gustavo Núñez’s fluency is well-nigh impeccable, as is the clarity and crispness of the Academy of St Martin in the Fields strings.
Vivaldi’s pupils were also sensitive beyond their years. The lyrical solo of RV488ii is particularly striking. Núñez embellishes stylishly, enhancing lines without destroying their melodic shape. In RV474, he is so fluid that he sometimes completes a figure a moment early – but try RV477ii for a Largo of remarkable calm and peace.
Five concertos follow Vivaldi’s formulaic shape, though highly innovative within the mould. The exception is La Notte, the same evocation of dreams and fantasies as in the similarly-named flute concerto.
Though Núñez’s modern instrument lacks the plaintive upper register and buzzing bass of its Baroque predecessor, these colourful, polished performance are delightful.