Vivaldi

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Vivaldi
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: Concertos: in D, RV 95; in C, RV 443; in B flat, RV 375; in D, RV 90; in G minor, RV 49; in D minor, RV 566; in G minor, RV 103
PERFORMER: Maurice Steger (recorders); I Barocchisti/Diego Fasolis
CATALOGUE NO: HMC 902190

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Recorder player Maurice Steger has chosen a disparate clutch of concertos by Vivaldi in which to display his considerable talents as a performer. Three are for recorder and strings, one of them featuring flautino or sopranino recorder, and another, RV 375, is his own arrangement of a late violin concerto. The remaining four call for oboe, violin(s), bassoon and strings in various configurations but where the recorder retains a position of first among equals.

Steger’s virtuosity is, from a listener’s viewpoint and indeed from his own, breathtaking, and he loses no opportunity in demonstrating it. For my taste, though, there is too much gimmickry in his realisations of the music. All the works programmed appear to be placed at the service of virtuosity rather than the other way around, and in this respect he is aided and abetted by Diego Fasolis.

Take, for instance, the D major Concerto, La pastorella. Scored in this version for recorder, oboe, violin, bassoon and continuo, the piece has enormous energy and an irresistible simple, rustic charm. It requires no additional colour or emphasis, yet Fasolis himself introduces an over-prominently balanced hurdy-gurdy which sounds for all the world like an angry hornet buzzing around, disturbing Vivaldi’s otherwise evocative textures. Surprisingly, perhaps, it is Steger’s violin concerto arrangement that comes off most convincingly.

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Nicholas Anderson