Vivaldi: La Stravaganza, Op. 4

Anton Martynov (violin); Modo Antiquo/Federico Maria Sardelli (Dynamic)

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La Stravaganza, Op. 4
Anton Martynov (violin); Modo Antiquo/Federico Maria Sardelli
Dynamic CDS 7778  96:68 mins (2 discs)

A painter, engraver, novelist, satirist as well as a leading Vivaldi scholar-performer, Federico Maria Sardelli brings the full breadth of his creative spirit to these exhilarating accounts. With the Italian period-instrument ensemble he founded in 1987, he performs Vivaldi’s 12 concertos of Op. 4: La Stravaganza – aptly named given their extravagant virtuosity.

Solo violinist Anton Martynov has a fearsome technique which he combines with a sensitivity to Baroque style, making light of Vivaldi’s flashing scales, filigree embellishments, fiddly double stoppings and leaps. Among the disc’s highlights are the brief but volatile opening movement of the D minor Concerto, RV 249 and the fiery concluding Allegro of the A minor work – dashed off with devil-may-care abandon. Martynov is eloquent, too, in the slow movements which are infused with operatic lyricism and pathos. He pours out the Largo of RV 301 like a lovelorn soprano;  the icy Grave of RV 357 has an eerie beauty, while the sighing motifs of the 12th concerto’s Largo are uttered with poignant grace.

Sardelli directs with tireless energy, making some Allegros rather breathlessly hard-driven, and Vivaldi’s less-inspired, harmonically static fast movements verge on the motoric. (the more yielding accounts of Fabio Biondi and Europa Galante shape the musical lines with subtler contours and dynamics.) Nonetheless, with their mix of Italianate spirit and Russian virtuosity, these performances certainly don’t lack brilliance.

Kate Bolton-Porciatti