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Vivaldi’s Seasons

Bolette Roed (recorder); Arte dei Suonatori (Pentatone)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

The Four Seasons (arr. recorder); Concertos, RV 185, 196, 236, 249, 257, 271, 316a, 334, 335a, 357, 389 and 449
Bolette Roed (recorder); Arte dei Suonatori
Pentatone PTC 5186 875   154:51 mins (2 discs)

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Vivaldi’s perennial and indeed evergreen Four Seasons provide a hook on which to hang 12 further violin concertos, whose characters Bolette Roed feels have seasonal connotations. While the concept is a personal one, to which I myself sometimes failed to subscribe, it is nonetheless successful on its own terms. Roed is an accomplished recorder player and what she achieves here is technically impressive and, more often than not, musically convincing.

In addition to the Four Seasons, Roed has chosen two further concertos from Vivaldi’s Op. 8, five from his Op. 4, La stravaganza (RV 185, 249, 316a and 357), one from Op. 9, La cetra (RV 334), and four variously printed, or which remained in manuscript during the composer’s lifetime. Roed rings the changes between descant and treble recorders, though only once within a single work.

While adjustments to the melodic line of the solo violin are required to accommodate the recorder, Roed’s skill in producing a satisfying result is striking. Perhaps the most convincing of the concertos are three in which Vivaldi, though offering a choice between violin and oboe, clearly had the latter foremost in mind. There are other delights, too, and many pleasing details: for example the cuckoo calls in the opening movement of Summer, and the shimmering modulations of the affecting Grave of the A minor Concerto (Op. 4, No. 4 – RV 357). Less convincing, to my ears, was the prosaic, matter-of-fact approach to the opening movement of L’amoroso (RV 271). Rachel Podger (Channel Classics) perhaps alone explores its rich panoply of expressive nuance. Roed is supported throughout by the stylish and sympathetic playing of Arte dei Suonatori.

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Nicholas Anderson