Vivaldi: Cello Concertos: RV 401, 415, 416, 417, 418 & 420; Concerto for Two Cellos in G minor, RV 531

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Cello Concertos: RV 401, 415, 416, 417, 418 & 420; Concerto for Two Cellos in G minor, RV 531
PERFORMER: Jonathan Cohen, Sarah MacMahon (cello); The King’s Consort/Robert King (harpsichord)
Vivaldi’s legacy of 27 or so concertos for the cello are almost without exception high quality products in which the solo instrument is treated to imaginative writing which explores most of the technical and expressive possibilities available to a composer of the time. Hardly less rewarding is the rich vault of ideas from which Vivaldi was able to draw upon for his many captivating ritornellos. These, like the ritornellos of his bassoon concertos, often possess a quite distinctive character from those of his concertos for other instruments.


Jonathan Cohen has chosen seven concertos belonging to different periods in Vivaldi’s life. Two of them, RV 416 and RV 420, are among Vivaldi’s earliest datable concerto manuscripts and are held in the Schönborn Music Library at Wiesentheid. Another held there, RV 415, is probably not Vivaldi’s work, but it is rather a good piece and happily is included here. Cohen is an expressive player with a feeling for articulate phrasing who responds readily to the poetry of slow movements but who, just occasionally, plays fractionally under the note. He is able to generate a lively anticipation in the many arpeggiated passages some of which, as in RV 415, take time over their resolution. In the best-known piece here, the G minor Concerto for Two cellos, Cohen is evenly partnered by Sarah McMahon. The King’s Consort under Robert King’s direction from the harpsichord offers stylish and alert support throughout. As for recommendations, readers will find that none of the rival teams offers programmes identical with another. Roel Dieltiens (Harmonia Mundi), and Walter Vestidello (Warner) both deserve benchmark consideration alongside the newcomer. Nicholas Anderson