Vivaldi

COMPOSERS: Vivaldi
LABELS: Virgin
ALBUM TITLE: Concerti per Viola d’Amore
PERFORMER: Europa Galante/Fabio Biondi
CATALOGUE NO: 395 1462
This programme brings together the eight concertos in which Vivaldi featured a viola d’amore. Six of them are works in which the instrument is afforded solo status; another, in D minor (RV 540), is a double concerto for viola d’amore and lute while the remaining piece is a chamber concerto in which the instrument shares the limelight with two horns, two oboes and a bassoon. Vivaldi seems to have had a special affinity with the viola d’amore, an instrument with six bowed strings and six underlying sympathetic strings. He included it as an obbligato in several vocal works, where its distinctly delicate character is used to create atmosphere or lend colour to textual detail.

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Fabio Biondi plays with assurance and stylistic savoir faire yet he addresses the music’s vitality more successfully than its innate poetry. Fast movements too often feel driven – the opening allegro of the D minor Concerto (RV 394) is a case in point – while slow ones sometimes lack the sensibility which Andrew Manze demonstrates in his fine recording of the Concerto for viola d’amore and lute (Harmonia Mundi). Biondi’s version of this piece, by the way, is not a new one but has been transferred from an earlier disc of concertos for various instruments (Virgin 545 7232). In short, while the strongest features of Biondi’s playing are stimulating they are diluted by a tendency towards sensationalism which incurs a certain textural gruffness and poor intonation. The opening movement of the A minor Concerto (RV 397) provides such an example.

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Nicholas Anderson