WORKS: Violin Concertos, Op. 4
PERFORMER: Arte dei Suonatori/Rachel Podger (violin)
CATALOGUE NO: CCS 19598
It’s almost half a century since the Stuttgart Pro Musica made the first complete recording of Vivaldi’s 12 La stravaganza concertos for Vox. Many have followed, this new issue entering an arena already well into double figures. Stylistically less eclectic than Vivaldi’s earlier L’estro armonico, this set yields nothing to it in respect of exciting experimentation, poesy and boundless energy. And in this opus, more than in the other there are slow movements of sublime fantasy and heart-rending beauty. It is here above all that soloist and director Rachel Podger makes her most distinctive and original contribution.
Many of the faster movements are rhythmically exhilarating, those belonging to the First Concerto of the set possessing a creative energy that is well captured in the performances by the Polish ensemble Arte dei Suonatori. Occasionally, subtleties in the middle strands of the texture were sacrificed in the apparent overriding interests of top and bottom. The Academy of Ancient Music (Decca L’Oiseau-Lyre), The English Concert (DG Archiv) and the earlier of the two I Musici versions (Philips) sometimes show more sensibility in such details, but, for the most part I was carried along by the vital playing and theatrical gestures of Arte dei Suonatori, and by Rachel Podger’s solo playing, imaginatively ornamented where called for.
Each of the sets already mentioned has its own virtues and I’m more reluctant than usual to suggest a benchmark. I shall never want to be without the lyrical responses of Felix Ayo (I Musici) and Monica Huggett (AAM), or the spirited, articulate playing of Simon Standage (English Concert). But the newcomer satisfies me for most of the time and I cannot imagine that readers will find much to disappoint them. Nicholas Anderson