Vivaldi: Concertos, RV 115, 120, 121, 123, 129, 141, 143, 153, 134, 156, 158 & 159

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LABELS: Opus 111 Tesori del Piemonte
WORKS: Concertos, RV 115, 120, 121, 123, 129, 141, 143, 153, 134, 156, 158 & 159
PERFORMER: Concerto Italiano/Rinaldo Alessandrini (harpsichord)
Vivaldi’s concerti a quattro are pieces for strings without soloist. He left upwards of 40 of them and they are as appealing in their expressive variety as they are taut in construction. The Concerto madrigalesco (RV 129), for instance, is comparatively archaic, its substance deriving from sacred vocal music. The A major, RV 158, on the other hand, has something of the flavour of a Mannheim symphony and is incontestably among Vivaldi’s most advanced and engaging concertos of this type. Concerto Italiano is a highly accomplished ensemble and its playing on this disc is incisive and unanimous. Rinaldo Alessandrini’s predilection for fast tempi, though, seems at times to be misjudged, particularly that for the opening movement of RV 159, where the lightly inflected rhythmic elegance is driven too hard. Simon Standage, in his version with Collegium Musicum 90 (Chandos) brings greater charm to the music, which had already served as an aria in Vivaldi’s opera La verità in cimento. Much else, though, comes off well and the sheer exuberance of the playing is infectious. Only occasionally, as in the binary finale of RV 158, did I find some of the accents and phrasing exaggerated and irritating on repetition. Nicholas Anderson