Vivaldi: Concerti a quattro, RV 550, 553, 567, 580; Concerto a tre violini, RV 551; Concerto a quattro violini, RV 549

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WORKS: Concerti a quattro, RV 550, 553, 567, 580; Concerto a tre violini, RV 551; Concerto a quattro violini, RV 549


PERFORMER: Ensemble 415/Chiara Banchini (violin)

This disc of Vivaldi concertos celebrates ten years of the French label Zig-Zag Territoires. The fulsome paean contained in the booklet, sometimes flowery in its prose, sometimes fanciful in its content – ‘Long may our CDs continue to stir this life force within you!’ etc. – may not win new friends, but the playing of Ensemble 415 certainly should.

Director and founder of the group, Chiara Banchini has chosen the four Concertos for four violins from Vivaldi’s first and most varied printed sets, L’estro armonico (1711), as well as two further works that, along with the greater number of his concertos remained unpublished during Vivaldi’s lifetime, a Concerto in F major for three violins (RV 551) and in B flat for four (RV 553).

For this programme Banchini fields a group of 13 musicians though the listed personnel makes no reference to the often distinctly audible plucked string player(s). What these performances have in greater measure than some rival versions of L’estro armonico are a warmth of timbre – quite distinct from that of L’Arte dell’Arco (Chandos) for instance – and a spirit of intimate music-making.

Notwithstanding some curiously specious remarks about Vivaldi’s music in her printed conversation with Olivier Fourés, Banchini achieves performances which are polished, clearly argued and meticulously prepared. She and her talented musicians, many of whom are her former pupils, have no difficulty in conveying both the virtuosity and the abundant fantasy and lyricism embodied in the music.


Nowhere, perhaps, is the latter quality more in evidence than in their tastefully ornamented playing of the limpid andante of the Triple Violin Concerto, RV 551. A rewarding disc; perhaps the remaining eight concertos of L’estro armonico will follow. Let’s hope so. Nicholas Anderson