Vivaldi: String Concertos, Vol. 1: Paris Concertos

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COMPOSERS: Vivaldi
LABELS: Chandos Chaconne
WORKS: String Concertos, Vol. 1: Paris Concertos
PERFORMER: Collegium Musicum 90/Simon Standage
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 0647
Concertos for strings were popular in Italy in the early 1700s, but within a decade or two had been replaced in the public’s affection by concertos that featured solo instruments. Though Vivaldi was a dominant figure in the production of these new, soloistic concertos, he differed from his contemporaries by also continuing to write in the older, orchestral format. If his concerti a quattro lack the dazzling displays of solo virtuosity that light up pieces like The Four Seasons, their tighter structures, exhilarating string exchanges and high levels of melodic invention provide ample compensation.

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These 12 ‘Paris Concertos’ are certainly a joy. Their name derives from the manuscript set preserved in the Paris Conservatoire, and the fact that two of the concertos are written in a distinctly French style further suggests the set may initially have been compiled for a French patron. Since French Baroque orchestras generally included wind players, Standage has added oboes and bassoon (doubling the strings) in three concertos; he’s also varied the continuo colours, using lutes and/or guitar at times. The results are extremely engaging. Collegium Musicum 90’s stylish performances, distinguished by characterful phrasing and nimble rhythmic vivacity, add the final sheen to this captivating disc.