LABELS: Chandos Chaconne
WORKS: String Concertos, Vol. 2: RV 109, 112, 117, 120, 124, 128, 143, 152, 153, 162, 163 & 168
PERFORMER: Collegium Musicum 90/Simon Standage
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 0668
These are not Vivaldi’s most rewarding works. His structural hallmark is the ritornello concerto, a series of orchestral tuttis framing virtuoso solo episodes. Take away the soloists, and all that’s left are characteristically vigorous openings, passed through a related key or two, and ending often in less than a couple of minutes — one finale here lasts 37 seconds. Slow movements, too, lack expansive solo ‘arias’, though Standage sustains a broad span where opportunity allows – through the predictable sequences of RV 109 in C major, for instance. There are some strikingly characterful moments, too: a wistfully smiling ‘amabile’ (RV 128); an imitation of a ‘conca’, a crude shell blown by Bohemian peasants, producing a few raucous notes and wailing slides, great fun at first hearing and the whole concerto (RV 163) done and dusted in under four minutes.
The Dresden Konzertmeister Pisendel, pupil of Vivaldi, had introduced a pair of flutes to one of these solo-less concertos, and flutes, oboes and bassoon to another — reflecting the peculiarly German penchant for wind instruments. With this precedent, Standage has coloured two more, and a wide-ranging choice of continuo further leavens this succession of terse though distinctive pieces. Playing is excellent with barely a sour string note throughout 36 movements. George Pratt