Vivaldi: String Concertos, Vol. 2: RV 109, 112, 117, 120, 124, 128, 143, 152, 153, 162, 163 & 168

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COMPOSERS: Vivaldi
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.

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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