WORKS: Concertos, RV 97, 555, 562, 566, 574, 579 & 781
PERFORMER: The King’s Consort/Robert King
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67073
‘The sound of surprise’ is a term associated with jazz. Yet there can have been few more surprising musical events than the orchestral concerts that followed services at Venice’s Ospedale della Pietà in the early 1700s. Decorum required that the female instrumentalists were hidden from view, so an inventive composer like Vivaldi, able to draw on the Pietà’s large arsenal of rare instruments, could conjure all manner of exotic sounds to delight and astonish the unsuspecting audience. Viola d’amore, viole all’inglese and the mysterious violins ‘in tromba marina’ were all featured in his ‘concertos with several instruments’, as were the gamut of winds (scarce in Italy at the time), notably the chalumeau, dark-toned precursor to the clarinet.
Robert King offers an attractive assortment of these variegated pieces, from the subtle colours of chamber concerto RV 97 (for viola d’amore, two horns, two oboes and bassoon) to the flamboyantly scored RV 555 (for two recorders, oboe, chalumeau, violin, two viole all’inglese, two violins ‘in tromba marina’, two harpsichords and strings). Although, surprises apart, the music is relatively lightweight, and although I wish the performers had displayed a touch more brio, this is an entertaining, well-played set, sure to charm all Vivaldians. Graham Lock