WORKS: La stravaganza, Vol. 1: Concertos, Op. 4/1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
PERFORMER: Andrew Watkinson (violin); City of London Sinfonia/Nicholas Kraemer
CATALOGUE NO: 8.553323
When the Amsterdam publisher Estienne Roger produced first Vivaldi’s op.3 concertos and then, in about 1713, the 12 concertos of op.4, their international popularity influenced the whole course of the baroque concerto. JS Bach, for instance, lacking opportunity to visit Italy, nevertheless absorbed the Italian style; his early transcriptions for solo harpsichord include two concertos recorded here.
They are the paradigm of the Venetian concerto: first and last movements with powerful opening tuttis framing solo episodes, each more spectacular than the last; lyrical slow movements like wordless arias, often intensely passionate. Kraemer drives his forces with great energy, matched by Watkinson’s sparkling figurations in the allegros – the opening of concerto 3 is particularly impressive. Occasionally the motoric pulse varies, sometimes lingering expressively (51), sometimes simply hurrying in detached orchestral chords (21). Among the slow movements, the last is most expressively decorated.
Recording quality is remarkably variable, over 20 months, in two different venues, with three different producers – no match for Marriner 25 years ago. While the fifth concerto is warm and spacious, the opening one has an aggressive, boxy sound – reinterpreting through technology a contemporary comment that Vivaldi ‘astounded everyone, but … it was not so pleasant to listen to as it was skilfully executed’. George Pratt