Vivaldi: The French Connection Vol. 2

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

WORKS: Concertos for Flute, Violin, Bassoon & Strings – RV 104, 127, 133, 150, 365, 431a, 440, 473, 543
PERFORMER: Katy Bircher (flute), Gail Hennessy (oboe), Peter Whelan (bassoon); La Serenissima/Adrian Chandler (violin)

French fascination with Italian musical style in the early to mid-18th century is well documented. Reciprocated enthusiasm, though, is elusive and less immediately evident. This is the second volume of concertos by Vivaldi which Adrian Chandler and La Serenissima have dubbed The French Connection. While the connection is sometimes tenuous there is no denying Vivaldi’s intention in several instances to dress his music in French clothing.
I enjoyed the first volume, with a few minor reservations (reviewed by Paul Riley, October 2009) but this second volume deserves almost unqualified praise. Chandler has put together a fascinating programme among which are some rarities including two ‘world premiere recordings’. One of these is a Flute Concerto (RV431a) which is preserved in a single source in the National Archives of Scotland; the other is a generously proportioned Violin Concerto (RV365). Flautist Katy Bircher and Chandler himself are the respective soloists and their warm-sounding, eloquently stylish playing is a constant delight.
Among the remaining Concertos – there are nine in all – there is one that is giving me particular pleasure. It is a Concerto for violin, oboe and strings that is seldom performed and of which I can recall only one other recording, with Pina Carmirelli, Heinz Holliger and I Musici. Gail Hennessy’s rounded and mellifluous oboe playing beguilingly caresses the gentle contours of Vivaldi’s melodic line in a way that the older recording, albeit on modern instruments, failed to do. Nicholas Anderson