Vivaldi: The French Connection

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Vivaldi
LABELS: Avie
WORKS: The French Connection: Concertos for Flute, Violin, Bassoon & Strings – RV 100, 114, 119, 157, 185, 211, 432, 438, 468 & 488
PERFORMER: Katy Bircher (flute), Peter Whelan (bassoon); La Serenissima/Adrian Chandler (violin)
CATALOGUE NO: AV 2178

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Vivaldi has threaded his way through all of La Serenissima’s discs to date – including a series celebrating the North Italian violin school. Now the ensemble is packing its bags for France, with the ‘Red Priest’ hitching a ride. Director Adrian Chandler points out that Italian music was hugely popular across the border, though he perhaps overstates his case.

While he’s right to spotlight Vivaldi’s popularity at the Concert Spirituel, musical xenophobes bemoaned the application of gaudy Italian ‘makeup’ to the natural beauty of the French ‘face’. And although the mighty Couperin might have composed L’apothéose de Corelli, the goûts réünis (reunited style)– the union of French and Italian music – was his accommodating goal rather than the capitulation of French sensibilities to the blandishments of Italy.

As the album title suggests, Chandler is also determined to discover Gallic influence going the other way. Yet would an innocent ear listening to this disc guess that a ‘French Connection’ was the binding link in the programming? Vivaldi’s Gallic shrugs, on this evidence, are as short-lived as the real thing, and the ground bass opener to the G minor Paris Concerto sounds like French as mediated through Purcell.

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The performances, however, are typically neatly-pointed and vivacious. But for all the music’s easy attractiveness, there’s a deal of Vivaldi on autopilot. Like French pastries (or Italian gelati), this is best consumed in moderation. Paul Riley