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- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
The product info and track listing isn't very detailed here, but checking the ASIN number on the French sister company (and looking at the back cover) shows that these are the famous Flute Concerti op 10, complemented with two others, RV 427 and RV 414. I have this version of the opus 10 cycle on the original Erato CD reissue, from 1986 (listed neither here nor in France, UPC 3269658818925), where it was paired with two other concertos, RV 441 and 429. It would be unfair to call these readings by Jean-Pierre Rampal and Claudio Scimone conducting his band "I Solisti Veneti" in 1966, the "pre-history" of the interpretation of baroque music. Sure, they are played on modern, transverse flute and not on recorder, but still, Scimone and his Solisti Veneti, though also playing on modern instruments, were one of the first ensembles (with I Musici and Marriner's Academy of Saint-Martin in the Fields) to play Vivaldi not with a big and thick symphony orchestra, but a chamber one, and that was considered, back then, a big step in the direction of what later came to be called "period practice". Still, re-hearing them today, in view of everything that happened since (I listened comparatively to versions by Marion Verbrüggen and the Philharmonia Baroque under Nicholas McGegan, Vivaldi - Recorder Concertos / Verbruggen · PBO · McGegan, Concerto Köln, Con Tempesta Di Mare/Con Notte (these two in "La Tempesta di Mare" and "La Notte"), Frans Brüggen and the Orchestra of the 18th Century, Il Giardino Armonico in the complete cycle, Vivaldi: Flute Concerti Op.10 and Antonio Vivaldi: Concerti da Camera, Vol. 1 (Concerti, Op. 10) - Giovanni Antonini / Il Giardino Armonico), my mouth was left gaping. Although this sounded "cutting edge" and daring heard back then, one realizes now what a long way there was still to go. I'd liken it to the era of the incunables, the "infancy of printing", in the 50 to 70 years after Gutenberg's invention of the printing press. At least, it went a little faster with period practice: all the versions used for comparison date from 1979 (Brüggen) to 1990.
But, ah, it is the fate of pathbreakers to be overpassed by the next generations and made to seem hopelessly passé. Sure, the sunny beauty of Vivaldi's music shines through, and the finale of Tempesta di Mare (track 3), the first and third Largo (tracks 4 and 6) and the second Presto (end of track 5) of La Notte (especially the latter), may retain some musical validity even today. The finale of La Notte (tr. 7) may sound convincing also, in a well-manicured style - as long as you haven't heard a recent and more unleashed version, like Concerto Köln's, to say nothing of the breathtaking and demented (this is meant as praise) Giardino armonico. In the outer movements of Il Gardellino, tracks 8 & 10 (Erato spellt it "Cardellino" in 1986) and of the fourth, RV 435 (11 & 13), or the finales of No. 5 RV 434 (16) and No. 6 RV 437 (19), there is a freshness and even drive, and a polish and elegance in Il Gardellino throughout from hearing the modern transverse flute rather than the baroque one (Brüggen) or the sopranino recorder (Il Gardino armonico), that remain quite engrossing, heard on their own. Still, there is nothing close to the unbridled enthusiasm, the colors, the zest, the spirit of Il Giardino Armonico.
I guess something can be said in favor of the adagio, sweet and pretty approach to the first movement of RV 434 (track 14), in a kind of twisted and pervert way, although it turns the movement into a slow one, against Vivaldi's tempo indication (Allegro ma non molto) and is stylistically completely out-of-place - it sounds like music for the salon of Marie-Antoinette. Likewise, the subdued pathos of the same concerto's slow movement may (track 15), heard on its own, has its appeal (at least when the flute plays alone; when the strings enter it becomes thick and ponderous pathos), as well as the discreetly wistful elegance of the Largo from the 6th (track 18).
But still, I think it might be time for me to get rid of those often thick-textured and leisurely-to-heavy-footed readings (although in 1966 they seemed transparent and light-footed), sentimental-to-lachrymose in some of the slow movements (RV 435, track 12), elephantine in some of the fast ones (first movement of No. 6 RV 437, track 17). They were invaluable as a step for the next generations to rise higher, they've now lost their usefulness. Or if I keep them (I'm still undecided - the beauty of Vivaldi's music does come through, in general, and there is an elegance to Rampal's flute, if only rarely the kind of exuberance I expect of Vivaldi), it won't be so much for listening as for documentary reasons, as an illuminating testimony of the musical sensibilities of the 1960s and 1970s, and of how fast they changed.
The 1966 recordings retain a background of tape hiss. That's not an element that bothers me, personally. If interested you might find the same recordings for slightly cheaper under their other Amazon entries, Vivaldi: Flute Concertos - Concerti Per Flauto Op. 10; Due Concerti per Flauto, RV 429-441 [Erato #2292-45401-2] or Vivaldi: Flute Concerto in D, Op. 10/3, RV428; Flute Concerto in Gm, Op. 10/2, RV439.