This superb 2006 recording reminds me strongly of Naïve's New Discoveries CD released in the summer. In both, the quality of recording, performance and composition are all exemplary, while the varied programme mix shows Vivaldi's talents in both vocal and instrumental spheres. Crucially, however, this current CD draws upon that part of the repertoire that is indisputably authentic, coming from the vast National Collection housed in Turin. If this music isn't definitive Vivaldi, then what is?
As with New Discoveries, the CD opens with a dramatic curtain-raiser, 'In furore', for soprano and orchestra. As so often, the minor key seems to bring the best out of Vivaldi: intense, rather sinister colours and strong, urgent rhythms alternating with gentle lyricism.
Not that a minor tonality explains the success of Laudate pueri, RV601. It is the major work on this CD in more senses than one (it's in G, unlike the better-known version in c, RV600). Its melodic charms and contrasting passages for orchestra and soloists (the recorder has a starring role in Track 13, Gloria et patri) make the work deserving of wider acclaim.
The unifying 'theme' of the music in this collection is its sacred character. Two of the concerti were written for ecclesiastical ceremonies, while the third, the wonderful Concerto for violin and organ in d RV541, has a certain churchiness about it - probably a result of the richly resonating organ. Mercifully, the slow movement is played without the disatrous tremolo that ruined the only other recording I've heard of this piece - by Musica ad Rhenum. (A Grave mistake, indeed.) That recording was more suggestive of the Blackpool fun-fair than the misty lagoon.
Two features of this recording deserve special mention, perhaps. First, the rather eerie Sinfonia RV169, 'Al Santo Sepolcro' - made extremely sepulchral by the deathly slow pace at which the opening measures of the Adagio molto are played, senza vibrato. Without labels to guide you, you might initially be mistaken for thinking that this is the beginning of a modern, experimental composition. Then, in the concluding work, dollops of liquid sound from the organ considerably enliven the Largo molto. All in all, a recording that is every bit as definitive as the music itself.