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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dramatic revelations, 20 Mar. 2013
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This review is from: "Vivaldi con moto" Violin Concertos (Audio CD)
In his liner notes, the distinguished musicologist Olivier Fourès observes that all the concertos on this disc date after 1729 - Vivaldi's final decade, in other words, when many of his energies were devoted to opera (and indeed Fourès highlights parallels between Griselda and RV189, for example). Much of this music is undeniably dramatic in character regardless of any direct correspondence between the concertos recorded here and Vivaldi's works for the stage, like the wonderful Concerto in e that opens the set. Remarkably, Fourès neglects to mention the slow movement to RV254 - not just the most dramatic movement on the CD but arguably of Vivaldi's entire output. It is spellbinding stuff that would surely find a place in any decent Vivaldi anthology.

The music recorded here could find no greater advocate than Carmignola, who combines lyricism with power, at times pushing the limits of bowed strings to breaking point (witness his attacks in the final Allegro of RV281, always threatenting to produce those horrendous squeaks we associate with novice violinists). He is admirably supported by the Accademia Bizantina, who add entrancing layers of interest throughout, from plucked strings especially.

This CD boasts a world premier recording (RV283) and offers another concerto (RV187) in its 'original' version. I'm not sure that such a decision is doing this particular concerto any favours. As Fourès points out here and elsewhere, Vivaldi's first attempts can be more inspired and spontaneous than later revisions (which often merely simplify difficult passages for soloists of limited capabilities). Carmignola, of course, doesn't have technical limitations. Even so, it's difficult to see the advantage of presenting RV187 in its unrevised and extended form. The beauty of its slow movement doesn't detract from the fact that the outer movements are weakened by over-long parallel passages of the kind that Vivaldi resorted to when composing in frenzied haste. Sometimes, Vivaldi's second thoughts are genuine artistic improvements. Reservations aside, however, there are treasures aplenty on this offering, including all of the middle movements, which show both Vivaldi and Carmignola at their sublime best. (And a final word on 'parallel passages' - Michael Talbot's term, I think. This is the first time that it's occurred to me that rather than suggesting Vivaldi's flagging inspiration, these repeated phrases, starting at different points of the scale, might occasionally be early essays in minimalism, given their relentless and insistent evocation of mood. With RV254 and RV243, at least, they actually become a compelling and attractive feature in themselves.)

For my money, Carmignola's astonishing and revelatory 2001 recording of Vivaldi's 'Late Violin Concertos' represents the absolute summit of Baroque music recording. This current disc is not far behind. Together with Naive's recent release of Vivaldi violin concertos with Dmitri Sinkovsky, we are very close to the summits once more.
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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 19 Apr 2013 12:38:53 BDT
dalmatian says:
Thank you Jon Chambers for your remarkably erudite and eloquent review. Having all of Carmignola's previous Vivaldi recordings, I sheepishly decided to wait a little (other priorities on disc) before adding another to my collection. Now I must rush out and get it! I will consult your other reviews for my wishlist.

In reply to an earlier post on 20 Apr 2013 07:36:51 BDT
Jon Chambers says:
Very kind. I don't think you'll be disappointed - it's easy to convince yourself when listening to this CD that some of Vivaldi's best violin concertos are present here (RV281, RV254 and RV243 are real gems). But then the same is true of Naive V. The strange thing is, I've heard some of the works featured on both CDs before in other recordings, but haven't been so greatly impressed (I could not recommend Naive II or the Tactus recording of Opus XII, for example). Anyway, I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on Carmignola's latest. Happy listening!

In reply to an earlier post on 19 May 2013 23:08:08 BDT
dalmatian says:
Jon, this disc has hardly left my player since receiving it! I wholeheartedly agree that these concertos are some of Vivaldi's best. However one thought reoccurs in my mind. After Carmignola's Vivaldi is anything else even remotely relevant, the bar has been raised very high now. Like I have always said to anyboby who cares about this music, once the Italians have come back to Vivaldi everything else seems trite (no nationalistic tendencies involved), but only they truly understand the soul of this music. You hinted at what is a similar feeling when you gave your thoughts on Carmignola's first disc of Vivaldi's late concertos in 2000. A sound that absolutely floored me in the first minutes of the first concerto.
My only question, not a reservation, but curiousity, is that there are moments especially during some of the orchestral tuttis in particular is that it all has much more presence, oomph and polish then was possible in Vivaldi's time. Most notably the pronounced bass of the orchestra, which certainly adds to the goosebumps effect of this music.
Thanks again and happy listening!

In reply to an earlier post on 20 May 2013 20:58:50 BDT
Jon Chambers says:
Dear Dalmatian, I'm sure you're right about today's punchy bass (RV254 ii springs immediately to mind). Like it or not, we're products of our age and we all expect a truly dynamic listening experience nowadays. (Played on original instruments, perhaps, but played in the original manner and to the same effect, probably not.) Although I wouldn't mind for one moment changing time & place with those lucky enough to hear this sublime music in its intended form, it's possible that the weedy and anaemic harpsichord that might greet us in C18 Venice would make us all keen to return to our CD players, and to Carmignola's recordings especially. (And what might Vivaldi have made of him?)
Very glad you like his exhilarating new CD. It's very easy to become something of an obsessive about this one.
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Review Details



Jon Chambers

Location: Birmingham, England

Top Reviewer Ranking: 1,197