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Vivaldi: Concerti per oboe (RV 447, 450, 451, 457, 455, 453, 463)
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Italian oboist, Alfredo Bernardini, records seven of Vivaldi's oboe concertos for the Vivaldi Edition with his versatile ensemble Zefiro.
Three of the concertos on this CD [RV 455, 463, 453] were originally recorded in 1994 for the label Astrée. Their interpretation has remained exemplary and they are as exhilarating today as they were when first heard. For this reason these have been included in the Vivaldi Edition along with four newly recorded oboe concertos. Alfredo Bernardini has taken part in some 100 recordings. Among these is an earlier album featuring Vivaldi oboe concertos which received a Cannes Classical Award in 1995. In 1999 he made a documentary on Vivaldi with Zefiro for Belgian television. Accompanying Bernardini is Zefiro, his versatile ensemble specialising in 18th-century repertoire that gives particular prominence to wind instruments.
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This CD contains seven oboe concerti (presented in this order: RV 447, 455, 451, 463, 457, 453, 450). The oboist is Alfredo Bernardini, who is also one of the founding members of Zefiro. Three of the concerti (RV455, 463, 453) were originally recorded and released on the Astrée label in 1994. The others were recorded for this CD in 2008. These concerti represent a little less than half of the oboe concerti Vivaldi wrote. (One has to be careful about numbers when writing about Vivaldi's oeuvre because new works are always turning up.) The oboe had only recently been introduced in Italy when Vivaldi wrote his first work using the instrument. All of this CD's concerti have three movements. Some passages of note: in the slow movement of RV 455 the oboe is accompanied by unison violins alone and its finale is a jig; the finale of RV 451 quotes the 'Peccator videbit' movement of Vivaldi's familiar 'Beatus vir' (RV 597); the first movement of RV 450 uses the main theme from the aria 'Scocca dardi' from his opera 'Griselda' (also recorded in this series) Vivaldi: Griselda (Vivaldi Edition). The three concerti RV 450, 457 & 463 were adapted from three of Vivaldi's bassoon concerti.
The playing here is vigorous, soulful or songful in turn. Bernardini is a master of his instrument and Zefiro is completely in tune with his musical intentions.
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This is the third or fourth version of these works that I have heard. Zefiro has a degree of discipline and spontaneity, color and authenticity, which I have not heard in earlier performances.
Zefiro brings to bear a degree of involvement and feeling that is rare in performances. A tasteful blend of discipline and spontaneity of performance. There is a lot of "soloist" work going on behind the scenes that does not seek to stand out but to support. Concerted effort in the best sense of the word.
A Theorbo and Basso Continuo that lends very subtle color along with stability. A ripieno which seems to peek out as soliosts... and Mr. Bernardini's Oboe, which carries the duties of theme, counterpoint and yet shares in subtle ways meaning and progress.
The Oboe work is not simple but is not florid or Romantic either. It's well balanced and mature, the freedom of youth, the wisdom of experience.
One thinks that the ensemble is both an ensemble and a collection of gifted soloists, lending color and spontaneity to old music, making it live again. There is disciplined spontaneity here, there is life.
I can easily imagine such performances at the Ospedalie. Mr. Vivaldi playing along, leading the Girls to star and to work together in turn.
There is much joy, irony and humor here amidst the color. I laughed at various times. Yes, one can laugh at irony or the unexpected and here it may be seen.
This CD does not contain tired old Baroque. Vivaldi lives again.
"Concerti per vari strumenti" is the most-played disc/album I have ever owned. I heartily recommend it to anyone and everyone with the slightest interest music of this period. The grace and obvious enjoyment in the playing is quite unique in my experience - even their Beethoven isn't on quite the same level. I'm ordering because I know that they will be very good performances, and I can hope that they will equal the aforementioned! Be sure to get it! -- and let me know what you think!