This is the perfect CD to counter Strawinski's dead-pan remark that Vivaldi just wrote one concerto 500 times.
Of course Igor was right in a sense. It hasn't been untill the last 25 years or so that a clear image of Vivaldi's versatile genious has emerged.
This is a Vivaldi CD that has everything to it. The nearest compeditor is perhaps Trevor Pinnock's excellent recording on ARCHIV, which also features the two mandoline concerti and the Concerto "con molti strumenti" in C major.
Fabio Biondi and his Europa Galante however offers an even more imaginative playing. The G minor concerto for the Saxon Court (RV 576) for violin, 2 recorders, 3 oboes and bassoon has a spellbinding intensity to it. The tutti "gusto barbarico" unisono passages reminds one of Zelenka and Pisendel on their most threatening masculine.
You will also get to hear several magnificient solos from the Maestro himself. Biondi is perhaps on his most moving and poetical in the G minor concerto dedicated to Johann Georg Pisendel (RV 319). The first movement quotes a Salve Regina (RV 618).
The mandoline concerti bustles with motives of song birds and war-like stretto passages (especially the one for solo mandoline (RV 425). The pure magnetical shimmer of the mandoline above the pizzicati strings in RV 425 in the slow second movement is also most movingly conveyed of Giovanni Scaramuzzino.
This is a most exiting disc of music by Vivaldi, performed magnificently by Europa Galanti. The ensemble plays with combined vigor and sensitivity. I'd tended to dismiss the mandoline as being an inferior instrument, but no more. The sound is excellent and extraordinarily pleasing to the ear. All lovers of the baroque cannot fail to be impressed by this CD. I've ordered its companion volume from Amazon.
This disc, well recorded in 2001, is another example of the excellence of this group of players in this type of repertoire. The actual program is nicely varied and makes a satisfying concert when played straight through.
Biondi takes a vibrant view of this music, strongly bringing out the dynamics and phrasing to dramatic effect. Tempi, as usual, are lively. Fortunately all of these technical and musical demands made upon both Biondi and the Europa Galante orchestra are handled with considerable aplomb.
A particular attraction of this disc of Vivaldi concertos is to hear the sounds of rarely heard instruments played very well and within a realistic balance. The rustic sounding chalumeaux and the delicacy of the mandoline/s are just two simple examples. The oboe and bassoon playing is noticeably more accurately played in terms of intonation than is often the case, even with specialist players of period instruments. The reeded woodwind seem to be more demanding in these ways than many other period instruments. Whatever the challenges, this group of musicians seem to unfailingly play in a way that gives aural satisfaction so that one can enjoy the music without such technical distractions.
in conclusion I would suggest that this is a very enjoyable and expertly played selection of Vivaldi's concertos. As such it fully deserves serious consideration from purchasers interested in this entertaining repertoire.
It is such a pity that for so many people Vivaldi=Four Seasons. What a fellow he was! These concertos are a joy from first to last. It is almost impossible not to dance or conduct along with them so full of vitality, fun and yes, real beauty are they. Anyone who thinks the mandolin is simply one better than the banjo is in for a rude shock. On this disc at least, it has the most beautiful sound, delicate and piquant. As to the playing, perhaps one has to be Italian to play Vivaldi in the same way as one has to be Russian to play Shostakovich. An absolute joy to be listened to again and again.
Most folks are familiar with The Four Seasons, if only whilst left on hold. These 7 concertos are played in a style contempoary to Vivaldi, and exhibit considerable life. It certainly should banish any fear of murderous school recorder recitals. I don't know whether Vivaldi would approve, let alone the members of Europa Galante, but I find it makes great background music to almost anything. It is also good for sitting and staring at passing clouds.