A highly imaginative production, combining genuine creative engagement from performers together with some of Vivaldi's better-known and more inspired compositions for violin - all are either from his published collections or have descriptive soubriquets.
Enrico Onofri slides along the strings to evoke an oriental flavour in 'Grosso Mogul'. Bows are smacked like riding whips in 'La Caccia' (The Hunt). 'Il Riposo' (Rest) features a harp solo at the beginning of the Adagio, suggesting the mystery of dreams. 'Il Sospetto' (The Suspect) begins with a menacing sotto voce. In such ways do the instrumentalists bring their creative sensibilities to bear upon works which are hardly 'terra incognito' - despite what the booklet might have us believe. A rich basso continuo comprises theorbo, archlute and harp alongside the more conventional forces of lower strings and harpsichord. Apparently, the ensemble were guided in their 'extravagant' continuo selection by the writings of Francesco Gasparini - a contemporary of Vivaldi's.
A real plus of this CD is the highly informative booklet, which details not just the instruments and players, but the individual concerti in which they feature. The scholarly approach continues with an essay by the soloist, for whom the music he's playing is clearly a major research interest. Onofri discerns xenophobic animosity in Vivaldi's mocking portrayal of the Ottoman east and the almost schizophrenic torment of someone torn by suspicion and doubt in 'L'inquietudine' (Anxiety). Considerable thought informs performances which offer evocative new angles without ever diverting attention from what is often superb music. (Close attention to the last bar of 'Il Riposo', for example, will reveal what sounds like a downward dragging on fingerboards as the music fades - suggesting a descent into nightmare?) This CD deserves attentive listening and frequent replaying to appreciate what is a detailed and multi-faceted interpretation.
This disc is one of an extensive series of recordings intended to record the 450 Vivaldi manuscripts held in the Turin National University Library. This is an immense project and so far it has resulted in discs of extraordinary accomplishment and interest as on this occasion.
The concerto discs alone, of which I have bought all, feature different soloists throughout and it is amazing what a wealth of performing talent has been found. Furthermore, and most importantly, the project is completely worthwhile as it so clearly shows that Vivaldi continuously wrote with a seemingly inexhaustible fund of musical imagination combined with technical knowledge that completely refutes any idea that he was writing with any pre-determined repeatable pattern in mind.
This disc is almost worth purchasing for the first concerto alone which has an inspirational and technical content that almost beggars belief. The same could be said to describe the playing of Enrico Onofri the solo violinist. There is nothing superior to be found in the more well-known Vivaldi concertos and I would suggest that this disc is most desirable.
The recording quality is as fine as the music and its performance and it seems likely that if the program is of interest to future purchasers they will probably find this a very rewarding disc to collect. They may do as I have done and go on to collect the rest of the series and keep an eye out for any further releases in the future.
There are many many cd's of Vivaldi's violin concertos - and of course, there are many many many concertos! Recent cd's by Carmignola are excellent and well deserve their critical reception - but don't overlook this one. It really is exceptional, delightful, virtuosic playing, interesting repertoire, technically accomplished and altogether a delightful CD. I look forward to subsequent volumes.