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VINE VOICEon 3 March 2013
This collection of Vivaldi's violin concertos, Naive's fifth, is entitled 'Per Pisendel'. All seven of these concertos connect with the Saxon violinist - he either collected them or served as their dedicatee. I still haven't made my mind up about Pisendel's influence on Vivaldi. It's largely thanks to him that the invaluable collection in Dresden is so extensive. But it's also due to him that Vivaldi's violin works are occasionally so unashamedly exhibitionistic. For me, the most musical and engaging of Naive's violin concertos so far has been volume 3, 'Il Ballo', in which invention and simple joie de vivre triumph over technique and showmanship. And the least rewarding has been volume 2, 'Di Sfida', in which the opposite is true.

As far as I know, only one of the works featured here is a world premiere recording: the Concerto in g, RV328 (if we ignore the organ transcription on the Tactus label). It was so nearly more: RV246 has only just been recorded (superbly) by Harmonie Universelle. Elsewhere, RV370 was recorded by Adrian Chandler and La Serenissima in 2007, and RV177 by Giuliano Carmignola in 2001. As well as providing stiff competition, previous recordings make it impossible not to make comparisons.

One example will have to suffice. The CD opens with the gorgeous Concerto in C, RV177, which imposes great technical demands on the soloist in spite of its 'simple' home key. There are interesting departures from Carmignola's superlative recording, in which the freewheeling and richly sonorous continuo played so conspicuous a part. The current recording's violin line can occasionally sound uncomfortably spare without these striking arabesques from plucked lute and theorbo, nowhere more effective than the echoing motifs (entirely absent in Naive's recording) which occur at the end of the opening Allegro. Perhaps Il Pomo d'Oro wanted to avoid sounding derivative. Or perhaps they found the VBO's accompaniment to Carmignola too intrusive and unwarranted by Vivaldi's manuscript - the score, incidentally, can be viewed on-line as part of the International Music Score Library Project, this one courtesy of Sächsische Landesbibliothek, Dresden. In any case, the relative blandness of the passage in question (starting at 3'52" into track 1) produces an effective contrast to the swashbuckling bars that preceded it. Elsewhere though, Il Pomo d'Oro's continuo shows a richness of its own. It boasts Baroque guitar and archlute, as well as double-bass, harpsichord and organ.

Sinkovsky has the required attributes for this collection - chiefly, a suitably Baroque performance style and unerring intonation. His technical prowess can be seen at its dizzying best in the cadenza at the end of RV212a's first movement. This is no act of musical sabotage, however. Vivaldi's manuscript instruction ('qui si ferma a piacimento') positively invites the soloist to flaunt his/her skill. True, everything must stop while we admire the violinist's stratospheric flights, but this is clearly the effect the composer wanted. (We should remember that he was something of a showman performer himself, evidenced by the fully written-out cadenza that ends the third movement of this work, which was indeed first performed by the composer.) This famous concerto is given here in its rarely-heard alternative, RV212a - its slow movement providing a muted contrast to the pyrotechnics of the outer movements.

In its combination of musicality and dexterity, volume V has closer affinities with Ballo (dance) than Sfida (challenge). Another combination is of better and lesser known works that, together with bravura extroversion, provide for listening pleasure as well as admiration.
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This disc is the latest, well recorded in 2012, in the Vivaldi edition produced by Naive. The intention is to record all the Vivaldi scores held in the Turin Library. These constitute Vivaldi's private collection and include some 15 operas, several hundred concertos and a considerable amount of vocal music amounting to about 450 works. Many of these are currently unknown to the general public.

The final collection is likely to number about 100 discs and is due to be completed in 2015. Another feature of the collection is the concentration on a very wide range of performers and ensembles with very little repetition of personnel. In this regard, the standard maintained has so far been astonishingly high and the sheer quantity of musicians involved at that level has also been astonishing.

This disc is a good example, as the ensemble was established as recently as 2012 and the soloist, although fast rising in reputation as a baroque violinist of great skill, is still relatively young. The theme of the disc, the fifth in the series of violin concertos, is focussed on seven works associated with Pisendel, a violinist of international renown based in Dresden and friendly with Vivaldi.

These are works designed to demonstrate Pisendel's virtuosity. Their extreme difficulty is overcome with apparent ease by Sinkovsky, a virtuoso violinist trained in Moscow. Sinkovsky's virtuosity fortunately allows him to explore the musical interests of these concertos in such a way that retains the listeners' interest. The seven concertos are all in the customary 3 movement form but with more opportunity than usual for cadenza display. This is consistent with the intention of the compositions but stops short of vacuous digital display. The accompaniment is both vibrant and lively in the modern manner with accenting and dynamics playing a key role. In this way the idea of meaningful dialogue is maintained.

I would suggest that this disc is deserving of serious consideration by anyone collecting this engrossing series. Some of the earlier violin concerto discs may be more suitable as an 'only' purchase but the real value in this disc is to take its part in the overall scheme of things. Being able to afford the whole collection is another matter!
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