Top positive review
14 people found this helpful
on 20 March 2013
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.