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GRAMOPHONE (04 /2014)
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Reviewer: David Vickers

Artist biographies do not usually outweigh the essay in booklets for Naïve’s Vivaldi Edition but it is fair to concede that there is not really much one can say about these short ‘ripieno’ string concertos, many of which last little more than three minutes. Rinaldo Alessandrini’s short note eruditely acknowledges that Vivaldi’s comparatively overlooked pieces for strings and continuo were probably created for occasions which cannot now be determined; he speculates that they might have been used less like orchestral concertos but perhaps were instead envisaged more like 17th-century sonatas written in four parts. This chamber-music perspective is certainly nurtured by Concerto Italiano fielding just seven musicians, with single violins and viola on the upper parts but a continuo group including cello, violone, theorbo and harpsichord. Alessandrini writes that the lack of a solo part ‘leaves Vivaldi, like all the other composers who have tackled this form, a high degree of freedom…One might say this betokens great economy of resources, but I prefer to define it as a great capacity for synthesis.’

There is an enjoyable variety of moods and rhetorical affect in Concerto Italiano’s consistently judicious performances of these brief works. The thrusting E minor figurations of the Andante in RV150, the gleeful folk-dance conclusion of RV151 (‘Alla rustica’), the inquisitive tone created by subtly shaded fast bowing in the C minor opening of RV119 and the theatrical flamboyance of RV164 are just a few highlights from these imaginatively nuanced and thoroughly convivial performances.

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