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Fanfare Magazine: 39:3 (11-22/2016) 
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Brilliant Classics

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Reviewer: Dan Sperrin


This is the second CD of Vivaldi works from L’Arte dell’Arco this year, and is as brilliantly observed and satisfying as the first. Op. 4 is the first collection of Vivaldi’s many violin concertos. They were written at a time when the word stravagante was becoming fashion in the high art world: extravagance, Venitian oddity, prosperity. These pieces are like little homages to the expanding world of merchants and cross-cultural communication in Baroque Venice: They seem to speak in many voices, dark and extravagant, careful but rambling. They are mysterious, like most of Vivaldi—notably the lute works—for their honesty, their odd contrapuntal textures and freakish modulations. There is something acutely Vivaldian about these works, something summary, but don’t let that put you off: I have enjoyed these works precisely for their Vivaldian character, their happy play on tropes and figures of the well-known works. I can hear a good dash of The Four Seasons in here, and a series of little echoes from the mandolin works.

The recording, as ever with this group, is detailed but simple: One can hear each instrument fighting with the others, just what is needed with Vivaldi, and the scalic rushes—which come from nowhere!—are both beautifully played and highlighted subtly in the mix. I have re-listened to the 11th Concerto so many times, just so I can enjoy the excellent musicianship and the exquisite anachronism of Vivaldi in Venice. The fast scalic melodies are a true marvel, and the continuo is played brilliantly. I object to the continuo’s obvious relegation in the mix: It unfairly leaves us wondering at times quite where the harpsichord is. However, the playing amongst the strings is also fabulous, so I am loathe to criticize too much.

These are worth comparing with the other Vivaldi works brought out by L’Arte dell’Arco, which are of a similar quality, and I suggest listening to Avi Avital’s recent recording of the lute concertos, for scenic color. Other than that, put this on at home and you won’t be disappointed.

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