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  39:6 (07-08 /2016)
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Reviewer: Bertil van Boer


This is the fourth volume in the Vivaldi Edition’s complete set of bassoon concertos. The critical editions for this have been prepared by bassoonist Sergio Azzolini, based upon the most authentic sources. He also performs on a reproduction of a 1710 instrument that gives these works a rather interesting and characteristic sound.

Of these, each has some rather different outstanding features. In the C-Major Concerto (RV 469), it is the lovely, flowing line of the second movement, where the lyricism disguises a challenging variation of range and technique. The third movement hops about and then sequences into some rolling roulades. The F-Major Concerto (RV 491) begins with a ritornello that seems to mimic a voice, with the bassoon solo underpinning with some virtuoso flourishes. Here the ritornello form is less evident, as display is the keyword to the development of the movement. The second movement, however, has a solo organ at the beginning in recitative fashion, before stealthy sustained notes outline the arpeggiated bassoon solo. The A-Minor Concerto (RV 498) is soft and marches steadily along with a line that walks, while in the final movement the tread becomes more solid and forceful. Here, the connections with the Seasons is quite apparent from a stylistic standpoint, though I don’t find the “intense melancholy of a Venetian winter,” as the booklet notes state. I do find, however, that the comments in the notes that the G-Major Concerto (RV 492) is operatic to be quite accurate. The imitative sequential ritornello, definitive and forceful, is belied by the mincing solo line, which marches forward with delicate steps. There is even a hint of Spanish rhythms in some of the latter. The contrast between solo and ritornello is also found in the pensive second movement, where the strings record stately, hymn-like chords, with the solo bassoon plaintively offering a lyrical theme that seems like a plea for mercy. The soft orchestral close reflects the acquiescence of the implacable strings. This leads to a rather joyous and lively dance at the finale. The second A-Minor Concerto (RV 500) is stark and chromatic, with a contorted harmonic foundation. Sudden insertions of minor key in the solo line lend a touch of the dramatic. The finale begins with a fugue, rather unusual in Vivaldi’s concertos, but the imitative opening soon devolves into a tour de force in which the solo bounces through some rather interesting rhythmic figures (some quite tortuous). The best part of the second C-Major Concerto (RV 473) is the rather effete third movement minuet, which seems almost galant in style after the ghostly mysterious Largo that creeps along like distant fog.

Azzolini performs the solo parts with dexterity and excellent phrasing. His tone is nice and deep, with the various tortuous coloratura handled with decided ease and a nice sense of how it ought to be integrated into the orchestra fabric. The ensemble L’Onda Armonica is the perfect foil for this set, knowing instinctively when to pull back the sound and when to be forceful and powerful. In short, this is a great addition to the Vivaldi Edition and to the bassoon concerto volumes. This is one recording that demonstrates how the composer really knew his instruments and their capabilities. This comes with my highest recommendation.


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