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Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
Concerti per violoncello II
Cello Concerto in F, RV411 [6:11]
Cello Concerto in c minor, RV401 [10:50]
Cello Concerto in E-flat, RV408 [9:55]
Cello Concerto in g minor, RV417 [9:08]
Cello Concerto in C, RV399 [6:56]
Cello Concerto in D, RV403 [7:47]
Cello Concerto in a minor, RV422 [9:14]
Christophe Coin (cello)
Il Giardino Armonico/Giovanni Antonini
rec. Teatro la Pergola, Firenze, Italy, November 2007 DDD
NAÏVE OP30457 [60:18] 

 

Experience Classicsonline


I looked at Glyn Pursglove’s review of Volume I as I was listening to this follow-up recording and found that he had exactly predicted my own reaction.  Volume II takes up where that first CD left off; even the lady with the bouffant hairstyle on the cover of Volume I is still with us, though now she is facing the camera.
 

Like GPu, I find the cello concertos to be some of the most attractive of Vivaldi’s works – but, then, I’ve yet to find a single work in his output that I didn’t find at the very least highly enjoyable.  One of the attempts to interpret Elgar’s mysterious words at the head of the score of his Violin Concerto, Aquí esta encerrada el alma de ..., suggests that the soul which the music encapsulates is that of the violin itself.  I used to think that the earliest works which encapsulated the soul of the cello were the two Haydn concertos; I still very much warm to those Haydn concertos, but I’ve come to realise that Vivaldi captured that soul even before Haydn. 

Part of that realisation has come via two of the volumes in Naxos’s series of the Vivaldi cello concertos with Raphael Wallfisch and the City of London Sinfonia directed by Nicholas Kraemer – a very good set of performances on modern instruments with much more than a nod in the direction of period-performance practice.  Volume 3 of that Naxos series (8.550909) contains a performance of RV403 and Volume 4 (8.550910) offers RV411 and 417 from Naïve’s Volume II. 

If Wallfisch offers heart-felt performances which reveal the depth of Vivaldi’s understanding of the cello, the new CD does so equally well, if not even better.  Modern Italian interpreters of their baroque heritage often indulge in fast and exciting tempi, though Il Giardino Armonico are by no means the worst offenders, especially when they are in tandem with Christophe Coin –  indeed, I treasure several of their older recordings, still available on the Warner/Teldec label and available as very inexpensive downloads from the warner.freshdigital website.  Try Coin and Il Giardino in Il Proteo, a CD of double concertos with no overlap with the current CD, 4509-94552-6, which can be downloaded for a mere £3.  (It’s also still available, albeit more expensively, on CD, with the suffix -2 in place of the -6). 

Most modern period ensembles now play with the same expertise and confidence as if they were handling modern instruments, but Il Giardino are especially adept performers – not a hint of the stridency and even out-of-tune playing which often characterised the early days of the ‘authentic’ movement. 

In RV411, which opens the new recording, tempi are remarkably consistent with those on Naxos – only in the final Allegro molto (track 3) are the Naïve performances very slightly faster (1:58 against 2:12).  As so often happens, when the two performances are compared in actuality, the paper differences in timing matter not at all – both are very satisfying.  In RV417, the Naxos performers are marginally faster in the first two movements and marginally slower, again, in the finale; once again, these marginal differences melt away when one listens to the two performances, each of which makes excellent musical sense within its own context.  The same is true, too, of the marginal differences in RV403. 

Both sets of recordings are thoroughly idiomatic and thoroughly enjoyable – there’s plenty of room in my collection, overcrowded as it is, for duplication when the performances are as good as these.  I had expected the Naxos recordings to sound a shade unimaginative and unexciting when hearing them immediately after the new Naïve CD, but such was not the case.  If I have a preference, it has to be too marginal to be significant in an objective review. 

If I’ve spent much of this review looking at alternatives, that’s largely because GPu has already said most of what I wanted to say, particularly in respect of the way in which Coin and Antonini make the slow movements into something especially heart-felt without ever a hint of the slow tempi which used to be associated with anything of the sort.  It’s no longer a case of choosing between sentiment indistinguishable from sentimentality and allied with slowness in the manner of I Musici or Karl Münchinger, on the one hand, and whiz-kid ‘authenticity’ on the other.  I speak thus of those older interpreters with regret; they opened the door for me to baroque music. 

GPu suggested that some listeners might find the cello a little too close; I concur, but this is the only fault – if fault you find it – with the otherwise very good recording.  I’ve grown tired of asking for the continuo to be a little more audible on modern recordings; as is now usual, it’s virtually inaudible here. 

The informative and readable notes - by Michael Talbot, guaranteeing that the English is idiomatic - round off a first-class achievement.  I was especially interested in the suggestion that Vivaldi may have been acquainted with the violoncello di spalla, a kind of jumbo viola played horizontally, an evolutionary dead-end in the development of the modern instrument but perhaps influential on the composition of these concertos.

Brian Wilson



 


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