Vivaldi's oeuvre includes two collections of twelve
concertos each, which bear the title of La Cetra
and were dedicated to the Habsburg Emperor Charles VI. The first was
printed in 1727 in Amsterdam as his op.9, the second has been preserved
in manuscript. The liner-notes say that the concertos in both collections
are all different, with the exception of the twelfth, "which is common
to both". That concerto is included here and is for two violins, and
has the catalogue number RV 520. However, the twelfth concerto from
op. 9 has the number RV 391 and is scored for one violin. As the catalogue
in the article on Vivaldi in New Grove
doesn't include references
to the manuscript collection La Cetra
I can't solve this mystery.
The first disc to be reviewed here is the second devoted to this unpublished
collection. Some of these concertos are incomplete, and these have been
replaced here by alternative concertos from Vivaldi's large output.
The Concerto in B flat
(RV 380) replaces the Concerto
RV 360 in the same key. The Concerto in g minor
(RV 327) replaces
the 8th concerto from the manuscript (RV 320) and the Concerto in
(RV 171) is included as a substitute for the Concerto in D
RV 327 is the most virtuosic of them all, a typical
Vivaldian showpiece. The other concertos are more moderate in their
technical requirements. Some slow movements display strong expression,
for instance the largo from RV 171. These aspects are mostly worked
out pretty well, but in the fast movements the playing has some rough
edges, and the tutti sections are sometimes a little abrasive, even
aggressive. The intonation is not always perfect.
This disc also includes two concertos for two violins. These are the
two concertos from this manuscript collection so scored. According to
the liner-notes by Fabrizio Ammetto to his recording of concertos for
two violins by Vivaldi (review
the parts for the first solo violin of both concertos are missing, a
fact not mentioned in the liner-notes of the Dynamic disc. Therefore
some reconstruction is needed, but who has done that job and how remains
a mystery. In both concertos the middle movement is scored for the two
violins with basso continuo alone.
Ammetto's performances are to be preferred in these concertos. They
are technically superior and the sound is more pleasant to the ear.
That also goes for the Concerto in D
(RV 513) which is included
on the second disc of L'Arte dell'Arco. It is entirely devoted to concertos
for two violins, of which Vivaldi composed 28. Some of these works may
have been written as part of Vivaldi's activities as teacher in the
Ospedale della Pietà in Venice. An example could be the Concerto
(RV 506) in which the second violin mostly repeats the statements
of the first. In various concertos the two solo parts are so demanding
that they can only be played by virtuosos such as Vivaldi himself. Fabrizio
Ammetto, in the liner-notes to the Tactus recording, comes up with the
suggestion that Vivaldi could have played them with his father, Giovanni
Battista, a skilled professional violinist and probably his only formal
These double concertos are not that well represented in the Vivaldi
discography, and it is a matter of good fortune that this disc includes
five concertos which are not part of the Tactus production. L'Arte dell'Arco
begin with the Concerto in a minor
(RV 523) in which the violins
mainly play at the high end of their compass. It reveals the main weakness
of these performances: the intonation, in particular at high notes,
is often a little suspect. The violinists produce a bright tone which
sometimes tends towards shrill. The Concerto in G
(RV 516) is
called bright and lively, but the andante has some dark streaks. The
tempo seems to be a little too slow, considering the indication of 'molto
andante'. The Concerto in c minor
(RV 509) is considered a work
from Vivaldi's later years. There are indeed some traces of a 'post-baroque'
fashion, including strong dynamic contrasts. Again I find the andante
molto a shade too slow. The Concerto in D
(RV 513) is one of
the most virtuosic pieces and the only which was printed - apart from
the concertos which were included in Vivaldi's op. 3 collection. The
edition dates from 1736 but the concerto was probably written about
ten years earlier. The written-out cadenza for both violins in the last
movement is especially remarkable and includes various modulations.
The disc ends with another showpiece, the Concerto in d minor
(RV 514). It is an extroverted work, and the adagio is quite expressive.
That character comes off well here.
L'Arte dell'Arco perform these concertos with one instrument per part.
That results in a fragile sound in which every little lapse is noticeable.
Fabrizio Ammetto and his Orfeo Ensemble have four violins in the tutti
which results in a more robust sound and a stronger contrast between
soli and tutti. As the size of the ensembles seems to have been variable
at the time there is some justification for both options.
On balance, L'Arte dell'Arco deliver performances which can be enjoyed
if you are willing to be tolerant in regard to some technical imperfections
and a sound which is not always that pleasant to the ear. Considering
the fact that this repertoire is a little neglected these two Dynamic
discs are to be considered, especially by those who have a special interest
Johan van Veen