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Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
Recorder Concertos
Concerto in G major RV443 [10:23]
Concerto in A minor RV108 [7:30]
Concerto in F major RV442 [9:01]
Concerto in C major RV444 [9:50]
Concerto in E minor RV445 [10:37]
Concerto in D major RV92 [10:49]
Concerto in C minor RV441 [10:41]
1B1/Dan Laurin (recorder / director)
rec. Stavanger Concert Hall, Norway, June-July 2014
SACD/CD Hybrid stereo/surround 5.0, reviewed in surround
BIS BIS2035 SACD [70:03]

This disc collects the five concertos RV441-5 which are listed in the catalogues as being for either recorder or flautino. Here they are transposed down, as the composer allows, for soprano recorder. That group is joined by two other concertos, RV92 and 108, which include recorder as one soloist in a small concertante group.

The director and soloist Dan Laurin contributes a long essay in which he both explains his performance aims and allows himself rather high-flown descriptions of the music which, one suspects, would have bewildered the composer. However, it is obviously the case that these works demand as much technical skill from the recorder player as his concertos for violin demanded from his violinists. Laurin is a spectacular performer and I doubt these works could be better or more imaginatively played. My only doubt, having sat through all seventy minutes, is whether the sound of the soprano recorder is something to listen to for so long. So whilst this issue comes with my highest praise, I do advise listening to a couple of concertos at a time before resting ones ears.

Apparently these concertos all come from a single short period in Vivaldi's life and it is assumed that he had, at that time, access to a particularly skilled player. Whether that player came from amongst the orphans of the Ospedale or from elsewhere, is uncertain. Equally there is much uncertainty about the precise instrumentation intended and little evidence has survived, in terms of actual recorders, from the period. So the results recorded here are of some considered editing of the scores as is often the case with baroque music.

The accompanying musicians, four violins, viola, cello, double-bass, theorbo and guitar plus harpsichord, are drawn from the curiously named '1B1'. This is, according to their website "a progressive string ensemble founded in 2008. It unites musicians teaching at the University of Stavanger, their most accomplished students, and members of the distinguished Stavanger Symphony Orchestra." Their activities suggest a very wide range of music, so they are not strictly baroque specialists. Listening to their lively and virtuoso contribution here gives the impression that they are completely at home in Vivaldi's colourful and imaginative compositions. Their artistic director Jan Bjøranger plays solo roles in two of these concertos along with Laurin and it sounds as if they are thoroughly enjoying themselves. Lucky Stavanger to have such a splendid ensemble in residence. The BIS recording is typically clean and clear with a nicely judged hint of the hall acoustic.

Dave Billinge



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