Vivaldi Concerti - International Record Review

Vivaldi's motivic melodies and soaring sequences lend themselves to thrilling electrification. Many bands simply can't resist the temptation to accelerate away through his motor rhythms and surfing scales at way over the speed limit. But not so with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. At last here's a recording of Vivaldi concertos which is not attention seeking, neurotically twitching and mercilessly driven. They have decided to get in touch with Vivaldi's feminine side, and caress and linger rather than hit and run. Some may find that the orchestral playing (especially Vivaldi's trademark stalking unisons) sometimes lack bite and nervous excitement. But what I hear from the self-directing OAE is elegance, natural grace and genuine warmth. There's understatement too, and subtlety - too often strangers to Vivaldi's music. Just as Vivaldi himself composed many of his concertos specifically to showcase the talents of the versatile girls of Venice's famous Ospedale della Pieta, so the concertos recorded here draw forth talent from the orchestra's distinguished ranks. I particularly enjoyed David Watkin's rendition of the G major cello concerto for its gutsy lack of caution. You really get a sense of the bow as a rapier, not always absolutely on target but irresistibly swashbuckling all the same. Oboist Anthony Robson has long been a leading member of the school of earthy oboe playing. He can be as pure and sophisticated as you wish, but also devilishly fruity and wanton, as his note-bending shows at the end of the Largo, RV454. Throughout, soloists ornament tastefully and spontaneously, and in the well known flute concerto La notte old hand Lisa Beznosiuk freshens up the Allegro with real flair. Overall, the mood of the disc tends towards the thoughtful, with a high proportion of minor key concertos and some particularly gorgeous slow movements. Baroque concertos for brass instruments seldom require the soloist(s) in their slow movements, but the double horn concerto makes unexpectedly sonorous use of the instruments. Other highlights include a magnificent chaconne (another Vivaldian rarity) which expansively wraps up the Chamber Concerto,RV107, and RV572 - all is explained in Nicholas Anderson's unusually fulsome insert notes.

International Record Review
06 November 2000