Vivaldi - La Serenissima - BBC Music Magazine

Founded over a decade ago for a performance of La Senna Festeggiante, the Serenissima ensemble has always enjoyed a close relationship with the 'Red Priest'. Their new disc, however, takes the relationship into relatively uncharted waters in pursuit of violin sonatas (from the so called 'Graz' set) which director Adrian Chandler has had to reconstruct, and a lined trilogy of cantatas composed for Vivaldi's Mantuan patron, Landgrave Philip of Hesse-Darmstadt - the scene-setting first of which was only unearthed in 1999.

In the cantatas, there's pain aplenty as the lovelorn Fileno first woos then leaves the evidently delectable Elvira. But a happy ending sends Vivaldi and soprano Mhairi Lawson into virtuosic rhapsody. Throughout, Lawson is an attentive swain, animating the recitatives, and investing the arias with a sure sense of line, fluency of ornamentation and acuity of nuance. Just as engaging are the sonatas (which Chandler believes to be roughly contemporaneous with the cantatas). The RV83 Sonata for Violin, Cello and Continuo is an enticing sparkler, while the reconstructions convince at every level - not least Chandler's performances themselves. A little smouldering Italianate hedonism wouldn't perhaps have gone amiss here, but on the other hand, his bright-toned, immaculately articulated vivacity spurs a lively response from La Serenissima's crack continuo team. The recorded sound is nothing short of superb, but then you'd expect nothing less from Linn.

01 January 2007