Classical Reissue Reviews
VIVALDI: Concerti con molti instromenti = The King’s Consort/ Robert King – Helios
Published on September 28, 2012
VIVALDI: Concerti con molti instromenti = Concerto in F Major for Violin, 2 Oboes, Bassoon, 2 Horns, and Strings, RV 574; Concerto funebre in B-flat Major for Oboe, Chalumeau, Violin, 3 Violas all’inglese and Strings, RV 579; Concerto in D Major for Violin, 2 Oboes, 2 Horns, and Strings, RV 562; Concerto in F Major for Viola d’amore, 2 Horns, 2 Oboes and Bassoon, RV 97; Concerto in D Major for 2 Trumpets and Strings, RV 781; Concerto in C Major for 2 Recorders, Oboe, Chalumeau, Violin, 2 Violas all’inglese, 2 Violins in tromba marina, 2 Harpsichords, and Strings, RV 555; Concerto in D Minor for 2 Recorders, 2 Oboes, Bassoon, 2 Violins, and Strings, RV 566 – The King’s Consort/ Robert King – Helios CDH554439. 68:42 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] **** :
Sometime in the mid-1960s radio host De Koven, as part of his “Vivaldi Revival” on WRVR-FM, New York, played a most lovely concerto for diverse instruments by Antonio Vivaldi. Pencil in hand, I awaited his announcement of the performance particulars so I might sojourn to Sam Goody’s and purchase said masterpiece. I met firm resistance when, to my chagrin, De Koven flatly broke in with the statement that because listeners to his last week’s program had failed to demonstrate proper enthusiasm, he would not reveal which of the some thirty such concertos by Vivaldi he had just played!
Happily, no such rancor or obfuscation accompanies this fine reissue of Vivaldi diverse concertos The King’s Consort inscribed at the Abbey Road Studios 9-11 May 1998. Mostly conceived during his tenure at the Ospedale della Pieta in Venice, these works bring singular unity to varieties of instruments not normally associated. The ensemble uses A=415 Hz to accentuate their authentic style. The six-stringed viola all’inglese Leopold Mozart once referred to as the “English viola.” Violins were adjusted to form the trombe marine or “trumpets marine” that might apply to a rattling or percussive chord created on a freely-vibrating bridge. The chalumeau were elder cousins of the clarinet, played in its fundamental register. The sopranino recorder offered a high falsetto register, while trumpets and horns could be interchanged freely among the “invisible” members of the Pieta orchestra, who performed behind screens. Thus, both anonymity and musical surprise remained the features of any new “diverse” composition by Vivaldi!
The King’s Consort opens with a witty energetic opera-house concerto, that in F Major (c. 1714), the horns having been designated “tromboni da caccia.” The ensuing, darker B-flat Concerto (“funebre”), RV 579 (c. 1722), sports a lovely violin solo and muted accompanying instruments, the affect one of languor and chromatic melancholy. The oboe figures in the last movement, whose sportive air suggests the later Handel. The huge Concerto RV 562 celebrates a feast-day, that of St. Lawrence (c. 1716). Its celebratory riffs and pomp well suggest aspects of his Gloria in D, but the instrumental virtuosity expands beyond that work. A prominent violin part figures, followed by elastic and resonant tuttis, then the oboe has its say. The bass strings, along wit a florid harpsichord, add to the panoply of vibrant colors. The two horns add yet another dimension of pageantry and bright celebrity to the occasion. The violin part (Elizabeth Wallfisch) takes on a gypsy character in its extended musings in the Grave movement. Starting cautiously, in a rhythm like the second of The Seasons concertos, the last Allegro breaks out into wonderfully resilient runs and rapid half steps, to which horns and winds respond with deft vitality. The violin has its own written-out cadenza, rife with flourishes and dazzling stretti.
The Concerto in F, RV 97 lacks orchestral strings and sports a heavy, hunting-call sensibility, to which the bassoon adds a distinctive color, almost an instrumental motet. Likely composed in the late 1720s, includes a Largo movement, quite unusual in the Vivaldi canon without orchestra. The concerto’s aristocratic color becomes quite mesmerizing on its own terms, and the brass playing by Crispian Steele-Perkins and James Ghigi proves luscious. The final three concertos offered condense the musical material so that each lasts around seven minutes. The RV 781 D Major Concerto pre-dates 1710 and L’estro armonico, and its two outer movements cavort most elegantly, the two trumpets and busy strings in perpetual jubilant motion. The Grave middle movement casts a ceremonial hue, the strings dominant without the trumpets. The Concerto in C, RV 555 represents an extravaganza of scoring and color, the 2 Trombe realized by having the violins play near the bridge with added harmonics. Harpsichordists James O’Donnell and James Johnstone have their share of brilliant pyrotechnics, as does the chalumeau, played by Colin Lawson. The gem of a Largo rivals Saint-Saens’ swan for luxurious floatation devices.
Lastly, the Concerto in D Minor, RV 566 (c. 1728), with its breezy flirtatious recorders and fervent violins. The responsorial writing between violins and winds, transparent and eloquent, prefigures aspects of Handel’s Water Music. The Largo could hardly be more intimate, a trio for two recorders and bassoon. The dotted rhythms of the final Allegro, and the pure bravura in the violins, have one’s toes tapping and head nodding in agreeable sympathy with the master of the Venetian style who was no less a rival for anyone from Cremona.