Classical CD Reviews

“Vivaldi Con Moto” = VIVALDI: Violin Concerto in E Minor; Violin Concerto in C Major; Concerto in D Major; Concerto in F Major; Concerto in E-flat Major; Concerto in D Minor – Giuliano Carmignola, v. /Accademia Bizantina /Ottavio Dantone – DGG

Ah, late Vivaldi. The Four Seasons is wonderful music, but these late concertos show that Vivaldi’s innovative tendencies continued till the end.

Published on June 7, 2013

“Vivaldi Con Moto” = VIVALDI: Violin Concerto in E Minor, RV 281; Violin Concerto in C Major, RV 187; Concerto in D Major, RV 232; Concerto in F Major, RV 283; Concerto in E-flat Major, RV 254; Concerto in D Minor, RV 243 – Giuliano Carmignola, violin /Accademia Bizantina /Ottavio Dantone – DGG B0018096-02, 76:22 *****:

Since Vivaldi wrote 250 violin concertos (at least that’s the number of extant works), if you know only the Four Seasons, it could be said you don’t know Vivaldi violin concertos. But where to stop in your investigations? Well, I’d say not before you look into this collection of late concerti performed by Vivaldi specialist Giuliano Carmignola and the Accademia Bizantina. If none of these works have overt programs à la the Four Seasons, they have drama and color aplenty and commend themselves to any lover of Baroque music.

First, RV 187. The notes to this recording tell us this concerto is based on music from Vivaldi’s opera Giselda (1735). The opening orchestral opening sounds like an operatic gathering of conspirators. But setting aside the connections with Giselda (whose music I’m not familiar with), when the violin soloist enters, the literary association seems to be to the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, with Orpheus performing to soothe and win over the denizens of Hades. But that’s my own imagining; this is music of real drama without going out on the often unsupportive limb of programmatic specificity.

The program starts with RV 187, a concerto with, I think, an equally dramatic opening. There’s an inexorable tread in the orchestra as of some fate approaching—maybe I’m just reading things into the music—and Accademia Bizantina (and the DGG engineers) respond to this with great heft, including a powerful presence in the bass that you don’t often hear in period-authentic musical performance. The whole movement strikes me as weighty, freighted with a sense of impending doom—or something like it in emotional terms. Very impressive music indeed. When the violin enters, it isn’t Orpheus taming the nay-sayers of hell but a player equally caught up in the tragic declamations of the orchestra.

As contrast, we have, for instance, the bright-hued RV 283, an extrovert work frankly crafted to show off a violinist’s stuff. Just so, the musicians on this disc have included an anonymous cadenza that appears in the copy of the work owned by one of Vivaldi’s pupils at the Ospedale della Pietà. The hushed staccato Largo second movement taps into another aspect of the violinist’s art, the ability to melt the heart with what seems like a lamenting aria cast for violin soloist—maybe a lament for lost or unrequited love, or some other favorite subject of poets and composers.

This recording offers one world-premier recording (RV 283), as well as apparently rare recordings of the original versions of RV 281 and RV 187, which the musicians favored over the many revisions of the originals in an “attempt to rediscover their spontaneity and characteristic élan. . . .” I confess I haven’t sought out rival versions, but I can still attest to the fact that Carmignola and Accademia Bizantina capture all the dash and bravura implicit in these elegant works.

If you aren’t familiar with Giuliano Carmignola’s playing and especially if you’re used to Vivaldi on the modern steel-strung violin, you may find that Carmignola’s violinism has a somewhat hard, steely (ironically, since he must be playing on gut strings) edge to it. This might be slightly off-putting for the uninitiated, but for those who have heard the sea change in the playing of Vivaldi’s music over the last twenty years or so, you know the style on display here is based on dedicated scholarship and I think, represents a far better sound picture of what Vivaldi heard from his soloists—and orchestras as well. For me, this is revelatory playing, framed in grand style by DGG’s powerful (but not overpowering) recording from Chiesa di San Girolamo in Bagnascavallo in northeast Italy.

—Lee Passarella




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