As in the successful volumes 1-3 this is a very exciting recording, featuring the bassoon as you never heard before! The 54th release in the Vivaldi Edition features a selection of the finest works for bassoon ever composed, regardless of the instrument, this is a complete view of Vivaldi’s universe, performed by a true genius of baroque music. With each CD Azzolini proves himself to be an artist of endless immagination and virtuosity. With each new recording he surpasses the one before.
This very attractive release from Channel Classics features the terrific British period instrument ensemble Florilegium in performances of three Vivaldi concertos and two sacred vocal works. The group plays without a conductor and the players' shapely unanimity of phrasing and nuanced expressiveness give the performances the character of chamber music. It sidesteps the metric squareness that can plague performances of Vivaldi and let the music breathe and surge organically. The strings have the slight tartness of Baroque instruments and the overall sound of the orchestra has an appealing burnished sheen. This is relatively obscure repertoire and includes a flute concerto that was only discovered in 2010 and is recorded here for the first time, played beautifully by Ashley Solomon, the artistic director of Florilegium.
Director and violinist Amandine Beyer acknowledges in her booklet notes for this disc that the world may not seem to need another recording of Vivaldi's The Four Seasons, but then she tops the bar she has set up by delivering an entirely distinctive reading of the work. Her version, with the Italian historical-instrument group Gli Incogniti (who are not quite as unknown as all that), is as strikingly revisionist as the various turbo-powered, operatic Vivaldi recordings that began coming out of Italy in the 1990s, but it is different in flavor. In her own words, Beyer seeks "lightweight forces and freedom of phrasing." The group is small, with microphones put down right in the middle, and you hear lots of internal lines and interplay rather than contrast between orchestra and soloist.
An Italian chamber orchestra, Rondó Veneziano set itself apart from many groups of similar style by not only employing mostly women musicians and making it a rule to perform in period Baroque dress, but mainly because they were able to meld traditional chamber music pieces to modern backing tracks, rhythms, and percussion lines, almost giving their classical sound a club music foundation that sometimes bordered on prog rock. Their first big break came in the United Kingdom in 1983, with the single "La Serenissima," which was followed two years later by a successful appearance providing the score to the film Not Quite Jerusalem…
In their original incarnation on LP, the sound of Trevor Pinnock and his English Consort's 1981 recording of Vivaldi's famous Four Seasons was clear and bright. In subsequent CD iterations, it was clearer and brighter. But in this 2008 Japanese original bit processing issue, it has passed clearest and brightest and gone all the way to transparent and translucent. One can hear each of the 13 string players bows strike their strings and every pluck of Nigel North's theobro or Pinnock's harpsichord. And soloist Simon Standage sounds so vibrant and present that he may as well be in the room standing between the speakers.
Antonio Vivaldi wrote hundreds of largely famous instrumental works, and his glorious church music is well known; but it wasn’t until recent decades that his operas – of which he is said to have created more than fifty – were resurrected. Orlando furioso occupies a central and very significant place among Vivaldi’s works. Not only does the whole score of this opera demonstrate its composer’s full, creative maturity, but its outstanding features are also an extraordinary musical beauty, an attractive recitative line and a balance thus created between the various parts of the dramatic and musical whole. This exceptional musical achievement was no doubt partly due to the famous theme of the original story, as well as the literary and dramatic qualities of a fi rst-rate libretto. Pier Luigi Pizzi’s 1979 production of Orlando furioso in Verona marked the beginning of contemporary international interest in Antonio Vivaldi’s operas. Ten years later the same director once more produced this work at the San Francisco Opera, where it was a great success.
This set, like others in Opus 111's Vivaldi Edition, aims to explore many of the composer's unpublished works housed in the National University Library in Turin. Even without the benefit of a PhD in musicology, however, the average consumer with modest expectations will find much to enjoy in this delightfully played collection… Kuijken and the Academia Montis Regalis play these concertos with the customary vigor and crispness we have come to expect of "period-style" Vivaldi recordings, and you even get excellent intonation and nicely balanced sound along with the bargain…
This EMI release of The Four Seasons gives violinist Sarah Chang top billing (as would be expected) and the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra a smaller, less significant listing. As far as the quality of performance goes, however, Orpheus should absolutely be considered the star of this recording with Chang getting the footnote instead. This is simply not the case; from the ridiculously posed glamour photos filling the liner notes to the balance of the performance itself, this album is all about Chang. The most fulfilling aspects are the orchestral tuttis. Orpheus is truly at its best here, playing with as much energy and passion as the much ballyhooed recording with the Venice Baroque Orchestra.