Vivaldi is greatly over-rated - a dull fellow who would compose the same form over many times. Such is the opinion of one of the great composers on the music of another great composer. Given the evidence of the present newly re-released complete Vivaldi cello concertos incredulity can be the only response to this assessment. But then Stravinsky was a man who voiced strong, often acerbic and sometimes outrageous opinions on virtually anything suggested to him. He had probably heard few, if any, of these cello concertos and irrespective would it have made any difference?
…I Solisti Italiani continues, both spiritually and sonically, where the original Virtuosi di Roma left off, with creamy, expert, middle-of-the-road performances of Baroque and Classical period music, and occasional 20th-century pieces as well. The ensemble is small - only 12 players, without conductor - but the sound is full and caloric, the playing dapper and disciplined.
Someone ought to get some t-shirts made that say "Vivaldi rocks!" At least that partly accounts for his popularity in the twenty first century; among the old masters, Antonio Vivaldi's sense of rhythmic dynamics and the gale-like force of many of his string concertos are close enough to the ever-enervating pulse of pop music that he has found an unlikely audience among younger listeners. Andrea Marcon and the Venice Baroque Orchestra's disc Vivaldi: Concerti & Sinfonie per Archi delivers these very kinds of goods, and will prove pleasing to Vivaldi fanciers of the younger set.
This is a welcome addition to my collection. These little gems sparkle and make me want to look at other Vivaldi pieces. It's time to go beyond the Four Seasons. These pieces show compositional variety, the playing is nuanced and exciting, and the SACD recording is superb.
When these recordings first came out, far in advance of the period instrument revolution, they were revelations. Though modern instruments were used, there was an effort to get performance practices right… And there was the incredibly powerful, absolutely heavenly sound of that chorus of men and boys, as well as the lifelike recordings that perfectly captured the vast space of the Chapel of King's College. Since that time there have been other performances that depict the letter of each work to a greater degree than these, but many listeners will argue that there are none that have better encapsulated the spirit of this music… These are star-studded "great singing" recordings in which the artists will be remembered as much as the music itself.
This is not such a bizarre cross-over as one might imagine for in the 18th century the great Irish musician Turlough O’Carolan, a blind harpist, met the Italian musician Geminiani in Dublin, and through him encountered the music of, yes, guess who, Antonio Vivaldi. So here we have a case of substituting Irish instruments for baroque ones, using baroque instruments to accompany Irish themes, by creating dialogues between Celtic and baroque instruments, or by letting all the musicians improvise. One moment we appear to be listening to a ‘straight’ baroque concerto, then all of a sudden the conventional string continuo/ripieno of the baroque ensemble (Le Orfanelle della Pieta) gives way to celtic musicians playing a jig or reel on anything from a Irish bouzouki to a fiddle. The baroque group consists of three each of first and second violins, one viola, two cellos, a bass and harpsichord while the Irish musicians play Irish fiddle, an Irish flute (like a baroque flute), tin and low whistles, Uileann pipes, Irish bouzouki, mandolins, bodhran, bones, and the Celtic harp (played here with metal strings to resemble its harpsichord counterpart in the other group).
Xavier de Maistre is generally fêted as the artist who has managed to liberate the harp from its reputation for wonderful but very soft sounds, and establish it as a solo instrument in the concert hall. On his album "Notte Veneziana", the internationally successful harp virtuoso plays well-known concertos by the Venetian composers Vivaldi, Marcello and Albinoni in new arrangements, combining them with original compositions for solo harp such as the sonata by Giovanni Pescetti, Godefroid’s stunning set of variations on the popular tune “Carnaval de Venise”, and “La Mandoline” by 19th-century composer Elias Parish Alvars.