Inviting, Vivacious Vivaldi Op. 3 Concertos

Review by: David Vernier


Artistic Quality: 9

Sound Quality: 9

It’s been awhile since we’ve seen a new–and expertly done–recording of these iconic Vivaldi works, known since their first appearance in print under the title L’Estro armonico. In fact, a quick check of the catalog reveals that there really hasn’t ever been a defining digital-era version of Vivaldi’s first published collection of concertos. Christopher Hogwood’s early-1980s period-instrument set for L’Oiseau Lyre might have qualified–the solo strings and ensemble playing are exemplary–but he mucks it up by inserting a very incompatible and unnecessary organ in the continuo for several of the concertos; and the I Musici recordings with so-called “modern” instruments on Philips, which feature a rich and colorful ensemble unity–and, for their era, are models of form and style–seem today a bit tame of tempo and reserved in expressive opportunities.

This set contains concertos Nos. 7-12 from Op. 3 plus two others–RV 414 for cello, and RV 544 for violin and cello–and if only these same forces would record the other six Op. 3 concertos, we will then have something to talk about as a reference. As of now, we only have partial sets worth recommending–including the surprising entry a couple of years ago from Houston-based Mercury Baroque (for the review, click here) that included eight of the 12 concertos. That aside, taking this collection at face value, fans of Vivaldi concertos will not be disappointed, owing as much to the responsive and energetic ensemble as to the extraordinary virtuoso solo violin performances by Pablo Valetti, David Plantier, Mauro Lopes Ferreira, and Nicholas Robinson.

Smartly, the group begins the program not in the set numerical order of the concertos, with the stately, serene opening of No. 7, but rather with the immediately engaging dueling violins that open the justly popular No. 11.  There are reams of highlights on this program, but a listener looking for its vibrant heart should look no further than tracks 13, 14, & 15–the Allegro finale of Concerto No. 9 and the first two movements of the Cello Concerto in A minor RV 414. Here is the essence of Vivaldi’s ingenuity and invention in this genre, later complemented by Pablo Valetti’s virtuoso display in the third-movement Allegro of No. 12.

There are countless more delights, including the interplay between violin (Valetti) and cello (Petr Skalka) in the Concerto in F major for violin and cello RV 544 and in the opening Allegro of Op. 3 No. 10–as rhythmically infectious as a Vivaldian concoction can be. But by now, any Vivaldi aficionado looking for a worthy Op. 3 addition to their library will need no further encouragement.

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Recording Details:

    Concertos Op. 3 Nos. 7-12; Concerto for violoncello in G major RV 414; Concerto for violin and violoncello in F major "Il Proteo o sia il Mondo al rovescio" RV 544

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