Few instruments have more potential to prove aurally irritating than the “flautino”, or soprano/sopranino recorder. Its piercing timbre and relentless brightness produce the impression that something obscene is happening to your pet canary, and it’s all the more gratifying, then, to report that this outstanding recital has found the perfect context in which to showcase the instrument’s limited charms. Bracketing the program are the two zippy concertos for flautino, making a lively introduction and conclusion to the program as a whole. In the middle, we find a varied selection of works for more overtly expressive, less stratospheric instrumental combinations.
Soloist Matthias Maute takes up the mellow-toned alto recorder in two very pretty minor-key concertos (RV 108 and 441), while the strings play their own series of concertos (the famous Alla Rustica RV 151), sinfonias (RV 169 Al Santo Sepulcro, aptly gloomy), and trio sonatas (Op. 5 No. 17, and the famous La Follia variations Op. 1 No. 12). All of this music (save the continuo) is played with one musician per part, which eliminates any balance problems between the solo wind instrument and the larger ensemble. The frequency of minor keys (half the works on the disc) also ensures that Vivaldi’s habitual cheerfulness doesn’t wear out its welcome.
Warm sonics flatter the instruments and prevent the high frequencies of the flautino from shattering any crystal objects in your listening room (never mind your eardrums). It’s particularly satisfying to hear a period-instrument production in which the physical noise that the performers make when playing their instruments does not compete with the actual tones being produced. In short, this is a thoroughly delightful Vivaldi program, an appealing mixture of the familiar and unfamiliar, that certainly deserves the attention not just of the composer’s many fans, but also of radio stations or people looking for a pleasant recital of Baroque music to while away an hour or so. [6/3/2005]