Vivaldi: L’estro armonico/Tafelmusik

Review by: David Vernier

Artistic Quality: 8

Sound Quality: 10

Last time I checked, Vivaldi’s Op. 3 contained 12 concertos, but this recording, whose front-cover title “L’ESTRO ARMONICO” clearly suggests we’re getting the whole set, only contains eight of the 12. The reason for this programming choice is not given, nor is it discernible from the selections themselves, which are also presented in a seemingly random order. The point is, there’s nothing wrong with offering only a portion of the complete Op. 3 set, but there is a problem with not making that fact clear on the disc’s cover. The package does include a “bonus DVD” titled “The Four Seasons Mosaic–Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons reimagined”. The production, filmed in India, China, the Canadian Arctic, and Toronto, purports to be a “reinvention of Antonio Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons to include musical traditions from around the world”–an “exploration of how different world cultures have responded to the seasons through music.” Interesting as this concept may be–and many listeners/viewers will be intrigued–we’re still left to wonder why we also didn’t get the entire Op. 3, and what one of these Vivaldi programs has to do with the other.

And it’s too bad that we are missing one-third of Vivaldi’s landmark concerto collection, because if the entire opus had been offered, this would stand as a reference recording. The performances are scintillating, dynamic, articulate, and vibrant, the virtuoso violin solos by Elizabeth Wallfisch occupying a playfully precarious edge between daring excitement and temporal excess–a stance joined in equal measure by her fellow soloists and her very fine orchestral partners. This is Vivaldi performance uninhibited by self-conscious stylistic gestures or distracting “period” mannerisms–it’s just informed, virtuosic ensemble playing, best exemplified in the Allegros of No. 5 in A major (Wallfisch and Lamon are nothing short of phenomenal here!) and in the oft-performed D minor No. 11. Especially for these last two concertos, I’ll use this as a version of choice, but for the complete Op. 3 I’ll remain committed to the Hogwood, Biondi, and I Musici standards. The rating here reflects not the performances, which as mentioned are excellent, but the unclear, even misleading aspect of the packaging. Perhaps soon Lamon, Wallfisch, and Tafelmusik will complete the promise of these performances by issuing the complete Op. 3–and, while you’re at it, why not La Stravaganza Op. 4? [10/31/2007]

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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Hogwood (L'Oiseau Lyre/Decca), I Musici (Philips), Biondi (Virgin)

ANTONIO VIVALDI - L'estro armonico Op. 3 (includes concertos Nos. 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 8, 11, & 12)

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