Review by: David Vernier
Artistic Quality: 9
Sound Quality: 10
This disc was a pleasant surprise, arriving more or less out of nowhere and making its case very effectively within the first minute of the opening A minor concerto (No. 8). Mercury Baroque is a very fine Houston-based ensemble made up of some really impressive string players, particularly concertmaster Jonathan Godfrey, who takes solo duties in the single-violin concertos (No. 3, No. 6, and No. 9); but his cohorts are also outstanding in the multiple-part works (for two and four violins with cello). Overall the playing is smart and crisp, very cleanly articulated and appropriately vivacious, the ensemble work exemplary, just what is required for exciting Vivaldi performance.
Highlights include Godfrey’s flashy virtuoso technique in the Allegro of No. 9 and Presto of No. 6, the Concerto No. 2 (for two violins) with its marvelously expressive opening bars and delightfully scurrying lines in the following Allegro. Only in (my favorite) No. 11 does the energy slightly flag and the ensemble lose its normally perfect focus in the second Allegro of the first movement.
The packaging is somewhat misleading–from the title you would assume that this program contains all of the Op. 3 concertos. In fact only eight of the original 12 are included, and nowhere is this clearly stated (there’s a track listing but, unfortunately, no liner notes). Granted, you might say that the concertos here represent the set’s “greatest hits”–but then, aren’t they all? Nevertheless, you can’t complain about the playing–and the sound is nothing less than outstanding–vibrant, perfectly balanced, clean, and detailed. Bravo to Mercury Baroque and its expert production, available from the group’s website (mercurybaroque.org). Highly recommended. [11/22/2010]
Buy Now from Arkiv Music
ANTONIO VIVALDI - L'Estro Armonico Op. 3 (Concertos Nos. 1, 2, 3, 6, 8, 9, 10, & 11)