Unerringly, the admirable Vivaldi Edition on Naïve continues with its fashion models on the covers and top-of-the-line Italian and French baroque ensembles on the inside. The third volume of Cello Concertos is no different in this than most other discs in the 61-volume long-running series: Christophe Coin, also known as the Quatuor Mosaique’s cellist and an early Harnoncourt collaborator, gives taut accounts of six cello concertos, some of which may not actually be by Vivaldi (RV 404 and 415) but sound convincingly standard-issue all the same, as predictably neat and attractive as any number of Vivaldi’s two dozen such concertos, each and all in their own way.
Coin’s tone on his violoncello piccolo has a grainy bite to it that belies the instrument’s small size and keeps the music from sounding glib or too pretty. L’Onda Armonica plays with all the skill you’d expect from a good HIP band—flexible tempos, pointed attacks, individualistic timbres (including an attention-hogging bassoon)—but they are not in the exaggeration business.
It’s fascinating how well Vivaldi put to use what was the very recently standardized cello (never mind that Coin isn’t playing the standard size), putting it on the map as a solo instrument for concertos. Very generally, these concertos favor a lyrical and somber tone over a tempestuous one. Anyone looking for soloistic fireworks needs to look to the violin concertos. If anything is amiss with this release, it’s the absence of any real barn-burners. Arguably excepting the Allegro of RV 407, there is no moment, much less an entire concerto, that stands out as particularly memorable. There’s an excess of noncommittal pleasantry and a lack of “Wow”. But what a churlish complaint this will surely seem to any Vivaldi completist.