The Vivaldi Collection: Viennese Violin Concertos

Review by: Jens F. Laurson


Artistic Quality: 8

Sound Quality: 9

I used to think of the women on the covers of the Vivaldi Edition as a gimmick; an aesthetic choice for its own sake; a clever marketing concept, either to love and embrace or “tut-tut” and reject (as some classical snobs were fond of, especially in the beginning of the series). It took until now, two decades and more than five dozen volumes into this admirable project, that I finally got it! This expansive and diverse group of women, all fashionable and distinctive, could be taken as a modern representation of the grown-up girls from Vivaldi’s orphanage, returned to help their onetime instructor to sell his music. How did that ever take me so long?! It was the striking image on the cover of Volume 62 that made the penny drop, the seventh volume of violin concertos which are performed by Alessandro Tampieri and the Ottavio Dantone-led Accademia Bizantina.

The epiphany is almost ironic because the concertos chosen for this volume—RV 257, 273, 367, 371, 389, and 390, a collection named for Count Vinciguerra Tommaso Collalto—are not so much associated with Venice (although they were presumably written there) but Vienna, where Count Collalto bought them off Vivaldi who was trying to liquidate his works, waiting for an opera production to begin but dying in the imperial city before it did. Be that as it may, these still fairly late concertos from the last five years of his life speak the assured language that we like in Vivaldi concertos and, although being refined works, also speak with the easy routine that has led to the tired quips about the composer.

And yes, the “per il Castello” concertos do not include any real barn-burner, must-hear Vivaldi works, nothing that offers in radical ways something that we don’t also get in many others. But the same could be said about a few Haydn symphonies or Bach cantatas—and would we be content (all due respect to David Hurwitz’s Ten Dirtiest Secrets of Classical Music) to lose even one of those? Case in point: a concerto like RV 367 in B minor, which is very lovely in its details but easy to overlook.

The sinewy but often very finely spun tone of Alessandro Tampieri veers between determination and fragility. He may not sound like a natural virtuoso, but then the well-integrated solo parts of these sophisticated concertos do not ask for a particularly flamboyant contribution as much as they do for a poised one. Still, the Allegro ma non troppo of RV 371 certainly tests his mettle, with its glimpses of operatic flare.

The Accademia Bizantia gives the lively underpinning to the affair that goes well beyond accompaniment where appropriate, but does not draw attention to itself in any ostentatious way. Listen to the particularly enchanting opening Andante molto of the RV 257 E-flat major concerto for a taste of the ensemble’s and soloist’s flexible, buoyant interplay under Fabio Dantone leading from the deftly maneuvered harpsichord. For those who are not content having just a dozen Vivaldi violin concertos, this is an obvious recommendation!

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Recording Details:

Album Title: Concerti per violino VII "Per il castello"
Reference Recording: RV 273 & 371: Biondi (Glossa); RV 367: Chandler (Avie), RV 389: Carmignola (Sony); RV 390: Beyer (ZigZag/Alpha)

  • Alessandro Tampieri (violin)
  • Accademia Bizantina, Ottavio Dantone

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