Vivaldi: Il Progetto Vivaldi 2 (CD review)

Cello concertos by Antonio Vivaldi. Also, cello works by Leonardo Leo and Giovanni Platti. Sol Gabetta, cello; Cappella Gabetta. Sony Classical 88697932302.

After the success of her first album of Vivaldi cello concertos in 2007, Argentinian-born cellist Sol Gabetta here provides a follow-up collection of cello works by Vivaldi and others, which she calls Il Progetto Vivaldi 2 ("The Vivaldi Project 2"). Considering that Vivaldi wrote some thirty cello concertos and a multitude of cello sonatas, if Ms. Gabetta plans to make the project complete she may be a hundred years old by the time she's finished. In any case, she's a fine cellist, and for anyone interested in Baroque music, her present album of Baroque music by Italian composers makes pleasurable listening.

By way of introduction, Ms. Gabetta, born in 1981, studied piano and cello in Buenos Aires, won her first cello competition at the age of twelve, moved to Spain, then France, and currently lives and teaches in Switzerland. She has won numerous awards over the years, founded a chamber-music festival, recorded eight albums, formed her own ensemble--Cappella Gabetta--and worked with many of the world's leading orchestras and conductors. Not bad for a woman as young as she is.

The program begins with three cello concertos by Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741), RV 423, 416, and 420, in each of which she is supported by the Cappella Gabetta, a thirteen-member group headed by Ms. Gabetta's brother on first violin. Ms. Gabetta plays a 1759 G. B. Guadagnini cello, by the way, and adheres as closely as possible to period-instrument practices, so be prepared for some interesting Vivaldi. To say she performs with vigor and enthusiasm would be an understatement, dexterous in her approach yet powerful when necessary. While the outer movements show plenty of life and move along at an uncommonly brisk pace, they are lyrical as well. The slow movements are often just as virtuosic for their sweet emotional appeal.

Next comes Vivaldi's Cello Sonata in G minor, RV 42, a surprisingly moving piece of music, a booklet note suggesting relationships between it and Bach's second cello suite. One can certainly see similarities, although if anything, under Ms. Gabetta's guidance the Vivaldi piece has a more plaintive, mournful feeling to it, at least until the closing movement.

Next up is the Cello Concerto in D major by Leonardo Leo (1694-1744). Leo was the headmaster and director of music at a school in Naples, and he produced over 500 composition, most of them today pretty obscure. The D Major Concerto is in five movements, with a beautiful, songlike Larghetto at its center, and Ms. Gabetta is not shy about exploiting its belle canto elements.

The final work Ms. Gabetta and her ensemble play is the Cello Concerto in D minor by Giovanni Benedetto Platti (1697?-1763). If you've never heard of Platti, join the club. Ms. Gabetta gives the work a première recording. Even though it may not seem like anything special, it is quite appealing, and under Ms. Gabetta's direction its slow movement has a particularly lilting, haunting quality. It's worth a listen.

Sony recorded Ms. Gabetta and her group to good effect at Salle de musique, La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland in January of 2011. The cello itself is pleasingly warm, rich, and resonant, with a realistic string tone and a strong, immediate impact. The ensemble around her sometimes appears a tad bunched up, without a lot of space around the instruments, but they sound clear and smooth, which is the main thing, and stereo depth and breadth are more than adequate.


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John J. Puccio

John J. Puccio

About the Author

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.

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It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.

When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job.

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa