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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Meet the Staff

Meet the Staff
John J. Puccio, Editor, Publisher, Reviewer

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 Jon 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.
Karl W. Nehring, Contributing Reviewer

For more than 20 years I was the editor of The $ensible Sound magazine and a regular contributor to its classical review pages. I would not presume to present myself as some sort of expert on music, but I have a deep love for and appreciation of many types of music, "classical" especially, and have listened to thousands of recordings over the years, many of which still line the walls of my listening room (and occasionally spill onto the furniture and floor, much to the chagrin of my long-suffering wife). I have always taken the approach as a reviewer that what I am trying to do is simply to point out to readers that I have come across a recording that I have found of interest, a recording that I think they might appreciate my having pointed out to them. I suppose that sounds a bit simpleminded, but I know I appreciate reading reviews by others that do the same for me -- point out recordings that I think I might enjoy.

For readers who might be wondering about what kind of system I am using to do my listening, I should probably point out that I do a LOT of music listening and employ a variety of means to do so in a variety of environments, as I would imagine many music lovers also do. Starting at the more grandiose end of the scale, the system in which I do my most serious listening comprises an Arcam CDS50 CSD/SACD CD player, Goldpoint SA4 Passive Preamp, Legacy Audio PowerBloc2 amplifier, and a pair of Legacy Audio Focus SE loudspeakers. I also do a lot of listening while driving in my 2016 Acura RDX with its nice-sounding ELS Studio sound system through which I play CDs (the ones I especially like I rip to the Acura's hard drive so that I can listen to them whenever I want) or stream music through the system using my cell phone. For more casual listening at home when I am not in my listening room, I often stream music through the phone into a Vizio soundbar system that has remarkably nice sound for such a diminutive physical presence. And finally, at the least grandiose end of the scale, I have an Ultimate Ears Wonderboom Bluetooth speaker for those occasions where I am somewhere by myself without a sound system but in desperate need of a musical fix. I just can't imagine life without music and I am humbly grateful for the technology that enables us to enjoy it in so many wonderful ways.
Bryan Geyer, Technical Analyst

I initially embraced classical music in 1954 when I mistuned my car radio and heard the Heifetz recording of Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto. That inspired me to board the new "hi-fi" DIY bandwagon. In 1957 I joined one of the pioneer semiconductor makers and spent the next 32 years marketing transistors and microcircuits to military contractors. Home audio DIY projects remained a personal passion until 1989 when we created our own new photography equipment company. I later (2012) revived my interest in two channel audio when we "downsized" our life and determined that mini-monitors + paired subwoofers were a great way to mate fine music with the space constraints of condo living.

Visitors that view my technical papers on this site may wonder why they appear here, rather than on a site that features audio equipment reviews. My reason is that I tried the latter, and prefer to publish for people who actually want to listen to music; not to equipment. My focus is in describing what's technically beneficial to assure that the sound of the system will accurately replicate the source input signal (i. e. exhibit high accuracy) without inordinate cost and complexity. Conversely, most of the audiophiles of today strive to achieve sound that's euphonic, i.e. be personally satisfying. In essence, audiophiles seek sound that's consistent with their desire; the music is simply a test signal.

William (Bill) Heck, Contributing Reviewer

Among my early childhood memories are those of listening to my mother playing records (some even 78 rpm ones!) of both classical music and jazz tunes. I suppose that her love of music was transmitted genetically, and my interest was sustained by years of playing in rock bands – until I realized that this was no way to make a living. The interest in classical music was rekindled in grad school when the university FM station serving as background music for studying happened to play the Brahms First Symphony. As the work came to an end, it struck me forcibly that this was the most beautiful thing I had ever heard, and from that point on, I never looked back. This revelation was to the detriment of my studies, as I subsequently spent way too much time simply listening, but music has remained a significant part of my life. These days, although I still can tell a trumpet from a bassoon and a quarter note from a treble clef, I have to admit that I remain a nonexpert. But I do love music in general and classical music in particular, and I enjoy sharing both information and opinions about it.

The audiophile bug bit about the same time that I returned to that classical music. I’ve gone through plenty of equipment, brands from Audio Research to Yamaha, and the best of it has opened new audio insights. Along the way, I reviewed components, and occasionally recordings, for The $ensible Sound magazine. Recently I’ve rebuilt--I prefer to say reinvigorated--my audio system, with a Sangean FM HD tuner and (for the moment) an ancient Toshiba multi-format disk player serving as a transport, both feeding a NAD C 658 streaming preamp/DAC, which in turn connects to a Legacy Powerbloc2 amplifier driving my trusty Waveform Mach Solo speakers, supplemented by a Hsu Research ULS 15 Mk II subwoofer.

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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.

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa