Vivaldi: Concerti con Titoli (CD review)

Fabio Biondi, Europa Galante. Virgin Veritas 7243-5-45424-2-8.

The diversity of these concertos for assorted instruments (Concerti con Titoli or "Concerts with Titles") contradicts the popular notion that Vivaldi wrote only countless variations of The Four Seasons. Each of the seven concertos presented here is brief, from just under six minutes to just over sixteen, but together they provide a well-rounded idea of the composer's creativity. None of the works is quite as descriptive as The Four Seasons, but each is highly dramatic and fairly evocative, nonetheless.

The opening piece, "L'inquietudine" (Anxiety), is in direct contrast to the penultimate piece on the agenda, "Il Riposo," both for violin and orchestra. The first is agitated and intense, the other sweet and spiritual. The second number, "Concerto funebre" for violin, oboe, chalumeau, viole, and orchestra, illustrates a procession to the gallows and is obviously quite somber in tone.

Fabio Biondi
The most familiar concerto is probably "La tempesta di mare" for recorder, oboe, bassoon, violin, and orchestra, a follow-up to The Four Seasons and describing a boat in a storm. The centerpiece of the program is the six-movement concerto for recorder and orchestra, "La  notte," a wonderfully evocative representation of night and a journey to the netherworld. "Per eco in lontano" for two violins is the longest work included, about sixteen minutes or so, with groups of instruments located in different places. The disc concludes with Concerto RV 531 for two cellos and orchestra, an encounter between the two solo instruments that is quite theatrical.

As always, Fabio Biondi and his period-instrument ensemble Europa Galante play every fast part at a hell-bent-for-leather speed. This style has made Biondi quite popular among some folks in the historically informed segment of the musical world, and it does, indeed, create some invigorating and highly exciting moments. It also gets old really fast. Fortunately, Biondi and his players perform most of the slow sections gracefully and poetically, emphasizing strongly all the contrasts available.

Erato/Virgin Veritas provided Biondi and company with reasonably good, naturally balanced sound for this year 2000 release, sound that does fair justice to the music. However, a quick comparison check against several of my favored Vivaldi recordings--one done on modern instruments by I Solisti Italiani on Denon and the other by the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra on their own label--shows the latter two capturing a more detailed and better-imaged sound stage.

In any case, if you are in the mood for some varied and dramatic Baroque, the Biondi disc fills the request nicely.


To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click below:

1 comment:

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