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.
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: