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.

JJP

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


1 comment:

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 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.
Karl W. Nehring, Contributing Reviewer

For more than 20 years I was the editor ofThe $ensible Soundmagazine 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 simple-minded, 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 Onkyo C-7030 CD player, Legacy Audio StreamLine preamplifier, Legacy Audio PowerBloc2 amplifier, and a pair of Legacy Audio Focus SE speakers augmented by a Legacy Point One subwoofer. 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 LG G7 ThinQ cell phone, which features surprisingly sophisticated audio circuitry. 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.

Mission Statement

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. --John J. Puccio

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa