Vivaldi x2 (CD review)

Double Concertos for Horns, Oboes, Violin and Cello, and Oboe and Bassoon. Adrian Chandler, director and violin, La Serenissima. Avie Records AV2392.

First, the good news: There isn't a Four Seasons in sight.

The bad news? There isn't any. As always with director and violinist Adrian Chandler and his period-instrument band La Serenissima ("most serene," as in the nickname for Venice), everything is in perfect order. The ensemble is clean and precise, yet lively and stimulating. "Vivaldi x2" is another outstanding release in La Serenissima's fine catalogue of recordings.

This time out the group's gimmick is to include as many of Vivaldi's concertos as possible written for two primary instruments. These include

Concerto in F, RV 539, for two horns, strings, and continuo
Concerto in D minor, RV 535, for two oboes, strings, and continuo
Concerto in A, RV 546, for violin, cello, strings, and continuo
Concerto in G, RV 545, for oboe, bassoon, strings, and continuo
Concerto in F, RV 538, for two horns, strings, and continuo
Concerto in B flat, RV 547, for violin, cello, strings, and continuo
Concerto in A minor, RV 536, for two oboes, strings, and continuo
Concerto S.A.S.I.S.P.G.M.D.G.S.M.B in F, RV 574, for two horns, two oboes, bassoon, violin, cello, strings, and continuo

As each concerto lasts from six to about twelve minutes, it gives the album a total time of over seventy-five minutes. That's close to a full house, the upper limit of a Red Book CD.

Adrian Chandler
Anyway, Chandler and his crew are no namby-pamby HIP ensemble. They attack each line with vigor and enthusiasm. Yet despite their zest for the music making, they are as exacting in their execution as anyone. Take the first concerto, for instance, the Concerto for Two Horns. There's nothing fussy about it; it brims over with life. Still, the slow middle movement shows sensitivity and grace, and then it ends in a note of pure effervescence.

And so it goes. Vivaldi wrote a busload of double concertos, so the eight on this disc are but a small sampling. Perhaps this portends more such material from Chandler and La Serenissima. Let us hope so.

However, if I have any minor quibble about the album, it's one I've had about hundreds of CD's and LP's over the years: The cover art. I'm probably alone in this, but I like looking at a recording's cover art while enjoying the recording's music. When a cover picture conjures up images of the music's content, I'm pleased, as with La Serenissima's "The French Connection" and "A Tale of Two Seasons." However, when it's as dull as the picture of two cute little cars ("x2") on the present black-and-white cover, it might as well be nonexistent. Full-face portraits of an album's primary artist annoy me as well: photos of Alfred Brendel or Herbert von Karajan or whomever; I don't care.

Let me elaborate: Many years ago, Philips released an LP recording of Schubert's "Trout" Quintet by an augmented Beaux Arts Trio. The album featured a painting of an old mill with a water wheel beside a bucolic scene of a running stream. It was beautiful; it inspired one to appreciate the music all the more. Then Philips issued the recording on CD and changed the cover art to some drab, generic abstract fish painting (and later to a trio of jumping fish). When Pentatone re-released the album on SACD, they did likewise, failing to use the original cover art and employing some nondescript water imagery. So I looked on-line for a picture of the original Philips LP artwork, found it, copied it, re-sized it, sharpened it, spruced up the colors, and then printed it out and inserted it in front of the CD booklet. My enjoyment of the music improved.

Simon Fox-Gal produced, recorded, and edited this Vivaldi recording, which he made at Cedars Hall, Wells, Somerset, UK in February 2018. The sound is dynamic, a little close, clear if a tad soft, slightly reverberant, and detailed but never hard-edged or strident. Certainly, the hall is in evidence here, which makes the presentation all the more realistic. There is also a moderate depth to the image, so we get a sense of space as well as breadth, with plenty of air around the instruments. Nicely done.

JJP

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


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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 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 over 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 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.

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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.

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa