Exploring Music: Six Concerti by a Baroque Master
The MHS Review 380 Vol. 11, NO. 2 • 1987
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David M. Greene
You have no idea how insatiable is the appetite for Vivaldi across this great incontinent continent. There are those who would kill to hear a single rediscovered measure of a lost Vivaldi kazoo sonata. From some letters I've had, I conclude that there are people for whom the history of music ended in 1741, and there may even be a few for whom Vivaldi has replaced the Trinity (Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms-I meant no irreverence!).
Such persons will require no tempting or urging to allow the present record to enter their homes and hearts. But I suppose it's my function here to convince the tiny minority of skeptics that they should at least consider it. Well, first there's the matter of contents. What you're being offered is six concerti-two for strings and continuo, two for oboe, one for flute, and one for a little high-pitched toot-a-phone.
The original sleeve proclaims apocalyptically ''including Concerto in C for Sopranino Recorder, RV 444," as if we had all been waiting for it to make our lives complete. It used, in the Bad Old Days, to be listed as a work for piccolo (or "little"), by which one understands the highest of the transverse flutes. But more commonly the instrument is called a flautino ("flutelet"), which Grove says is "a small recorder or flageolet."
At any rate, RV 444 is no rarity, having appeared frequently on records since the 1950s. Ditto the Flute Concerto, which is "The Storm at Sea" of op. 10, a set phonographically common for as long. Ditto the Oboe Concerto from Il cimento dell'armonia edell'inventione, op 8. all these plus the two string concerti appear under the· MHS label in recordings by Claudio St Scimone.
This leaves the D minor Oboe Concerto Concerto, RV 454. I don't own a copy, a fact that suggests there has never been an MHS version. Schwann lists recordings on Imported Supraphon and Gallo dlscs, and I note earlier versions on Angel and Westminster. If you're collecting the Vivaldi oboe concerti the hard way, perhaps this offering will make you dance in ecstasy.
Then there are the artists. The founder-conductor of I Musici de Montreal is Yuli Turovsky, cellist of the Borodin Trio, and his violinist-wife Eleonora is Konzertmeisterin. The two soloists are the first chairs of the Montreal Symphony, a group recently brought to world status by conductor Charles Dutoit. If you are so unfortunate as to be unacquainted with all these people, let me assure you that they play Vivaldi as well as anyone I've heard on records.
Recording? I listened to the British digital LP. It seemed to me as good as any digital LP I've encountered. But, I'm sorry to have to admit, having inured myself to CDs I find LPs harder than 78-rpm acoustics to listen to. Note that there is a CD version, though peons such as I don't get to hear it for free.
Review of Six Concerti by a Baroque Master