A generously-filled programme featuring 17 of Vivaldi's 39 Bassoon Concertos in which the distinguished bassoonist Klaus Thunemann is partnered with one of the great baroque music ensembles, I Musici.Vivaldi's 39 bassoon concertos (two are incomplete) are at the cornerstone of the bassoon repertory and in the context of Vivaldi's output constitute the greatest number of concertos for a single solo instrument after his 200+ solo violin concertos.
These recordings by I Musici, with soloists Salavatore Accardo (violin) and Heinz Holliger (oboe) display both attributes in spades. The recordings were made in 1975. While maybe not displaying the same cutting-edge tempi as the most recent competition (Federico Guglielmo and Il Arte Dell'Arco in the new Brilliant Classics Vivaldi edition) they are still very very good. If you see this set for sale I wouldn't hesitate to grab it.
The presumptuous manner in which Philips proclaims this disc of Vivaldi ‘Concertos for Anna Maria’ as being a world premiere recording is as careless as it is misleading. All six concertos have been previously recorded, some of them several times over. Even more absurdly, though, four of the six are included on a disc, with Shlomo Mintz and the Israel Chamber Orchestra, bearing virtually the same title as this new release, and claiming with greater justification, world premiere status. I reviewed Mintz’s programme very favourably in the pages of Gramophone, so readers who subsequently acquired it should proceed with caution in considering the present one.
La stravaganza was Vivaldi's second published set of concertos and was issued sometime between 1712 and 1715. In a characteristically interesting and informative note Michael Talbot explains that La stravaganza or ''Extravagance'' should be understood as wandering outside the boundaries of convention in respect both of melody and harmony. Unlike the earlier L'estro armonico (Op. 3), La stravaganza contains only concertos for solo violin though occasionally, as for example in the seventh concerto Vivaldi brings additional instruments to the fore. Perhaps the set is a little uneven in quality but the finest things here should fire the imagination and arouse the passions of most listeners.
With the number of Vivaldi concerto recordings flooding the market, what is a starter CD-buyer to do? How can he or she make a choice? Perhaps if a reviewer has any function at all, it is to steer the prospective purchaser in the right direction. If you like period instruments, the new disc with Giorgio Sasso might be a candidate for an ideal one-CD Vivaldi choice.
Concerti (8) per violino? With a different title, this disc could do well. Why shouldn't it? In Salvatore Accardo, it has the best Italian violinist of the past 50 years. In I Musici, it has the best Italian chamber orchestra of the past 50 years. And, of course, in Antonio Vivaldi it has the most popular Italian composer of instrumental music of all time.
Visitors to Venice had borne witness to Vivaldi’s prowess as a violinist, although some found his performance more remarkable than pleasurable. He certainly explored the full possibilities of the instrument, while perfecting the newly developing form of the Italian solo concerto. He left nearly five hundred concertos. Many of these were for the violin, but there were others for a variety of solo instruments or for groups of instruments, including a score of such works for solo flute or recorder, with strings and harpsichord. He claimed to be able to compose a new work quicker than a copyist could write it out, and he clearly coupled immense facility with a remarkable capacity for variety within the confines of the three-movement form, with its faster outer movements framing a central slow movement.
A couple of the concertos included here, RV 452 and RV 446, were only discovered in the 1960's, and while there is a discussion in the notes about their provenance (they "differ slightly, in terms of style, from what is generally regarded as undoubtedly authentic Vivaldi"), they have been accepted as having come from the master's pen. In any case, Heinz Holliger and I Musici perform these small masterpieces to perfection. The allegro of RV 463 exemplifies the glorious sound produced by I Musici - big, lush and swinging - and a modern musical approach that now ironically may be somewhat out of fashion.
Klaus Thunemann has been the world's premiere solo bassoonist for the past three decades. His technical mastery of the instrument–he has the facilty of a violinist–is impressive in and of itself, but he brings so much more to these hard-to-find recordings of Vivaldi's elegant concerti.
Sixty years have passed since 12 young graduates, mainly from the Santa Cecilia Conservatory, got together to give voice to their passion. Thus was born a rarity of its time, a chamber group without a conductor. This apparent lack could have been their Achilles heel when the great Toscanini heard them, but their enthusiasm brought out the strong and affectionate words: "Bravi, bravis- simi…(very good, excellent) music wont die! … from him. Time has passed quickly, yet the sound that travelled these decades still lights up the eyes of those who were participants in this extraordinary cavalcade as if it had lasted only a moment.