A Fresh Look at Vivaldi Concertos

Long-time readers know that I’m interested in the unusual. And the albums I review reflect that interest. Can any album of Vivaldi — especially one that includes part of the “Four Seasons” — possibly be unusual? 

Why, yes it can. Violinist Théotime Langlois de Swarte has created an insightful program of Vivaldi. It’s a collection of violin concerti, but it’s unlike any I’ve heard before. 

Most albums present an assortment of Vivaldi three-movement concerti. And they all have a homogenous sound.

Not here. The musicians perform in different combinations and techniques, depending on the concerto’s origin. Some, like the Concerto in A minor, RV 356 were meant for private concerts. Here the ensemble is stripped down to a small chamber group. It’s a clean, intimate sound I don’t often hear with Vivaldi.

Many of the concertos were written for the young ladies of the Ospedale della Pietà. These concertos, like the one in D minor, RV 813 have a much fuller sound. The Ospedale had some unusual instruments, such as the archlute, ottavino, and a psaltrey. Le Concort uses these to fill out the continuo. They give the concertos a distinctive sound — and a fresh one at that.

The album also includes concertos written for festivals and special occasions. This is music-making on a grand scale, with multiple soloists and a large ensemble. Le Concert matches the number of players to the type of concerto (private, Ospedale, or public). And by doing so they enhance the character of the concerto. And that’s something I seldom hear. This release makes it clear these concertos had different functions and audiences.

And mention must be made of the “Summer” Concerto, RV 315. This is the world premiere recording of the original version. Vivaldi revised these concertos for publication to give them a broader appeal. Hearing what he originally created is revelatory. Especially if you, like me, have heard this concerto far too many times. 

This is an extraordinary collection of music. Théotime Langlois de Swarte is a superb musician; as a performer, as a conductor, and as the curator for this program. Highly recommended. 

Antonio Vivaldi:Concerti per una vita
Le Consort; Théotime Langlois de Swarte, conductor & violin
Harmonia Mundi HMM 902373.74
Two CD Set

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