The English, historical-instrument, Baroque ensemble La Serenissima (the term was a nickname for the city of Venice) has specialized in somewhat scholarly recordings that nevertheless retain considerable general appeal, and the group does it again with this release. The program offers some lesser-known composers, and some lesser-known pieces by famous composers like the tiny and fascinating Concerto alla rustica for two oboes, bassoon, strings, and continuo, RV 151. What ties the program together formally is that it covers a range of Italian cities that were becoming cultural centers as they declined in political power: not only Venice (Vivaldi, Albinoni, Caldara), but also Padua (Tartini), Bologna (Torelli), and Rome (Corelli). There are several works by composers known only for one or two big hits, and these are especially rewarding. Sample the opening movement of Tartini's Violin Concerto E major, DS 51, with its unusual phrase construction and daringly chromatic cadenza passage: it has the exotic quality for which Tartini became famous, but it does not rely on sheer virtuosity. That work is played by leader Adrian Chandler himself, but he also chooses pieces for a large variety of other solo instruments: the Italian Baroque was about more than the violin. Each work on the album has something to recommend it, and collectively the performances may make up the best album of 2017 whose booklet includes footnotes.
In 1705, Giuseppe Sala published in Venice the Suonote do camera a tre, due violini o violone o cembalo op.1 of Antonio Vivaldi. This set of trio sonatas marked the official 'debut' of a composer who was already more than a mere youth (the 'Prete Rosso' was then 27-years old), and probably contains the earliest works of his that have come down to us. It is very likely, though, as Michael Talbot has pointed out, that the copy of 1705 is in fact a reprint of a now lost first edition published in 1703.
This release is a beautiful recording of both Vivaldi and Piazzolla’s Four Seasons, performed by the Orchestra of Saint John’s at SJE Arts in Oxford on November 21st 2015. The album features violinist Jan Schmolck and conductor John Lubbock. Musicians, critics, and concert promoters say that the Orchestra of St. John’s is one of classical music’s best kept secrets.
This isn't the 'Vivaldi Vespers', or even a reconstruction of a specific event, but a kind of 'sacred concert' in Vespers form, of the sort that Venetian churches in Vivaldi's time would mount in the name of worship.
Whether he ever supplied all the music for any such occasion isn't clear, but he certainly set plenty of Vespers texts, enough at any rate for Rinaldo Alessandrini and scholar Frédéric Delaméa to put together this rich programme.
In his definitive study of the composer's life and work, Michael Talbot spoke of the prospect of 'perpetual discovery' in respect of Vivaldi, resulting from a neglect spanning centuries. 'Scarcely a year passes,' he wrote in 1978, 'without the announcement of some fresh discovery'. This CD gives an excellent example of what we might expect even now, 30 years after Talbot's study, with a collection of new finds from just the last year and a half!
Viktoria Mullova is one of the most versatile and charismatic violinists to have emerged in the late 20th century, demonstrating a high level of mastery in broad range of repertoires, from Baroque to Romantic and post-Romantic to jazz and crossover. She established her reputation early in the 1980s, winning both the Sibelius and Tchaikovsky competitions and going on to win the Grand Prix du Disc and a Diapason d'Or Award, as well as garnering numerous other honors. Her widely acclaimed 1987 Philips recording of Vivaldi's Four Seasons is ample proof of her sure grasp of the idiosyncrasies of the Italian Baroque, and the freshness and vitality of her playing has made her version a favorite with listeners and critics. Mullova performs with passionate musicality and technical finesse, and Claudio Abbado leads the Chamber Orchestra of Europe in a nuanced, idiomatic accompaniment.