For all the charges of unacceptable schematicism levelled at Vivaldi and his kind, Monica Huggett, as supremely imaginative as well as technically and stylistically accomplished an exponent of the baroque violin as any, demonstrates clearly that this music benefits from the guiding hand of a charismatic interpreter: her delivery of Vivaldi’s exuberant, even manic, inspiration is never less than involving and, in the slow movements, never less than touching.
Following his attractive performance of six of Vivaldi's cello sonatas, Christophe Coin has recorded six of the composer's 24 or so concertos for the instrument. Five of these, Michael Talbot tells us in an interesting accompanying note, probably belong to the 1720s while the sixth, the Concerto in G minor (RV416), is evidently a much earlier work. Coin has chosen, if I may use the expression somewhat out of its usual context, six of the best and plays them with virtuosity and an affecting awareness of their lyrical content. That quality, furthermore, is not confined to slow movements but occurs frequently in solo passages of faster ones, too. It would be difficult to single out any one work among the six for particular praise. My own favourite has long been the happily spirited Concerto in G major (RV413) with which Coin ends his programme. Strongly recommended. (Gramophone Magazine)
Naxos intend to record Vivaldi’s entire orchestral corpus, and Raphael Wallfisch’s integral four-disc survey of the 27 cello concertos inaugurates this visionary, though plainly Herculean undertaking. Soloist and orchestra employ modern instruments; director Nicholas Kraemer contends that authentic protocols can be ably met by contemporary ensembles and, in articulation, style and ornamentation, these pristine, engaging readings have little to fear from period practitioners. Wallfisch’s pointed, erudite and spirited playing is supported with enlightened restraint by the CLS, directed from either harpsichord or chamber organ by Kraemer, whose sensitive continuo team merits high praise throughout. Without exception, these Concertos adopt an orthodox fast-slow-fast three-movement format. Wallfisch, dutifully observant in matters of textual fidelity, plays outer movements with verve, energy and lucidity, such that high-register passagework, an omnipresent feature of these works, is enunciated with the pin-sharp focus of Canaletto’s images of 18th-century Venice, which adorn the covers of these issues.
Latvian violinist Gidon Kremer's 2000 release Eight Seasons is a conceptual masterwork. Kremer, long known for his skillful interpretations of Astor Piazzolla's Argentinean tangos, had the brilliant idea of matching four of the Latin master's tone poems of the seasons in his native Buenos Aires with Antonio Vivaldi's conceptually similar masterpiece "The Four Seasons," alternating seasons between the two works. Besides the conceptual perfection of the idea, the performances are exquisite. Kremer and his conservatory orchestra, the Kremerata Baltica, do a particularly masterful job with the Vivaldi, avoiding the ornate bloat that affects so many recordings of this work. Their performances are brisk and to-the-point, with bright tempos that add a vitality not often found in this rather shopworn old standard. As always, Kremer's solos in the Piazzolla works are absolutely superb, with the dramatic flourishes of the massed string section providing startling counterpoint, especially on the breathtaking "Verano Porteno". Eight Seasons is a truly remarkable work by an underrated performer.
The revival of the viola d'amore as an instrument distinct and separate from the viola is a well-established phenomenon, advanced by composers and performers alike at least since the 1920s. That doesn't mean, however, that there are a great many players of the viola d'amore around, nor are there nearly as many viola d'amores in existence to play, at least in a quantity relative to the number of violas that are out there.
Violinist James Ehnes has firmly established himself as a master of the modern repertoire and to a lesser extent, the Romantic, so his album of Antonio Vivaldi's perennial violin concertos, The Four Seasons, Giuseppe Tartini's "Devil's Trill" Sonata, and Jean-Marie Leclair's "Tambourin" Sonata is an unexpected detour into the Baroque. The fame and popularity of these pieces guarantees Ehnes an audience, and he, like everyone else, shouldn't be criticized for recording them, though his choice of the modern Sydney Symphony Orchestra for the Vivaldi, and Fritz Kreisler's arrangement of the Tartini for violin and piano, suggests that he isn't really trying to compete with most contemporary recordings, least of all the various period-style releases.