Farnace was apparently one of Vivaldi's favorite operas, because he mounted numerous productions in various cities, and wrote six versions of the score, more than of any of his other operas. The conventions of operatic vocal characterizations that came to be standard – higher voices in the sympathetic roles, and lower voices in villainous roles – had not yet been established, and Farnace features a baritone and contralto in the heroic roles, with a soprano as the villain. Soprano Adriana Fernández shines as the wicked Berenice, who is redeemed at the very last minute. She has a full, creamy voice that she deploys appealing agility and warmth. As Tamira, contralto Sara Mingardo sings with power, authority, and deep feeling. In the title role, baritone Furio Zanasi is appropriately heroic, with a rich, refined timbre and the expressive depth to create sympathy for the conflicted protagonist, but he doesn't always have the necessary strength at the bottom of his range. One of his arias, the lyrical and poignant "Gelido in ogni vena," is among the composer's loveliest creations.
"Ensemble 415 is a chamber ensemble devoted largely to the performance of Baroque music on period instruments. The numerical reference in the group's name derives from the pitch used for tuning instruments in the Baroque era. In performing chamber music, Ensemble 415 consists of just a few players, but for larger compositions, the number expands to a minimum of 13 and can reach up to as high as 40 performers. The ensemble's repertory has been broad over the years, taking in many Baroque standards by J.S. Bach, Vivaldi, and Handel, as well as lesser known fare by Muffat and others…"
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.
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.
Nine cello sonatas by Vivaldi have survived. Six of them were published as a set in Paris in about 1740; that set, mistakenly known as the composer's Op. 14, contains the sonatas recorded in this release. The three remaining sonatas come from manuscript collections. All but one of the six works are cast in the slow-fast-slow-fast pattern of movements of the sonata da chiesa. The odd one out, RV46, in fact, retains the four movement sequence but inclines towards the sonata da camera in the use of dance titles. The music of these sonatas is almost consistently interesting, often reaching high points of expressive eloquence, as we find, for example, in the justifiably popular Sonata in E minor, RV40. Christophe Coin brings to life these details in the music with technical assurance and a spirit evidently responsive to its poetic content. Particularly affecting instances of this occur in the third movements of the A minor and the E minor Sonatas where Coin shapes each phrase, lovingly achieving at the same time a beautifully sustained cantabile.
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.
…Mullova and Carmignola provide one of the most consummate displays of period instrument playing that I have heard. True masters of their instruments.