Antonio Vivaldi was one of the most successful composers of the Baroque era, best known for his iconic set concertos for violin, The Four Seasons. L’Estro Armonico Op.3 is among the most important printed editions of Vivaldi’s concertos; the works immediately met with great acclaim after their publication in 1711, giving way to over 30 reprints in the subsequent 32 years.
Gérard Lesne founded the Il Seminario musicale Ensemble in 1985. Since 1990, the Ensemble has been in residence at the Royaumont Foundation, where it attracts vocalists and instrumentalists who share Lesne's enthusiam for the 17th and 18th century Italian repertoire. The musicians perform on old instruments and strive to reproduce as faithfully as possible the lilt and narrative line characteristic of the baroque style as expressed in works by composers such as Monteverdi, Cavalli, Scarlatti, Vivaldi, Caldara, Pergolesi, and the others. The size of the ensemble is variable depending on the repertoire. Based on a rich and varied continuo section (theorbo, cello, basson, double bass, organ and harpsichord) supporting one or more soloists, it can be expanded with the addition of a string quartet to make a small chamber orchestra suitable for performing chamber operas. Responsibility for the Ensemble's musical direction is shared by the instrumentalists and vocalists.
This was the great collection of 12 varied and exciting violin concertos that turned Bach on to concerto writing. In fact, he transcribed several of these works for solo harpsichord, organ–even for harpsichords and orchestra. What fascinated him most was the balanced, three-movement form, the brilliance of the solo passages, the tunefulness of the music generally, and Vivaldi's seemingly inexhaustible storehouse of invention. When a composer ventured to publish a collection such as this, he was making a major statement. This is one of the really big ones in Baroque music, and it's performed with splendid authority and an unrivaled sense of sheer joy.–David Hurwitz
Europa Galante is one of several outstanding specialist period instrument ensembles that have come to prominence on the early music scene in the last decade. These specialist players explore and exploit the strength of their period instruments rather than being restricted by the weaknesses. On this release at their best I especially enjoyed their Concerto in B flat major, RV 383a with its exhilarating played opening Allegro. A plaintive violin solo in the Largo e cantabile features over a clock-like rhythm followed by the furiously paced and energetic closing Allegro. The inspiration is variable and the level of memorability is often limited. A good example of this is the Concerto in F major, RV 291 that opens with a frantic violin solo in a movement that outstays its welcome. The very short central Larghetto is a rather forgettable with a rhythmically determined closing Allegro that feels breathlessly frantic. (Michael Cookson)