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Vivaldi 12 Violin Concertos and 14 Bassoon Concertos

Vivaldi 12 Concerti Opus 8

The Avison Ensemble/Pavlo Beznosiuk (violin):

Linn Records CKD 365

Known as an anti-"intégrales"-ist, I did not warm to the prospect of reviewing a dozen Vivaldi violin concertos. And indeed, after listening to a few of them, not more than two at a sitting, we gave up; they began to pall, seeming somehow rather undercharacterised.

It is however appropriate that the multitude of admirers of the Four Seasons, amongst which I number myself (q.v. e.g. Henning Kraggerud & Britten Sinfonia at City of London Festival 2009) should have the opportunity to appreciate them in the context of the complete Opus 8 as published.

These are sound accounts of them all, but to me less than inspiring, and far less interesting than the Avison Ensemble's recording of their eponymous composer's Concerti Grossi - though if you follow that link, you will find that with those too we had preferred an earlier recording.

Which takes us to Vivaldi's bassoon concertos...

Bassoon Concertos Volume 1 & 2
RV 493 in G major 495 in G minor RV 477 in C major 488 in F major RV 503 in B flat major RV 471 in C major RV 484 in E minor RV 499 in A minor RV 472 in C major RV 490 in F major RV 496 in G minor RV 504 in B flat major RV 483 in E flat major RV 470 in C major

L’Aura Soave Cremona/ Sergio Azzolini (baroque bassoon)

Naive Nos: OP30496 & OP30518

Just a quirk of history? By no means.

Vivaldi's 39 bassoon concertos (there are no surviving sonatas) put him in a league of his own; the competition is meagre, indeed non-existent.

Most of them are mature works of staggering "rhythmic variety of form and attention to detail" from Vivaldi's last period [Michael Talbot].

Can we justify recommending 17 of them to purchasers (with more to follow)?

A resounding Yes, and (reverting to my opening thoughts above) a justification for Naive's commitment to "intégrales" to beat all others. These releases would probably not have happened without their Vivaldi Edition "one of the most ambitious recording projects ever undertaken; to record the vast collection of some 450 signed Vivaldi manuscripts preserved in Turin, which will continue to be released until 2015".

Sergio Azzolini on his characterful baroque bassoon brings this music to life in stunning form, with this specialist group from Cremona which he directs. The recording is superb, the production and notes exemplary.

It may make you take away a quite different opinion of the bassoon, displayed here in all its moods, with ingenuities galore and little of the repetetive formulaic procedures which made Stravinsky and others opine that Vivaldi wrote "not 100 concertos, but 100 variations on the same concerto" (actually there are more than 500 other concertos !).

So, buy one of these CDs, and you'll probably come back for the other one...

Peter Grahame Woolf